A child clutching a
blanket is a familiar sight. Between the ages of six and nine
months, many young children become attached to a security object
such as a blanket or stuffed animal. The attachment may last until
the child is five or older. This is a natural part of development,
although not all children pick out a special object, and some choose
several soft items to hold on to. A child with a strong attachment
may wake up clutching his blanket and hold it as his parents pick
him up. He may put the blanket against his face and carry it around
with him as he gets older.
To a young child, a blanket or other soft object is a source of com
fort. As he moves away from infancy and his close union with his
mother, he nurtures and cares for his special object, receiving
warmth and comfort in return. He may use his blanket most often
during times of transition throughout the day—when he goes to sleep,
wakes up, feels tired or hurt, goes for a car trip, visits the
doctor, or goes to day care—and during major changes in his life or
routine. Such changes can include the birth of a sibling, the
beginning of day care or nursery school, or a parent’s absence.
Children who are left to cry themselves to sleep or whose dependency
needs are not consistently met may become particularly dependent on
an object for comfort.
The child’s attachment to his special object may go through
different stages. At times he’ll have an intense need for his
blanket and will let his parents know that he wants it, even if he
can’t yet tell them in words. At other times, during calm periods
and as he gets older, he may have less need for the special object.
One child had a strong attachment to a stuffed animal she’d been
given when she was a few months old and took the toy everywhere.
When she turned four, her attachment began to lessen. First she
threw the animal out of her bed, although she quickly retrieved it.
Then she began moving it, night by night, into less favorable
positions on the bed. Eventually she simply put it away on a shelf.
If your child is attached to a special object, you may find it hard
to trust that he’ll ever give it up. You may wonder if you should
remove it or wean him away from it, but such actions are
unnecessary. As time goes on, his desire for the object will
diminish and he’ll give it up on his own. However, you may not see
this happen until he’s five, since many four- and five-year-olds
keep their objects with them at night as a source of comfort.
Interestingly, when parents recognize how strong and long-lasting
their child’s attachment is, they sometimes begin to feel protective
of the object themselves.