One day your small child receives a stuffed animal as a present. The plush toy is cute and soft, so you aren’t surprised at all when your child happily accepts this gift. Although you have many other stuffed animals in your home, over the next couple of weeks you start to notice that this particular one has slowly become your child’s constant companion. The other stuffed animals are still used for play, but this is the one your child wants to simply keep nearby, to cuddle with and to be tucked in with at bedtime. Your child has found a lovey!

A security or transitional object can be a wonderful part of childhood-many adults have fond memories of the comfort a special stuffed animal provided them while they were growing up. The attachment a child feels for their lovey means that the loss of this item can be intensely distressing- both for the child and for the parents.

There are some steps you can take to minimize the risk of your child’s special plush toy becoming lost, and to increase the chances of being able to provide an identical replacement in the event the item is lost. The most important thing is to take these steps as soon as you notice that your child has chosen a lovey.

1. Establish the rule that the lovey may not leave the house- this alone will greatly reduce the chance that it will ever become lost. Let your child choose a different plush to take to daycare,or to the store with the firm explanation that the lovey needs to stay home. Some children like to make a routine of placing their lovey in a window to “watch” for them to come home, or of putting the lovey on a special spot on a shelf so they can easily find it when they return home.

2. Label that lovey! Despite your best efforts, the stuffed animal will probably be taken out of the house at some point, so you want to have it labeled in some way. Some parents simply write their cell phone number on the stuffed animal’s tush tag, along with the words ‘if found, please call..” Be mindful of not placing too much information on the toy- for safety reasons, no information other than a cell phone number or a generic email address should be included. Additionally, it is important to make sure any labeling method you choose is completely safe for your child.

3. Purchase a back-up (or two)! The reason people have such a hard time finding a replacement lovey is that a line of stuffed animals is generally only sold for a short time before being retired to make way for newer designs. The longer a stuffed animal has been off of store shelves, the harder it is going to be to locate one for purchase. If the stuffed animal you are looking for has very recently been retired, you may be able to find one by talking to the managers of retail stores that previously sold the item. Sometimes they will be willing to check to see if they have any extra stock still in the back. A call to the company that made the plush may produce results in the form of information of where the item can still be purchased, or even an opportunity to obtain the plush directly from the company.

4. Know the details! I’ve talked with parents who are desperate to find a replacement for a lovey, but they don’t know the brand or any other information that would allow me to help them. Take a minute and jot down the brand, the store where it was purchased, the year, a model number- basically any identifying information- and then tuck this note away in a safe place. If you need it, you will be glad to have it!

5. Take pictures! Take a few pictures of the lovey by itself. These can be useful to have if the lovey goes missing- either so other people can keep an eye out for the stuffed animal, or to help you find an identical one for purchase.

Taking these simple steps can reduce the chances that a special plush will get lost, and improve the chances that a lost lovey will be found!

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