Childcare Parenting

How long should your child keep a security blanket for?

Security Blanket
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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Could a child’s excessive attachment to something like a security blanket ever be harmful to them?

My daughter’s six-month birthday was in the middle of winter. So I went out and bought her a warm and cosy blanket. This pink and white blanket became a part of our family. But not the good kind – more like that uncle who wants to be in every picture.

This blanket (aka blankie) was the answers to all my prayers. My daughter would cuddle with it and fall asleep. Slowly and gradually it became her piece of security. Blankie would be carried everywhere with us. And I don’t use the word everywhere lightly. In my daughter’s case it was a blanket. But children can emotionally attach themselves to any object they fancy, be it a soft toy or blanket.

Should your child let the security blanket go?

The answer is no. I know parents who worry about how attached their child is to a certain ‘thing’. There is no need to worry. The level of attachment self adjusts with age. The question is, why do children deeply depend on an inanimate object ? Research published in the international journal Cognition suggests that this might be because children think the toy or blanket has a unique ‘essence.’. To support this theory, Professor Bruce Hood from the University of Bristol and his colleague Dr Paul Bloom of Yale University, USA, showed that three to six-year-old children have a preference for their cherished items over apparently identical duplicates.

It used to be thought that these attachment pieces were comfort items. That they provided a sense of security and safety for infants raised in households where they slept separately from the mother. However, the results of the study suggest that in addition to these physical properties of the toy, children believe that there is some other property of their objects that cannot be physically copied.

Think in the long term

At some point, usually when the object becomes dirty enough and changes colour, parents feel like they must take the security item away from their child. In some instances, where the child’s security item is something like a pacifier or bottle, the need to take it away is a medical one. However, in other cases parents feel that their child needs to grow up and let go.

Some experts feel contrary to this. They feel that snatching up the item and forcing a child to give it up in order to be a ‘big kid’ actually reduces their independence. If you think long term, even a 13-year-old who still has her bear is not likely to take it out with her. If it sits on her bed and just happens to get tucked under the blanket at night, is there really any harm in that? Especially if it makes her happy?