Sleep issues don’t just suddenly stop when your baby becomes a toddler. In fact, the sleeping troubles faced during the toddler years can be a lot more frustrating and difficult to deal with than they were in the baby stage. From sleep regression to musical beds – there’s a lot of sleeping problems you may face, but one of the most common is a fear of the dark.
Most kids go through a phase where they’re scared of the dark. However, it’s particularly common during the toddler stage. So, how do you ease your toddler’s fear of the dark and help them (and you) get a good night’s sleep?
Discovering The Reason Behind The Fear
There’s a number of reasons your toddler may be scared of the dark, so it’s important to get to the root of the problem before you can figure out how to deal with it.
The most common reasons toddlers tend to develop a fear of the dark include:
- Sudden change in circumstances
- Their imagination is starting to really kick in
- They are naturally sensitive
Mostly, it’s their imaginations running wild. Your toddler is starting to develop an extraordinary imagination. While this is largely a good thing, at this age they aren’t able to establish the difference between reality and fantasy. So, if they start to think of scary monsters, in their mind these monsters are real and very much something to be afraid of.
However, it isn’t always imagination which causes a sudden fear of the dark. It could also be down to sudden changes in their circumstances. It could be you have recently split up with your partner and they’re no longer around, or it could be a new babysitter or a recent move. Toddlers find it really difficult to adapt to change so if there have been any changes in their routine, it could cause them to have more trouble sleeping.
It’s also worth noting that some children are naturally more likely to be afraid of the dark than others. If your toddler is quite sensitive, they may have an increased fear of the dark, as well as being alone at night. In this case, the fear of the dark may never go away and could even last through to adulthood.
In order to determine why your toddler is afraid of the dark, the best thing to do is to talk to them about it. Ask them why they’re scared and this will give you the best idea of how to approach the problem.
Top Tips For Dealing With Your Toddlers Fear Of The Dark
So, you now know why your toddler is afraid of the dark, but the real question is how can you deal with it? Below, you’ll discover some of the best tips to help ease your toddlers fear and encourage a better night’s sleep.
1. Help Them Banish Those Monsters
Ok, so there aren’t any real monsters lurking around, but good luck getting your toddler to believe that! While explaining monsters aren’t real is a good first step, it’s not really going to prove effective on its own. Instead, helping your toddler to banish monsters will give them a lot more reassurance.
There’s actually many ways you can do this. Firstly, you may want to try to introduce the idea of friendly monsters. There’s a lot of children’s books out there which help to build monsters up as a positive thing. So, look out for a friendly monster book and read it to your toddler before bed. You may find they actually start to like the idea of monsters after learning they can be friendly too.
Another way to do it is to “scare” the monsters away. You can use your own imagination with this one. You could try something as simple as roaring like a dinosaur or making up your own little monster banishing rhyme. You could try a silly dance or simply telling the monsters to leave.
Some parents like to get creative in their monster banishing techniques. Toddlers love the idea of magic, so why not tell them when they get into bed, an invisible shield forms around the bed, protecting them against monsters? This can also be a fantastic way to ensure your little one stays in their bed throughout the night. They’ll think as long as they stay in bed and go to sleep, they’ll be protected from anything lurking in the dark.
Finally, you can also try a banishing box. All you need is a shoe box or any other type of box you can get hold of. Cut a hole into the top of the box and tell your toddler it’s there to trap monsters. Then, in the morning you can release the monster outside where they’ll run off to someplace else.
As you can see, there’s plenty of monster banishing ideas you can try out and you may be surprised just how effective they can be.
2. Play Games In The Dark
Showing your toddler fun things can happen in the dark too can help to ease their fears. Think about it, the only time your little one experiences the dark is at night when all is quiet. By showing them the dark can be fun sometimes, it can really help to ease their concerns.
Some parents have come up with games they can play with their toddler in the dark which have helped to reduce their fears. Now, we’re not talking about playing in the pitch black here, but something as simple as throwing a sheet over both of your heads can really help.
You can also start taking them on walks as the sun is setting. That way, they’ll get to see the day gradually becoming darker. It’s not as scary to see the gradual change as it is to go from light to dark.
3. Provide A Night Light
If the above tips don’t work, a night light could prove effective at helping your toddler fall asleep. They’re not expensive to run so you won’t need to worry about the expense if you’re on a tight budget. They also come in numerous designs such as animals and cartoon characters. Night lights are a fantastic investment and can make a massive difference to your toddler’s fear of the dark.
4. Avoid Letting Them Sleep With You
It’s common to just cave in and let your toddler sleep with you. After all, you want them to feel safe and if they’re really upset and scared it’s only natural you’d want to bring them into bed with you. However, this may actually send your toddler a signal that they aren’t safe in their own room.
So in essence, letting them sleep with you is going to make them less likely to want to sleep in their own room again. Go and comfort them, try out the tips above, but avoid letting them stay with you.
Overall, a toddler’s fear of the dark is completely natural. The above tips should really help, but it’s worth noting some nights will be more difficult than others. It’s also a great idea to monitor what they see on TV and also avoid telling them scary things, even if you’re only doing so out of humor. The fear stage will pass so try to be patient and see it from your toddler’s point of view.