A young child clutching a blanket is a familiar sight. Between the ages of six and nine months, many babies become attached to a security object such as a blanket or stuffed animal. And the attachment may last until the child is four or five, or older.
This is a natural part of development, although not all children pick out a special object, and some choose several soft items to hold onto. A child with a strong attachment may wake up clutching his blanket and hold it as his parents pick him up. He may put the blanket against his face and carry it around with him as he gets older.
To a young child, a blanket or other soft object is a source of warmth and comfort. He may use his “blankie” during times of transition throughout the day, when he goes to sleep, wakes up, feels tired or hurt, goes for a car trip, visits the doctor, or goes to day care, and during major changes in his life or routine. Such changes can include the birth of a sibling, the beginning of day care or nursery school, or a parent’s absence. Children who are left to cry themselves to sleep may become particularly dependent on an object for comfort.
Your child’s attachment to a special object may go through different stages. At times he’ll have an intense need for his blanket and will let you know that he wants it, even if he can’t yet tell you in words. At other times, during calm periods and as he gets older, he’ll have less need for the special object.
If your child is attached to a special object, you may find it hard to trust that he’ll ever give it up. You may wonder if you should remove it or wean him away from it, but as time goes on, your child’s desire for the object will diminish, and he’ll give it up on his own. However, you may not see this happen until he’s five, since many four and five-year-olds keep their objects with them at night as a source of comfort.
Interestingly, when parents recognize how strong and long-lasting their child’s attachment is, they sometimes begin to feel protective of the object themselves.