One of the most common fears of children, especially toddlers, is the dark. Not being able to see combined with a vivid imagination can lead to young children being scared at night. It may seem like a bedtime stalling tactic, but it is important to help your child feel safe.
Rissa went through phases where she didn’t like the dark. She hasn’t exhibited any big fears yet, just apprehension. (Except for flying bugs – especially bees.) Here are a few things we did to help her feel safe and comfortable at night.
How to help toddlers feel comfortable with the dark
This post contains affiliate links. We received a kids flashlight to review.
Take them outside at night.
Around one year old or so, I remember Rissa being a little scared when we went shopping after dark. Unfortunately, it gets dark super early during Wisconsin winters and is practically unavoidable. As she got more used to going out and doing normal things with us in the evenings, it became less scary to her. We always assured her she was safe and with us.
Provide child friendly light.
Even during the day there are rooms in our house that are darker than others when the lights are off. If Rissa wants something out of a dark room she will tell me she is scared or ask me to go with her. She loves turning on light switches but she can’t reach them on her own. Several rooms have nightlights (which help me not to trip over toys and cats too!), so they aren’t pitch black at night.
We also received for review this cute owl light from Munchkin (Amazon link). It is easy to turn on by pushing a button. It’s small and light with a carrying handle – perfect for little hands to hold. After about 20 minutes the light turns off automatically which makes it an ideal bedtime light. Oh and it uses an LED light so it doesn’t get hot like old school bulbs. Rissa likes carrying it around as her very own flashlight when she wants to go into a darkened room.
There is also an adorable take along owl nightlight by Skip Hop Zoo that is similar to the one we used.
Relax before bedtime.
Too much TV, scary shows and scary books can be too much for toddlers to handle close to bedtime. I’ve noticed Rissa sleeps better when we limit TV time 60-90 minutes before bed. Relaxing activities include bath time, story time (but happy books, not scary ones), soothing music, cuddles, massage, and just talking together. Giving your child time to unwind and feel at ease so their imaginations aren’t kicked into high gear thinking up terrifying scenarios.
Teach them about it.
We point out the moon and stars and talk about the sun going down. Rissa will say “it’s getting dark” as late afternoon turns into early evening. She’s learning about shadows and opposites. The dark and nighttime is just part of every day just like bright sunny days.
If your child is afraid of the dark, validate their feelings, talk about what the are feeling and don’t use the dark or monsters as a discipline tool (i.e. don’t say to be good or the monsters will get them). You can find more suggestions in the article How to Overcome Children’s Fear of the Dark at WebMD. If their fear continues for several months or interferes with daily functioning, they may have a phobia. Phobias are intense fears which may require professional assistance. You can find out more about the signs and differences between anxieties, fears and phobias at KidsHealth.org.
Were you ever afraid of the dark? Is your child afraid of the dark? What other tips do you have? Please tell me in the comments below!