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Transitional Toys: Independence Through Dependence

Babies-R-Us-independent-play-450x400A transitional toy is an object like a blanket or a stuffed animal that your baby refuses to go anywhere without. It doesn’t matter what your child chooses because that’s not what it’s about. It’s about bringing something familiar with them as they leave the comfort zone of home (where they’ve spent most of their lives) and start experiencing the world at large.

Benefits of a Transitional Toy
• Helps your baby face new situations
• Calms your baby when they have separation anxiety
• Reassures your baby to help them handle their fears
• Reminds your baby of past positive experiences
 
The first thing you should know about your child’s transitional toy is that they have to pick it themselves. You can’t push them towards a particular toy (like one you’re particularly fond of), but you are in charge of providing the options. With that in mind, make sure none of your toys or blankets have choking hazards on them. These could include ribbons and tassels, sewn-on-buttons, removable plastic parts; or bean/bead stuffing.

You should also know that your child is going to be most displeased when (not if) you lose their best friend in the whole wide world. About the only thing that will calm them down at that point is an exact replica. So once you see what they’ve chosen, pick up a second one and keep it tucked away in the back of the closet.

Next you should start thinking of their new bestie as part of the family. Get used to referring to it by name. If it’s a doll, talk to it and let your baby know what it says back. This validates the behaviour for them, and can start to get quite fun and creative for you. For example, you can make a table setting for them at your next dinner party.

Also, let your members of your family and anyone who babysits know about their new favourite toy so they know what to look for when (not if) the baby starts wailing for it.

Transitional toys are just that: transitional. It’s a phase your child will eventually grow out of once they get more ‘real-world’ experience (play dates, parties, holdiays) and see more of their friends operating just fine without a security object.

The key for you as parents is not to worry about how long your child is going to keep carrying around their blanky. They’ll put it down when they’re ready. They may replace it with another one. They may not. The important thing is that you let it happen on its own and end on its own; once the transition to independence has been made.

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