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How do Comfort Objects and Transitional Objects Help your Child’s Development?

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Stuffed animals, soft toys, teddy bears, dolls, pacifiers and security blankets are all comfort objects that offer emotional support and can do more than just help young children fall asleep.

Here we’ll explore how these soft and cuddly friends are so essential for a child’s development.

What is a Transitional Object?

A comfort object, also called a transitional object can be a stuffed animal, soft toy, teddy bear, doll or security blanket. It’s an item that is used to provide psychological comfort, during new or uncomfortable situations or at bedtime for children. These huggable, snuggly toys are often given nicknames and are used to soothe the child during a transitional phase and can often become a child’s best friend.

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The Role in Child Development

In childhood development these transitional objects take the place of the mother-child bond. Comforting items can give the child a sense of security and peace of mind when the mother is not around. These comforting objects essentially become an emotional support system, offering reassurance to a child facing separation anxiety or an uncertain situation. Meeting a new babysitter, going to daycare or preschool, sleeping in a new bed and other new experiences are all common situations whereby a transitional object can help comfort and soothe the child.

Dr. Donald Woods Winnicott was a pediatrician and psychoanalyst that coined the term ‘transitional object’ in 1953. Dr. Winnicott wanted parents and caregivers to understand how truly meaningful comfort objects were to a child and their development. The doctor drew attention to the importance of a child choosing their own transitional object, and explained that a comfort object represents a connection between the mother or primary caregiver and the external world.

The use of a transitional object may seem insignificant in a child’s play, but is a really an important tool in child development.

Practical Tips for Using a Comfort Object

A comfort or transitional object can be used with children as early as 4-6 months of age or as late as 2-3 years of age.

You can encourage a healthy relationship with your child’s chosen comfort object by placing it near your child whenever they are feeling upset or anxious.

When your child begins to turn to the comfort object for a sense of security and comfort, remember that it’s a healthy move towards independence. Your child is learning that they can feel safe in the world even when the parent or caregiver isn’t around. Some see the child clinging to a comfort object as a sign of weakness or insecurity, but in reality it’s a healthy sign of independence and emotional development.

If it’s possible, own two of your child’s comfort object. If the item needs washing, you have another clean one available to comfort your little one. Similarly, if it gets lost or misplaced, you have a spare on hand to ease the pain.

Never take away a child’s comfort object as a form of punishment if they misbehave. This will only cause the child more anxiety.

Don’t be concerned if your child keeps their comfort object longer than you expect necessary. Adults all over the world hold onto their childhood toys, dolls, stuffed animals and security blankets. A Build-A-Bear Workshop study in 2017 revealed that four in ten Americans still sleep with a teddy bear at night.

Comfort Objects in Pop Culture

The security blanket became popular with the character, Linus van Pelt, who carried around his ‘security and happiness blanket’ in the Peanuts comic strip featuring Charlie Brown and Lucy, created by Charles M. Schultz.

Comfort objects have appeared regularly in children’s entertainment over the years. Igglepiggle is a blue teddy bear like creature from the preschool children’s television In the Night Garden that carries around a red blanket wherever he goes. Peppa Pig‘s little brother, George, often seeks comfort from his dinosaur toy in his possession, called ‘Mr. Dinosaur’.

Sesame Street’s autistic character, Julia, loves her stuffed toy named Fluffster and is often comforted by the bunny rabbit doll, especially when she’s feeling anxious or upset. In the Sesame Street film, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, Elmo loves his fuzzy blue blanket more than anything, and when it’s stolen he sets out on an epic adventure to retrieve his cherished blanket.

In the movie, The Producers, Leo Bloom keeps himself calm from panic attacks, carrying his childhood blue blanket everywhere he goes.

As you can see comfort objects are widely used in society and serve an important purpose in the development of children.

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Doll Play Teaches Children Valuable Emotional and Social Skills

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Playing with dolls is more than just playtime fun. Dolls can provide a unique opportunity to help children to practice social interactions that are important for developing social and emotional skills, such as empathy.

Social and emotional skills are essential for connecting with others and help us to manage our emotions, build healthy relationships, and feel empathy for each other. These abilities are important skills that children will carry through their whole lives. Parents can support their child’s social and emotional development by ensuring their toys and playthings provide value in play, with toys like dolls that build on these valuable skills.

In a study ‘Exploring the Benefits of Doll Play Through Neuroscience’ collaborated by Mattel’s Barbie® and neuroscientists from Cardiff University, the impact that doll play has on children was explored. The research revealed that as a child engages in pretend play while playing with dolls even by themselves, neural regions in the brain are activated that allow children to develop empathy and social skills.

“What’s really exciting about this is that doll play has benefits and they’re not about pairing necessarily,” said Sarah Gerson, a developmental neuroscientist and senior lecturer at Cardiff University who oversaw the study. “They are about these social skills that are important for a variety of really broad domains.”

Solo play with dolls can elicit this type of effect because dolls “naturally encourage children to create their own social worlds,” Gerson said. Playing with dolls encourages children to recreate situations from their lives and create stories with their imaginations and role play out scenarios to act out.

The study found that playing with dolls help children to develop nurturing social skills like empathy that can prepare children for the future and enhance their emotional, academic and social success. You can read more about the study exploring the benefits of doll play and its findings here.

Leading empathy expert, writer, and educational psychologist, Dr. Michele Borba said: “The latest scientific findings from Cardiff University and Barbie are extraordinary and so relevant to the times we are living, given the limited social interaction our children can have. It’s been shown that children who have developed empathy and social skills early in life can have better grades, stay in school longer and make healthier choices overall. Empathetic children might also be more likely to stand up for a child being bullied and try to engage and resolve the conflict. Understanding that kids can help develop these skills through playing with dolls like Barbie, is remarkable and a helpful tool for parents.”

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Nostalgic Toys From Your Childhood: Raggedy Ann & Raggedy Andy Dolls

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Raggedy Ann has been a favourite for kids and collectors. The Raggedy Ann doll was created by writer Johnny Gruelle in 1915 and was first introduced to the public in 1918 on the release of the children’s book Raggedy Ann Stories. In 1920, Gruelle released a sequel, Raggedy Andy Stories, introducing Raggedy Ann’s brother, Raggedy Andy.

Raggedy Ann is a rag doll with red yarn for hair and a triangle nose and her signature outfit is a blue floral dress and white apron. Similarly Raggedy Andy wears a plaid shirt with a bow-tie, blue overalls and a hat. In Gruelle’s stories, Raggedy Ann and Andy, come to life and embarks on many adventures together.

Raggedy Ann & Andy is a treasured children’s classic written and illustrated by Johnny Gruelle.

It’s unclear the exact origin of the Raggedy Ann doll, but the widely accepted story goes that Gruelle retrieved a long-forgotten, old homemade rag doll from his parents’ attic that his mother had made for his sister and thought that the doll would make a good story.

Raggedy Ann Stories was the first in a series of books written and illustrated by Johnny Gruelle about his cloth doll character and her friends. Two years later was followed by Raggedy Andy Stories was released, introducing Raggedy Ann’s brother, Raggedy Andy. Johnny Gruelle continued to write and illustrate at least one Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy story each year until his death in 1938. At that time, Gruelle’s first book from the Raggedy Ann series had sold more than 3 million copies.

John Gruelle’s US Patent D47789 for design of his Raggedy Ann doll was approved on September 7, 1915.

In 2002, the Raggedy Ann doll was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York, and with Raggedy Andy inducted in 2007.

Raggedy Ann Doll

Over the years there have been many adaptions of the Raggedy Ann and Andy books, with appearances of the characters featuring in animated feature films including Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy (1941), Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure (1977) and Snowden: Raggedy Ann & Andy’s Adventure (1998). The dolls have featured in theatre and on the stage in Raggedy Ann and Andy (1981) and Raggedy Ann: The Musical Adventure (1986) and in the television series Raggedy Ann and Andy in The Great Santa Claus Caper (1978), Raggedy Ann and Andy in The Pumpkin Who Couldn’t Smile (1979) and The Adventures of Raggedy Ann and Andy (1988–1990).

Raggedy Andy Doll

The stories of Raggedy Ann and Andy have been published in comic books, along with mass merchandising of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls by leading toy manufacturers and numerous other Raggedy products from tea sets to dollhouse miniatures to McCall’s sewing patterns and Simplicity Patterns to make your own homemade dolls.

The Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls and their related memorabilia have become sought-after collectors’ items.

Rag Dolls

The Most Beautiful DIY Handmade Cloth Doll Patterns

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Our lovely collection of handcrafted rag dolls features a selection of the best meticulously crafted rag dolls that are sure to put a smile on you and your child’s face. Creating your own personalised doll allows you to choose your own textiles, fabrics, colours and style, and make your own truly stunning doll, whether it be vintage or modern, accompanied by its own story and become a treasured family heirloom.

Easy Cloth Dolls

Enjoy the creativity of making your own beautiful cloth doll with an easy sewing pattern and a detailed tutorial with step by step instructions and photos by MarfushkaDolls that make sewing these sweet soft dolls a breeze.

Princess Doll Collection

Make your own collection of princess rag dolls with this pattern featuring detailed instructions, tips and suggested materials. The pattern includes three gorgeous royal hairstyles of a space bun, pontytail bun and braids and includes beautiful dress and four different face templates to choose from. 10x2studio has made this tutorial very detailed so that even a beginner can make the dolls with ease. These sweet dolls are great as a gift for all ages, as a toy, or as an art piece or decoration.

Family of Rag Dolls

Make rag dolls the traditional way with scraps of fabric and create your own family of rag dolls that includes mother, father, brother, sister and baby dolls. Super quick and easy pattern, and lots of fun to make. TheRedBootQuiltCo family of rag dolls pattern will make little people in your life happy with these vibrantly colorful funky dolls.

Crochet Doll

Karina is beautiful almost seamless crochet doll. Her arms are sewn on using the amigurumi seamless join technique and feature wire in her arms and legs to make her poseable. KatushkaMorozova offers the pattern and all the instructions to create your own stunning crochet doll.

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10 Children’s Story Books to Read with a Rag Doll

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Everyone loves story time, especially dollies. Rags dolls are treasured friends that comfort and entertain.

Pretend play with your special doll friend benefits all areas of development. Dressing and feeding dolls helps to enhance your child’s fine-motor skills, while role play helps develop emotional and social skills.

Sharing a storybook with a rag doll friend, soft toy or stuffed animal helps children to develop communication skills as they learn sounds, words, practice language skills and develop early literacy skills. A cherished rag doll is the perfect educational companion for children as they practice reading and storytelling and what better books to read than books with a theme of dolls.

We’ve compiled a selection of some our favorite doll themed story books for children. Children experience story time together with their rag doll and take them along on their imaginative adventures as they turn the pages of these doll theme children’s books.

Penny and her Doll

Written by Kevin Henkes

When Penny receives a surprise box in the mail from Gram, she is thrilled. The surprise is a doll, and she is absolutely perfect, from her head to her toes. Penny loves her immediately. She introduces her new doll to Mama and to the babies and to Papa. But then Papa asks what the doll’s name is, and Penny realizes that she doesn’t know. What should Penny call her?

The Doll Hospital

Writen by Kallie George and illustrated by Sara Gillingham

When toys need a little (or a lot of!) TLC, they head to the Doll Hospital in this endearing picture book in the tradition of Doc McStuffins. Don’t worry, toys, Dr. Pegs will have you feeling better in no time!

It’s a quiet morning at the Doll Hospital until… DING-A-LING-A-LING! The emergency bells ring! Here comes a patient who needs Dr. Pegs’s help.

Dr. Pegs is about to get to work when… DING-A-LING-A-LING! Here comes another patient! And another!

How will Dr. Pegs take care of them all? Looks like the doctor needs some help herself!

Babushka’s Doll

Written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco

Natasha isn’t really a bad girl. It’s just that she wants to play on the swing now, not after the wash has been hung up to dry. And she wants her soup now, not after the goats have been fed. Looking after Natasha keeps Babushka, Natasha’s grandmother, very busy.

Then, after lunch, Natasha notices a doll sitting on Babushka’s shelf…a doll Babushka tells Natasha she played with just once when she was a little girl. When Natasha plays with the doll while Babushka goes to the store for groceries, she discovers why once is enough with Babushka’s doll…and finds out just how tiring it can be to take care of a child who wants everything now.

Ella Bella Ballerina and the Magic Toyshop

Written by James Mayhew

Everyone’s favourite little dancer, Ella Bella Ballerina, steps into an enchanted toyshop in this magical ballet adventure.

Discover a world of fairytale toymakers and dancing dolls in in this beautiful introduction to classic ballet, La Boutique Fantastique. With a sparkling foiled cover and exquisitely detailed illustrations, this is the perfect gift for all would-be ballerinas.

Elizabeti’s Doll

Written by Stephanie Stuve-Bodden and illustrated by Christy Hale

When her new baby brother arrives, Elizabeti decides she needs a doll that she can care for the way her mother cares for the new baby. After looking around the village, Elizabeti finds the perfect doll to love. She names her Eva. When Mama changes the new babyÂs diaper, Elizabeti changes EvaÂs. When Mama sings to the baby, Elizabeti sings to Eva. And one day when Eva turns up lost, Elizabeti realizes just how much she loves her special doll. For children adjusting to a new sibling, this story is perfect.

Baby Boo, I Love You

Written by Sheryl Haft and illustrated by Jane Massey

Little ones love playing with their dolls! Celebrate that love with Baby-Boo, I Love You, and follow one imaginative little girl who adores playing mommy. And as she bathes, feeds, and frolics with her doll, she emulates a nurturing parent-child relationship,showing the universal joys of being cared for and cherished.

The Doll Shop Downstairs

Written by Yona Zeldis McDonough and illustrated by Heather Maione

Nine year old Anna and her sisters like helping out in their parents’ doll repair shop, because once their chores are done, the fun can begin. The girls are allowed to play carefully with the dolls until they’re fixed and ready to be returned to their owners. But when World War I begins, and an embargo on German-made goods threatens to put the shop out of business, it’s up to Anna to come up with an idea to save the day.

A is for Annabelle: A Doll’s Alphabet

Written and illustrated by Tasha Tudor

A is for Annabelle, Grandmother’s doll, B is for her box on the chest in the hall.

Learn the alphabet from A to Z with the help of Annabelle the doll. Each gorgeously illustrated spread features one of her favorite things. With an antique box, a parasol, and yarn for mending, children can learn the alphabet in grand style.

The Doll People

Written by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin and illustrated by Brian Selznick

Annabelle Doll is eight years old-she has been for more than a hundred years. Not a lot has happened to her, cooped up in the dollhouse, with the same doll family, day after day, year after year. . . until one day the Funcrafts move in.

The Best-Loved Doll

Written by Rebecca Caudill and illustrated by Elliott Gilbert

Betsy receives an invitation to a party requiring her to bring a guest―one of her dolls―for a chance to win a prize or two in several “best of” categories. But while many of her dolls are prettier to look at, wear fancier clothes, and are capable of doing things, Betsy cherishes Jennifer most of all. Her hair may be a bird’s nest, she may wear drab, plain clothes, and her face may not have the most beautiful complexion, but Jennifer is Betsy’s very best friend―the doll she loves the most.