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Why Is My Baby Obsessed With Carrying Around And Sleeping With Random Objects?

Babe in Dreamland - Why Is My Baby Obsessed With Carrying Around And Sleeping With Random Objects?

Ever caught your little bundle of joy carrying around a toothbrush, a plastic spoon, or their latest collection of acorns?

…Only to find out later that these random items ended up in their bed for a snuggle? 

Don’t worry, this peculiar behaviour is actually quite common in babies and toddlers and nothing to worry about. 

But why do they do it? 

And what does it mean?

Well, grab your coffee and let’s dive into the reasons behind your baby’s obsession with random not-so-cuddly items, shall we?

If your child is exhibiting unusual behaviour such as obsessively carrying around various objects, it’s likely they’re going through a “load and tote” phase. Alternatively, these items may serve as “transitional objects” representing the mother-child bond and providing comfort. Carrying objects may also indicate that your child is mastering the concept of object permanence and becoming more interested in exploring their surroundings. This behaviour may be a manifestation of their curiosity and expanding gross motor skills.

The Load And Tote Phase

As your baby starts to move from babyhood to toddlerhood, around 12 months, and they become more agile, you will notice behaviour that you may find unconventional. 

These typical behaviours will probably be linked to the developmental phase they are currently going through.

So, when they become obsessed with carrying around all kinds of objects – from plastic spoons to acorns and sticks – they are likely going through a load and tote phase.

The load and tote phase is like a little workout routine for babies and toddlers. They’ll tote things around the house like little weightlifters, working those tiny muscles and building their motor skills.

At some stage, they may even start putting these things into a container and carry around their treasures in it. Whatever container they can get their hands on, be it a box, a bag, or a backpack. 

Through carrying and dumping objects in an out container, babies practise eye-hand coordination and learn about gravity and cause and effect! 

How is that, though?

Well, as they fill the container with items, they learn how some things can fit in, and some don’t, because they are too big, for example. And when they empty the container, they see items going down, hitting the floor, making a loud bang, etc. That’s their gravity lesson done.

Also, they need a lot of coordination between what they see and what they do with their hands to grab things and place them precisely where they want. 

So, if you see your little one lugging around a random object like a bottle of hand sanitizer or a silicone cupcake mould, don’t be alarmed. It’s a natural part of the development process that will pass sooner or later!

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Seeking Comfort and Familiarity Through Transitional Objects

But it’s not just about looking good – carrying around objects also provides a sense of security and comfort for little ones. Especially if these items have been in the baby’s environment for a while…

According to British psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott, these are “transitional objects”, which serve as a symbolic representation of the mother or primary caregiver. 

Since babies have a strong attachment to their mom, they may use objects to mimic the experience of being held and comforted. 

Ultimately, these transitional objects help the child to transition from dependence on the mother to independence.

In some cases, these transitional objects may even become a source of comfort and security for babies, which can lead to developing a strong attachment and a desire to keep them close when they need them most, i.e. for bedtime.

So, they’ll cling to their favourite items like a lifeline, using them as a sort of emotional security blanket. 

And as they get older, they’ll start using those objects for imaginative play, exploring new scenarios and testing out different roles.

The Choice of Transitional Object 

Babies can be pretty funny little creatures, especially when it comes to their choice of transitional objects. 

You might expect them to snuggle up with a soft and cuddly teddy bear, but nope – they’ll go for just about anything!

Maybe it’s because they haven’t quite figured out the difference between a toy and a tool yet. 

So, they’ll clutch onto things like flashlights, plastic trucks, or wooden blocks, perhaps because they like the way they feel or because they can gnaw on them for teething relief.

Or maybe they’re just really into exploring all kinds of textures, so they’ll grab a rock or a silicone cupcake mould because it feels fascinating to them. 

And who hasn’t found comfort in the soothing sound of an egg timer ticking away?

Of course, there are always those babies who like to keep things practical. That’s why you might see one carrying around an empty water bottle or a bottle of hand sanitizer – you know, just in case they need a quick drink or some germ-killing action.

At the end of the day, it’s not really about the object itself. It’s about the comfort and security that the object provides. 

So, whether it’s a teddy bear or a plastic spoon – if it helps a baby feel safe and happy, then it does its job as a transitional object.

Mastering the Concept of Object Permanence

At around 8 to 12 months of age babies begin to develop what we know as “object permanence”. This is yet another critical milestone in a baby’s cognitive development. 

It refers to the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they are no longer visible or detectable by their senses.

Because up until now, for example, if you hide a toy behind your back, your baby may not understand that the toy is still there and may lose interest in it.

So, this newfound awareness allows babies to engage in more sophisticated forms of play, such as peek-a-boo. Where they can anticipate the reappearance of a hidden object or person.

And secondly – this new discovery can lead to an increased interest in objects and a desire to keep them close. This could potentially result in your infant’s compulsion to carry these objects. 

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Exploring New Object And Practising New Motor Skills

Infants and tots are like miniature investigators, ceaselessly searching for the next amazing discovery. 

They use their tiny hands and mouths to investigate any object, from kitchen mittens to empty water bottles or anything they can get their little paws on. 

It’s like they’re on a never-ending quest to uncover the secrets of the universe, one item at a time.

And when they’re not busy investigating objects, they’re honing their motor skills by carrying them around. 

That’s right, these tiny tots are basically weightlifters in training, building up their arm muscles one toy at a time. 

They’re also mastering the art of balance and coordination, like tiny acrobats carrying their toys around while walking or crawling.

As babies and toddlers continue to explore and practise with different objects, they become more confident in their abilities and develop a greater understanding of the world around them.

Final Few Lines

While it may seem odd or even concerning at first, this behaviour is actually quite normal for babies and toddlers. And they do it for a variety of reasons:

  • Mastering “Load end tote” developmental milestone.
  • Exploring their world, building motor skills.
  • Seeking comfort and familiarity through transitional objects. 
  • As a result of mastering the concept of “object permanence”.

This behaviour will soon change, as they move into the next developmental phase.

But in the meantime, you should encourage them to explore and play with their objects, and you’ll be supporting their cognitive and emotional development in a fun and engaging way.

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