Relief Share Comfort Toys change lives! You can help!By
Relief Share Comfort Toys Change Lives For the Better…You Can Help!
In the aftermath of a disaster, one of the most powerful tools in a rescuer’s armory is the ability to distribute soft toys to children who are traumatized. This has long been recognized as an effective way of helping traumatized children, and it is worth considering exactly why this is. It also helps us to understand the importance of the work we do in sending handmade items, such as toys, to aid agencies.
The Invisible Power of Toys
We all know that children love their soft toys, but have you ever wondered about the psychological reasons behind this attachment? Researchers Bruce Hood, of the University of Bristol, and Paul Bloom of Yale University conducted a study into the phenomena of attachment items – blankets or toys – and their results were striking. They ascertained that children believe that their toys have an ‘essence’, or life force, qualities that cannot be replicated. When offered the chance to have their toy ‘duplicated’ an overwhelming majority chose the original item over the duplicate. Professor Hood comments, “We anthropomorphize objects, look at them almost as if they have feelings. The children know these objects are not alive but they believe in them as if they are.” This behavior can be seen in adults too. After a burglary, even if the house contents are fully protected and stolen items replaced with identical ones, there remains a sense of dissatisfaction and loss. The new object never seems to replace the original. It seems that imbuing objects with special significance and regarding them as having an essential essence is not confined to children. In fact, it the cultural norm in some cultures. Professor Hood points out the some eastern beliefs centre around the idea that all things have a life force. Some cultures even find it hard to live in other people’s homes as they have a strong belief that there is ‘something intangible’ left behind by the previous occupants.
With this research in mind, imagine a child losing everything in a natural disaster? Imagine if their precious toy was lost forever, and they had to cope without comfort, in the midst of chaos and possibly bereavement. This is where aid shipments of toys can really help rescuers. Because even if the soft toys they distribute are not the ‘originals’, they still offer huge comfort to traumatized children. Many children in disaster areas will never have owned a soft toy of course. For these children, having something soft and comforting to hold, such as a toy or blanket, has shown to be highly effective in emotional recovery. In the west, up to 70% of children have a comfort object, since they tend to sleep apart from their parents at an early age. This is significant. Children in societies where this is not the norm may not have soft toys, but the importance of the parent in a sense of security is consequently even higher. To lose a parent in a disaster for these children is psychologically devastating. ‘Transitional objects’ (a physical object, which takes the place of the mother-child bond) become even more crucial in the days before proper support can be put in place in the rebuilding of a country.
Rescuers find that important links can be made with children in disaster areas or war zones if they are able to give them a soft toy to hold. There are several charities in the US who make sure that firefighters and policemen are kept stocked up with teddies for their vehicles, just in case they have to deal with a traumatized child. Their testimony proves that soft toys make a big difference.
Toys Change Lives
Aid workers in danger hotspots around the globe provide similar anecdotal evidence. The power of softness and comfort cannot be underestimated. Traumatized children can confide in a teddy bear in a way that may not be possible with an adult. Toys are frequently used in play therapy for this very reason, where they are known to improve feelings of social inclusion and pro-social behavior. The attachment that is formed between a child and the toy they are given cannot be more powerful. The gifts that you make and send abroad change lives, and bring comfort where there is despair. You can knit and sew in the knowledge that your work is making a difference to children somewhere in the world.
There are hundreds of free patterns for simple soft toys here. Make some toys, or send supplies to make toys to:
Relief Share, 6078 Lundy Rd, Houston, MO 65483-2225.