You might laugh at cartoon characters who are overly attached to their beloved blankets, but when your own kid is trailing his bedraggled piece of tattered cloth behind him wherever he goes, it's less amusing. It might ease the pain to know that that little bit of material has significant benefits for your blanket-toter's emotional development. Tagged a transitional or security object by psychiatrists, blankies and other loveys help kids make the move from dependency to independence -- which is something you want them to do so they'll eventually move out of the house.
Choosing the Object
Almost 75 percent of all kids up to age 5 are attached to a security or transitional object, pediatrician Dr. Peter Welty of the University of Southern California reports. As far as parents can see, there's often no rhyme or reason to why their little one attaches himself to a particular blanket. Most babies choose their particular lovey between the ages of 8 and 12 months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Your child might choose it because he likes the feel of the material -- satin edging is a particular favorite for many kids -- or for some other reason that completely eludes you. But once he's chosen a special blanket, your chances of shifting him to another object -- even one that looks just like it, at least to you -- are slim.
Your little one's blanket is his substitute for you when you're not there to comfort him or when he's feeling additional stress. His blankie may also help him relax enough to fall asleep, a definite boon for you, especially if he's a difficult sleeper. Kids attached to some type of transitional object are more affectionate, independent and self-confident, according to Dr. Welty. A beloved blanket or other lovey can also help your child develop his sense of identity and give him the confidence he needs to gain control over his environment.
Living With Blankie
Make your own life easier by buying blankie an identical twin as soon as you realize that it's "the one"; if he's a one-of-a-kind, cut him in half if he's big enough and rotate the two halves. Don't save a new, pristine blanket to offer when old blankie finally disintegrates in the washing machine; your discerning kiddo probably won't accept it, because it doesn't have the same familiar smell -- years of accumulated grime that never really comes off in the wash, color or feel as the original.
Giving Up Blankie
A blanket attachment seems pretty cute when your 1-year-old is dragging around a hunk of material nearly as big as he is, but not so funny when your kindergartener is clutching the last precious piece in his hand on his way to the bus stop on the first day of school. Parents often agonize over when that blankie should make one long, last trip to the back of the closet. But most kids start to leave their blankie under the bed or otherwise hidden without you having to do anything, so they don't get teased by their friends. By age 5 1/2, just 8 percent of kids are still attached to their blanket, according to the "Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health."