She won’t go anywhere without her favorite stuffed monkey. He refuses to sleep without his blanket. When should a parent worry that a child is using a favorite toy or item as a crutch and when is it time to insist they give that item up?
Ask ten different experts this question and you’ll likely get ten different answers. Because there doesn’t seem to be any general consensus on when to give up favorite toys and items, the decision truly is up to each family. Here are some points to consider…
- Is the item bringing your child some sort of security? Does having that stuffed animal on the pillow beside her make her feel safe? If so, your child may want to keep the toy nearby even into pre-teen years. As she grows older, she may not admit why it is nearby at night, but will likely still want it with her.
- Does he let you keep the item sanitary? My daughter once had a blanket that she didn’t want me to wash, because it “messed up the smell”. Trust me, the smell needed changed – badly! It is perfectly okay to set some boundaries, such as insisting upon keeping an item clean for sanitary reasons. Let the child keep his blanket, but wash it as necessary.
- Children over about seven or eight should be able to visit a friend or relative and leave the item at home for a single night or two. If the child is unable to do this, then it may be time to start discussions about why he or she feels the need to always have this item.
Sometimes, pressing too hard makes the child want the item even more. It is best to not make a big deal out of favored toys. Most children will gradually move away from the need for them on his/her own as he matures.
Remember to stop worrying. Have you ever heard of an adult who can’t live without their favorite teddy and carries it every where? Not likely. Children will give things up, or at least tuck them away in a safe place, on their own.