The Cuddly toy

The Cuddly toy

The Cuddly toyWhether it’s to add a decorative touch to their colorful little room, or to watch them play with it, we are always bombarding our children with cuddly toys, each one cuter than the next! However, we tend to quickly notice that children become attached to a particular soft toy, which they very often refer to as their “doudou”. This famous cuddly toy (which can also be a piece of cloth or a duvet) then becomes a member of the family in its own right. But what does Doudou really mean to the child?


Cuddly toy, a “transitional” object

From its embryonic life until well after its birth, the baby is linked to its mother. She is his world, and represents everything for him. When they separate, even if only for a short time, a feeling of anxiety is born in the baby and gradually, around 8 months, he will become aware that he is a being in his own right, an individual distinct from his parents. It is at this point that the cuddly toy comes into play. Indeed, it allows the child to make the transition between a world that links him to his mother and the outside world. Cuddly toy brings a certain comfort to the child and reassures him by filling the solitude experienced following the separation. A bond is then created between cuddly toy and the child. The child will get into the habit of touching it, sucking on it, and even taking it with him wherever he goes. He recognizes his smell, close to that of his mother, which channels his distress and comforts him. More than his best friend, cuddly toy is a real, familiar physical presence that makes the child feel safe by his side in new situations such as outings to the park, a visit to the doctor, his first days at the crèche, etc.

A cuddly toy is of real importance to a child’s development, as it helps the child to gradually free itself from the mother’s needs. The child will feel more independent from his parents and will want to know and explore the outside world, beyond his mother’s arms. He will then be able to bear the separation from his mother, and the absence of his parents will no longer be as disturbing as before. Thanks to cuddly toy, the child grows up!


My child doesn’t have a cuddly toy, is it serious?


Parents sometimes tend to worry about their child growing up without the company of that famous security cuddly toy: “Is there something wrong with him? “If he doesn’t bond at a young age, does that mean he won’t be sociable later on?”

The answer is obviously no. It is perfectly normal for a child not to adopt a cuddly toy. There are several reasons for this. First of all, the child manages to reassure himself without the help of a physical presence replacing that of his parents. Indeed, they will develop habits that are very common among children, such as sucking their thumb, sucking their dummy, etc., repetitive gestures that will allow them to withdraw, isolate themselves, rest and be soothed. It is a way for the child to find sleep or simply to give himself a moment of calm between two play times. The lack of a cuddly toy will in no way influence the child’s development, integration into the unknown outside world, and independence from his parents. Don’t worry, the child will grow up like the others, no need for Doudou!

Secondly, the presence of cuddly toy differs from one country to another, from one region, one continent, one culture to another. If in the West it is quite normal to see young children playing with a cuddly toy and taking it everywhere they go, this is not necessarily the case in other countries. The child himself feels the need to have a blanket or not, and if he feels the need, the first comforting object at his disposal will do the trick, so no need to force baby to adopt!


One or more cuddly toys?


Again, questions will arise from parents who are worried about their child adopting more than one cuddly toy: “Why can’t my child be happy with just one cuddly toy?” “If he bonds a lot at a young age, does that mean he will be very sociable later on?”

Again, the answer is obviously no. It is not uncommon to see a child with several cuddly toys for whom he feels the same attachment, so don’t be jealous! Very often, it is the same soft toy that the parents have bought in several copies in case of loss. On the face of it, this does not seem to be a bad idea, but it is not advisable to give all the Doudous look-alikes to the child at the same time, as he will not be able to separate from them. Indeed, although they are visually identical, he will be able to differentiate them by smell (the sense of smell of the very young being very sensitive) and thus consider them as different Doudous which he must always keep close to him. Good luck bringing them all back to the nursery afterwards…


At home
If several clones of a cuddly toy are in the child’s hands at the same time, this is not a very good idea. Having only two copies can be very practical, as long as only one is left within the child’s reach. In fact, if a child loses one, it seems ingenious not to say anything to the child and to replace the blanket with his twin brother, unseen and unknown. However, as the child can recognize the real blanket by its smell, the two blankets should be given alternately so that they absorb the same smell. No problem, it will quickly be replaced by the second one without the child even noticing. At the age of tantrums when this loss will be perceived as a tragedy (around 2 years old), this technique proves to be very effective!

At the nursery
Having a second blanket can also be useful in the sense that a second blanket is left at the nursery to avoid any risk of loss when the child moves with his blanket. This way, the child does not have to drag the blanket out of the house to find it at the nursery!

For washing
Even though Doudou is cute and is cuddled by the child every day, it still gets dirty very quickly. No, the cuddly toy doesn’t really smell like roses and for hygienic reasons, it is essential to wash it. If some children see this moment as a game where they can admire comforter going on a merry-go-round behind the round glass of the washing machine, or drying out in the sun, others find the separation more difficult to accept. This is where the second cuddly toy comes in again, to replace the first one until it is ready for a makeover.


Cuddly toy, until what age?


All good things come to an end, and cuddly toy is no exception. The time has come when he will have to disappear from the child’s life, and this moment arrives when the child reaches the age of about 6 years. Now that he is no longer a baby, he will discover independence, the exciting world around him, and will gradually detach himself from his best playmate. He will then prove his self-confidence, get involved in activities and make friends. Doudou will now be nothing more than a tender memory of his early childhood.

When doudou does not leave the child, even beyond the age of 6 or 8, the worried parents are back and ask themselves: “Should we worry about our child always being accompanied by his doudou even at 8 years and more?

This time the answer is yes. The cuddly toy is basically a transitional object that is supposed to reassure the child, to bring him some comfort. If the child has not left with it by the age of 8, we must start looking for a reason for this behavior. This may be caused by uneasiness or anxiety felt by the child following a birth, a move, or excessive pressure from school and/or parents.

A consultation with a child psychiatrist may then be necessary if the dependence on the cuddly toy does not dissipate or, on the contrary, increases.

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