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Toddlers and Their Posses

Two-year-old Matthew Mecia's morning ritual is quite a production. Before getting up, he insists on gathering up his blankie and five stuffed animals. He clutches them to his chest as his diaper is changed, then lugs them everywhere, including the breakfast table. "I think it's funny," says his mother, Taryn, of Charlotte, NC. "It's comforting to him."

While this quirky behavior can seem excessive -- and slow down the morning routine -- it's quite common. By hoarding everything from stuffed toys to kitchen utensils, your child is working on his independence, says psychologist Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Medical School in Florida. "He's understanding 'I am a separate person and I have things that belong to me,'" she says.

Once he leaves the house, his prized possessions act as a bridge between home and the outside world, making him feel secure. He almost sees them as a part of himself, says Field, so he wants them to go everywhere he goes -- in the car, to preschool, you name it. Of course, that's not always practical. If the load is too much, try limiting his entourage to one special "outside" friend. Or let him pick out a backpack that holds two or three.

Around age 3, your child will develop a better sense of self and outgrow this phase, and you'll all travel a little lighter.