Why and how to choose the transitional object: loved by the child, appreciated by the adults
by Stefania Conci on Oct 14, 2022
Reconciling the needs of children and adults is not always an easy task. Especially for objects that play an important and/or lasting role for the child: bedroom furniture, clothes, toys, books and, of course, the transitional object. Almost everything purchased for the child is subject to the taste, or at least the approval, of the parents; but as far as the transitional object is concerned, the only and essential "last word" belongs to the child. However, the attentive parent can propose appropriate alternatives, to facilitate the selection and final choice for the child.
What is the transition object and why is it so important
It is an object to which the child bonds in a special way, sometimes already in very early childhood, before the first year of age is completed.
The transitional object represents a kind of emotional support that can offer a sense of security and comfort to the child who faces separation anxiety or finds himself in new and unfamiliar environments. Going to daycare for the first time, sleeping in a new bed, meeting a new nanny, going on holiday to an unknown place are very important events in the first months and years of life, which could even be traumatic. In order to face these moments in a positive way and derive a growth experience from them, a transitional object proves to be very useful.
The transitional object is not a "whim" and is absolutely not something negative. The term "transitional" appears for the first time in 1953, coined by Dr. Donald Woods Winnicott, a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst who was actively interested in the emotional development of the child, and whose theories and teachings are still current. According to the scholar, this very important object is the first awareness of a "not me" who is not the mother; the transition is precisely that from the child's total bond with his mother, to the child's awareness of being an autonomous entity.
It is often a stuffed animal that is chosen by the child as a transitional object, which comforts and reassures, while helping emotional development and socialization.
The perfect transitional object does not exist but, from Linus' blanket in Peanuts to Mr. Bean's teddy bear, it is clear that transitional objects are for the most part warm and soft, with interesting and varied tactile-pressure characteristics: enveloping like a cover, or to hug, as in the case of a stuffed animal and pillows.
The situation in which the pacifier takes on the function of a transitional object is also quite common, while some scholars of human behavior identify in objects typical of some cultures a permanence of the need to have an object that reassures, even as adults.
Among the objects examined: the Greek komboloi (a cord or string in which large pearls are threaded, to be held in the hand) and the Japanese dakimakura (a soft pillow, with human dimensions).
The ideal transitional object?
A soft, handcrafted, personalized cushion-toy
Animals easily attract children's attention: they move, make sounds, arouse sensations and emotions; it seems that the child's ability to locate and distinguish animals more quickly than objects is innate. This passion for animals will turn into real love, if not deliberately opposed by adults.
For this reason, even toys that imitate animal shapes are particularly appreciated by the little ones: teddy bears, kittens, puppies... but also other animals of the woods and jungle, especially if stylized in simple, easily recognizable shapes, which highlight them the peculiar characteristics.
The thick mane of the lion, the big eyes of the owl, the wings of the butterfly, the long ears of the rabbit, exert a magical effect on the child; even more when, after early childhood, he learns to recognize these animals in fairy tales, to imitate their verses. If a pleasant tactile experience is associated with sight, such as that given by a soft plush, the toy-animal will most likely become the ideal transitional object.
Animal-shaped cushions, inspired by the magic of the forest, such as those proposed by Stefania Conci, digital artisan of LA STANZA NEL BOSCO, do not lack any of the characteristics that make an embroidered cushion a lovable transitional object. If the choice was to buy one of the handcrafted cushions with animal features, such as the mischievous Lia the fox , the tender Hare Pepe , the shy Hedgehog Pasticcio , the pacioccone Honey Bear , the friendly and anything but scary Marcello the bat ; you will most likely have hit the mark, managing to offer your child an excellent transitional object.
How to solve the main practical problems related to the transitional object Affection to the object is not a problem, but management could be: remember that it is something very important for the child and a forced detachment from it should not be underestimated , for forgetfulness, damage or loss. The obligatory separation from the transitional object must be able to be avoided, or at least administered conscientiously, by the adult.
It may happen that the child is not allowed to bring any objects from home into the classroom; in this case it will be good to plan a farewell ceremony before the separation, and an appointment for when the school exit bell will ring. It goes without saying that, if you accompany and pick up the child, it is essential not to disappoint him by forgetting to take the object with him when he leaves school (or by not letting him find him waiting for him when he returns home).
The characteristics acquired over time also make the transitional object unique and irreplaceable: small traces of wear, signs produced by the child and others, first of all the smell. So how do you deal with an object that, taken everywhere, gets dirty and deteriorates? A little trick could be to have two or more identical objects, to be washed regularly so that they take on the same "lived-in" air, and maintain a characteristic odor that is more fragrant of clean than that of dirt. In this sense, a pillow-toy is ideal: it's easy to have two or more.
Hand-made cushions, unlike impersonal industrial products, despite being unique pieces can be replicated with a certain ease, if necessary.
Never use it to punish
Separation from the transitional object as a punishment is not even worth considering. It could mean inflicting trauma on the child with negative psychological consequences.
Everyone grows at their own pace
The "right" age to abandon the transitional object does not exist. Children separate from transitional objects as they grow older and become more comfortable in their surroundings; it's not a drama if you continue to stick to your favorite pillow or sleep with your teddy bear even in the vicinity of adolescence and beyond: each individual must be left free to live according to their own times. Recent studies show that 35% of adults maintain a special bond with an object from their childhood: dolls, toy soldiers, especially stuffed animals and pillows, but this is by no means unbecoming or unhealthy. Being attached to a stuffed animal or any other object, and wanting to always carry it with you, is not a sign of either immaturity or weakness. Anyone who claims otherwise is probably linked to a cultural preconception, rather than being scientifically informed.
A transitional item is amply proven to help your child express themselves, connect with the world, and flourish emotionally.
Proposing a special object to the child is an act of love, as is being ready to see him become attached to something other than what we would have liked; but by submitting something unique, personal, lasting to our child's selection, like one of the handcrafted plush cushions with customizable embroidery, from LA STANZA NEL BOSCO, we help him make the right choice.