Your child is not born yet and you are surprised to see the enthusiasm and/or concern of your close friends for the stuffed plush toys of their offspring, and this can make you ask yourself what are the benefits of stuffed toys for infants.
In fact, as an uninformed spectator, you discover another world by looking at them. A child is born and with it, of course, its slew of questions, new habits to adopt, equipment to carry, attitudes, and topics of conversation.
But above all, a child was born and the family grew, counting the dad, the mom, baby… and the plush toy.
So of course it makes you wonder, me, future mother, am I going to be so distressed at the idea of losing my child’s stuffed animal? Am I going to have to buy many plushies, one for each room in the house at least!?
And finally, at the end of this astonishment, there is a real question: is my baby’s stuffed animal so important? does it help in my child’s development? Is it unavoidable? Can we do without it? Let’s try to clear all this up.
A stuffed plush toy, what is it?
This transitional object is the puppet that the child becomes more attached to than all the others. A sort of amulet that gives him a feeling of security, warmth and that recalls the presence of the parents, especially the mother, even when they are not present.
The stuffed animal does not have to have any particular characteristics to be defined as such, it simply has the great power to reassure, and has a role very similar to that of an imaginary friend.
The main thing, we will say, is that it is a soft, reassuring, and comfortable element for the child.
When can you give the baby a soft toy?
Even before the birth of your child, if it is not you as a parent, it will be the future grandma or a friend, a co-worker, or a person around you who will buy the plush toy. And as a birth gift, it is customary to offer some.
You will therefore have a possible flood of various stuffed animals, pretty fabric dolls, and other very soft animals available.
However, if it is really the baby who chooses his toy, it is not before 6-7 months that he will show his preference. Before, the baby does not have the maturity to catch and decide. He is one with his mother and does not need to transfer his needs to an object.
After this point, the child making the difference between his own person and that of his mother will operate what is called “separation anxiety”.
To fill this gap when mom (or dad) disappears from his sight, he will transfer his attention and his need for hugs to an object that he chooses. It is for this reason that the stuffed animal is called a “transitional object”.
How do plush toys help in a baby’s development?
As we have just said, from the eighth month, the child realizes that he and his mother are not one and the same person. Anxiety is then triggered in the baby linked to the fact that he realizes that his mother is not always with him.
To alleviate his despair, a particular and reassuring object takes the mom’s place in the family.
It materializes calm and appeasement. It symbolizes the bond between mom and him.
It allows the baby to go from tears to consolation. It is therefore very useful in all circumstances of separation and child development: bedtime, nanny, school, etc.
Why playing with a stuffed toy is vital in the child’s development?
Baby playing with his stuffed animal usually helps him to pour out his emotions, desires, and needs, he uses it to discharge frustrations and sadness, knowing that he will never be betrayed.
For him, it represents a real and very strong bond, even if in our eyes it is a simple stuffed animal, for him it is really a point of reference. In fact, he knows that his friend will always be available for as long as he needs him.
The most important task that this transitional object has, as the word itself says, is to help the child in the transition/separation phase from the mother, it helps him to overcome the dependence and attachment that he has in the first months of life with mom.
All that contribute positively to the good development of the baby.
Can we do without it?
It seems to be very risky to give “yes” as the answer. In reality, everything depends on the child, his choice of transitional object, and his ability to not suffer a lot from the separation from mom.
Nothing is written and established and it is as a baby evolves that the place of the soft toy will become part of the family or not.
How long does the baby’s attachment to his stuffed toy last?
Like many stages of a child’s development, that of the transitional object is also a stage. It can last for years until the child feels confident enough in his growth phase.
There is obviously no fixed rule about how long will the attachment to the baby’s comfort item last and like many situations that have children as protagonists: every child has his own timing and needs, and it is therefore important not to be in a hurry and to make comparisons with other children.
Growth and baby’s development also pass through this important phase
Stuffed animals can help babies to sleep better
All babies develop feelings of fear of the darkness, monsters, shadows, or loud noises as they grow up. The separation from parents during the night is a very delicate step that triggers all these fears and anxieties.
Sooner or later children have to start sleeping alone in a room different from that of their parents and it is good that this is experienced as a moment of transition and positive growth for everyone.
To facilitate it and allow your baby to sleep better alone, it is good to put into practice some precautions that favor psychological balance during the phase of change.
It could be useful to turn on a small light in the room to make it less dark, to leave the door open, or to favor the relationship with a transitional object such as a stuffed toy.
Babies sleep better accompanied by their stuffed friends, therefore, the child will be able to better deal with the detachment from the mother’s figure during rest at night.
Until what age a kid can have his teddy bear?
The stuffed animal for children becomes like a sacred object that recalls contact with the mother and helps them experience separation.
According to pediatricians, over time, this object of attachment tends to disappear: it is not forgotten or even regretted. The child spontaneously overcomes this symbiotic bond with the toy.
This detachment should not be forced by the parents but will take place independently when the little one enters a new phase of growth. Children know when they no longer need to be accompanied by their faithful friends.
At this point, the parent should keep the precious plush toy carefully. Particularly stressful moments could recur at any time and the child may need to reconnect with his dearest childhood friend.
Usually, the stuffed animal is used up to about 4 or 5 years at the most. Some children manage to leave it even earlier, in conjunction with entering the kindergarten.
If the attachment goes further, however, it is good to explain to the child that, calmly, he will have to separate from the teddy bear.