When it’s time for your toddler to let go of something big, the struggle is real. These tiny tyrants are routine fiends, and giving up longtime objects of comfort (or any old thing picked up in the sandpit, for that matter) often doesn’t go down easy.
I have learned, however, that if you create a ceremony that celebrates your little one’s budding independence, one that gives them a sense of purpose, pride and goodwill, the drama will be dropped. Really.
Take the dummy, for instance. A small rubbery knob iconic of babyhood, the crutch that babes and parents rely on to bring peace and calm to their days and nights.
Our daughter was such a dummy addict that she had a bowl full of them, bedside. We crept in like thieves at night and tried to pry the things out of her mouth when we felt she needed a rest, but she would shove them back in and keep on sucking. We could hear the sound over the baby monitor — it was like a small rubber train squeaking along a circular track.
Our niece, a year older, was no better. Her parents would just toss their hands up and say, “She won’t walk down the isle with it... Right?”
Enter the Dummy Fairy, a magical saviour with strong connections to the kids’ toy biz. How she operates:
When it’s time to move on from dummy-dependence, have your kid think of a toy he or she really, really wants, something that screams: I’m big! I’m amazing! I’ve GOT this! (For our girl, this was a turquoise mini-scooter, right around her second birthday.)
Help your child pen the fairy a note, saying something like: “I’m ready for you to pass along my dummies to new babies in the world who need them, and would love to claim X cool reward for them, please.”
Soon after you send it, have the pacifiers mysteriously vanish, and leave the gift there in their place. (Our kid even received a bonus gift, for ALL the dummies she “donated” so graciously: A helmet for her rides.)
The separation will feel rewarding and empowering, instead of traumatic and heartbreaking. Your kid may never look back.
You can use ceremonies to help kids through other major transitions, too:
- Stop playing “Let it go, let it go” on repeat, and instead try having a toddler who is ready to give up nappies help pack up the ones remaining in your house and ship them off to other babies in need. (Alternatively, drive to a shelter to donate the boxful together.)
- If it’s time at last to retire a beloved stuffed animal or blankie that’s been dragged around the block a few too many times, read the wonderful Mo Willems Knuffle Bunny series (in order, or just skip to the final book, Knuffle Bunny Free, if you’re in a rush), and follow suit by generously passing along this treasure to another child.
When it’s time for your toddler to transition to a big kid bed, don’t just leave an eviction notice in his cot. Help him say goodbye, perhaps by putting together a memory book with pictures, or letting him pick out his new big blanket and sheets.
Then throw a new bed party (complete with pillow tossing, bubbles and disco tunes), and wind down with his favourite books or lullabies, along with a new bedtime ritual that honours the milestone, if you’d like.
If your child feels like he’s graduating onto something bigger and way more awesome, but is still somewhat in control of the situation and not just being forced to change, you’ll all be sure to catch more Zzzs.