Published On: Sun, Apr 14th, 2013

Giving Up The Hippo

Danielle Mantakoul

Danielle Mantakoul

BA of Ed Early Childhood and Editor at Mummy Weekly
She's described as one of the most engaging & dynamic speakers in the early childhood industry today, now having educated hundreds of thousands of parents & teachers. She has lectured for organisations such as KU Children’s Services, Only About Children, Qantas, National Australia Bank, Child Protection Australia, Goodstart and hundreds of council & private centres. She also developed and ran the popular parenting series for the Australian Financial Review.
Danielle Mantakoul

She’s used more than the keGiving Up The Hippottle and has been on adventures far and wide. She is both loved to death and mistreated having had her insides lovingly pulled out, and no longer shows any signs that once she was beautiful and fluffy. She smells most of the time and wears texta on her nose like a badge of honour.  She has been dressed in everything from Barbie clothes to tissues, and is affectionately known, as “Hippo”. If your child has that much loved “thing” like mine, you too may of wondered how long this will last. Is it something we should be discouraging, or should we simply be giving in to the much loved “thing” err Hippo?

Kids who have ended up with that beloved “thing” picked up their interest and attachment for varied reasons. For some kids it has been inspired by a much loved TV character. For others it’s simply the way it feels. For some it was placed in their hands the day they were born, and has become as familiar and comforting as the sound of your voice. But no matter how it came about, we as parents can struggle with thoughts on how it may affect their development. Can it impact on their making of friendships? Can they be too interested in the “thing” causing a disinterest in play? And then, there’s the germs.

It’s our job as mummy’s to assess how factors are influencing our children, so it is quite natural to ask these questions. Put simply though, if the item is not stopping your child from playing and interacting, then there is little reason to be concerned, infact, you could actually do them more harm than good by trying to take it away. Even we as adults have those things we love to take everywhere, that thing we just don’t feel right without. Left home lately without your mobile phone? It didn’t sit well I’m sure.

Even if your child’s “thing” accompanies them on outings, sits at the breakfast table or even goes with them to the toilet, as long as they can put it down to do what they want or need to do, then this should reassure you. Yes they may pick it back up as soon as they are done, but the point is, they have been able to separate from it for a period of time to get the job done. This attachment is also something they are going to grow out of. Keep in mind it’s only for a season, as long as the season may feel, and for each child, this is different. At nearly 8 years, Hippo still hides at the bottom of Bella’s schoolbag each day.

Giving up the hippoThe problem can lie when the child refuses to let the “thing” go, which stops them from accomplishing tasks. A little girl I once taught hung onto her “thing so much, that to draw, paint, or in fact take part in many preschool activities proved difficult. Many children need this toy for settling, especially into a new environment, and if this is the case, let them  hang on to it for dear life. But for some children it becomes a habit, a security that is over the top. These children need to be taught how they can place their “thing” down and feel ok with it simply being close. Point out the consequences for the child and their toy by highlighting the reasons it could not be involved, but could instead stay close. By providing a voice for the “thing” is far more likely to resonate with your child. “Hippo can’t go in the bath, he needs a sleep”, or “he gets upset if he’s wet”. These explanations rather than the simple “no Hippo can’t do that” are less negative and more likely to get a positive result. Show your child you too care about their “thing”. It will lead them to believe you are speaking in the toys best interest.

Hippo has actually been quite helpful to our family, She would comfort Bella when it would take me a little longer to get to her in those times of chaos, and with three kids in 17months, there were plenty of those. She also helped Bella settle into preschool, travelling in her bag and popping out to see the world throughout the day, and has kept Bella sleeping through the night and happily travelling on planes and trains.

I put to Bella that if I could give her fairy wings so she could fly, would she give me Hippo in return? The answer was a flat “no”. This should not surprise me though. Hippo to Bella is seen as her best friend, and after all, who would trade their best friend for a set of fairy wings? Okay so maybe some of us would, but after seeing Bella and Hippo together over the past 6 years, it’s the only answer for her at this point in her life. I have had visions of Bella asking the seamstress to put a pocket in her wedding dress so Hippo can secretly walk down the isle with her. If only this would happen, because it means that she would not have grown up. The Hippo’s and “things” of the world will one day be left at home, still loved, but left at home… with us. When that time comes, maybe Hippo will become my best friend too.

By Danielle Mantakoul
Copyright 2013
www.mummyweekly.com.au

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