Child's Fear of Monsters

Archived Q&A and Reviews


2.5 year old's fear of monsters

April 2006

My previously fabulously sleeping 2.5 year old girl has recently started refusing to go to sleep and waking up several times a night due to fear of ''monsters,'' which she must have been told about at her twice-weekly childcare. She now needs us to sit with her while she falls asleep and comes to our room several times a night, either staying in bed with us or having one of us carry her back to her room and put her in bed. We wouldn't mind just letting her sleep in our room, but her 7 month old brother is there with us and is, to put it mildly, not sleeping through the night. The two of them keep waking each other up and we end up with very little, if any uninterrupted sleep. Both she and the baby are exhausted and we are a mess.

Anyone know of a way to put monster fears at ease. We've tried talking about how they're just pretend, we've focused on nice monsters like Elmo or Cookie Monster, and we've checked her room and told her about all the special ways our house and her room is safe. None of this seems to be working. She's very imaginitive and verbal, but I'm not sure she gets the idea of what is pretend and what isn't, and frankly, in all other spheres I feel that her rich imagination is a wonderful asset. She has lots of fun with elephants and rabbits and lizards that come to play with her.

She moved herself out of her crib about 4 months ago after a bad dream. She told us that there was ''steam in her crib and she wouldn't go back in it.'' No idea where that came from, but she slept happily on the floor for a while and then happily in her new big girl bed. There were no more bad dreams, although she's still occasionally mentions the steam in the crib and has expressed concern about her brother sleeping there (which he hasn't yet). We do plan on them sharing a room as soon as he is sleeping better, but for now he's up way too much and I'm breastfeeding at night. Our room is upstairs from her, which I realize could be adding to the problem, but it did work fine for about 10 months. Her room is very centrally located so we're always just outside her door as she falls asleep, but we're up the stairs in the middle of the night. Any ideas? Thanks so much, sleepy mommy

Four things really helped our son with fear of monsters: 1. I listened to his fears without ever laughing. (When i was a kid i was afraid of ghosts in my closet.). 2.I filled a plastic spray bottle w/lavender-scented ''calming spray'' and officially called it ''Monster Repellent''. When bedtime came we sprayed over his pillow, under the bed, around the closet and in the doorway (of course, lavender is a scent known to aid relaxation). A friend made us a ''monster away!'' label which added impact. 3. We read ''Go Away Big Green Monster'' together. It's a simple picture book which really gives the kids control over making the ''monster'' disappear altogether. 4) Lying down, right before sleep, we practiced sending away worries and scary thoughts in big colorful imaginary balloons which in his mind's eye he watched floating further and further into the distance.. until they were out of sight. (Yep, we all need a lot of options in our toolbox for handling stress.... ) Sooz

I had the same fears when I was little (apparently) and this is how my parents handled it. They bought a can of room freshener and told me it was magic spray that kept the monsters away. I guess, since I could smell it, I could believe it. I am told that it worked to ease my fears and allow me to go to sleep. Not sure about waking in the night and being afraid, but it might be worth a try. Since her imagination is so rich, you may have to ''fight fire with fire'' as it were and make up an imaginary monster-fighter. Erin

Advice passed on to me from veteran moms when my son was in the fear of monster phase: Monster Spray! Basically it's a good-smelling spray that you or she can spray in her room. Monsters hate the smell, and will go no where near it! I called up Body Time one morning and told them about Monster Spray, and when my son and I went in there later that afternoon, he actually got to help make some. It was their basic spritzer stuff scented with soothing smells like lavender. It worked really well. Sweet dreams!

When my son went through this stage a few years ago some advice on this network helped a lot--it doesn't seem to be included with the other advice on monsters in the archives, so I'll summarize briefly. Every night before bed we had a fairly elaborate ritual of chasing out all the monsters from his room. We'd open all the drawers, check under the bed, in the closet, etc., saying something like ''Come on, all you monsters, time to get out. Shoo, shoo, outside with you. Yes, you too. Yes, even the little shy one hiding under the bed. I see you. Get going. R needs to go to sleep now so you have to leave.'' We'd make shooing sounds and sweeping motions, herd them to the front door and push them through it. My son thought it was great fun and his fear of monsters vanished. There are some other good suggestions in the archives--just type ''monsters'' in the search box. Good luck. Monster buster

Our almost-3 year old went through (and still is at times) a similar fear of monsters. We've tried a few different things and some work some days, others on other days. We try to give her control over the situation: we tell her that if the monster is bothering her, especially when she's trying to sleep, she should give the monster a timeout. We also told her that she can ''kick him out'' -- before we settle her in bed, she'll open her door and tell him to go away. We have a cat and a dog and we've explained that they protect the house from all monsters and don't let them in. Because of this, we don't use ''anti-monster spray'', but I've heard that it works well. Fill a spray bottle with water and spray her room before bed -- you can even leave the spray bottle with her so she has something she can use in the middle of the night. Hope some of these ideas work for you and that you get some sleep!! monster-free zone

Have you watched the Disney movie Monsters, Inc. with your child? It helped my kids start seeing monsters as cuddly, loveable beings (who are scared of kids!) anon

My daughter has a very active imagination, too. Although she hasn't had a specific fear of monsters, she has been bothered by bad dreams. One of the ideas that worked for us was to make a dreamcatcher. There are a lot of websites that have instructions to do this. I used the basic instructions at My daughter decorated it herself--she colored the ''frame'' and picked the types of beads, color of feathers, etc. I did the ''weaving.'' Then we hung it above her bed. It worked most of the time. She could even explain to me in elaborate detail how the bad dreams got caught in its web. When, on occasion, a bad dream somehow managed to get through, we would add more yarn or change its position. I think she really liked taking control and making it, and having something real to keep the bad dreams away. Holly

I laughed when I read your entry because it sounds exactly like my 2 1/2 yr. old daughter! She says she is ''scared'' a lot, and says ''there are monsters downstairs'' and wants the bedroom door left open now and the light on. Previously she was fine w/the door closed and the light on much lower. She is also waking up much more at night and seems freaked out when she does. We have pretty much resisted putting her in our bed, which she often tries to do. Now that she can get out of her new toddler bed on her own, she sometimes appears at our door, which startles me! We have also discussed ''good monsters'' like Elmo and Cookie monster and she refused to accept that Elmo was a monster. I think that you need to be firm and not give in to your daughter wanting to sleeping in your bed. Otherwise you will loose all that you have achieved w/her being a good sleeper in her own bed. I have to believe that it is a phase, just like all the others. If you can come up w/some creative ideas for how to ease her fears it would be best. Do let me know what you come up with - I could use some new ideas! I am sorry that I don't have any good suggestions for you, but I admit that just hearing that others are going through the same experience eases my mind a bit that the behavior is perfectly normal. As a matter of fact, I myself had a very active imagination when I was a child and had a lot of fears at home, which stemmed from watching scary t.v. shows, probably. I think that my daughter probably inherits this from me, and at least I can empathize. I ended up growing out of my fears, and I know our daughters will do the same. Isabel

3-year-old has developed a fear of monsters


My (almost) 3-year old has recently developed a fear of monsters in his room at night, and is waking up several times needed to be comforted. I would be grateful for any tips from parents who have dealt with this, or an suggestions of good books that offer advice on this particular issue Thanks. Gail

Here's a technique I used with my sons when they went through the night monster stage. I got one of those spray bottles (like the kind you use to mist your plants), and put a small amount of water and perfume in it. My son and I then used the spray bottle to spritz those monsters in the corners, behind the closet door, under the bed, etc. every night before bed. The perfume in the bottle gave off just enough fragrance to make the spraying noticeable and even after the water had been used up, the air that came out of the nozzle carried some fragrance. We went through this nightly ritual for a few weeks or until my son felt that the monsters couldn't possibly be there any more (they had been spritzed into oblivion!). Both my sons (who are 8 and 1/2 years apart) responded well to this way of dealing with the monster invasion. Happy hunting! Tamra

I told him sternly No monsters allowed in the house! A 3-year-old can understand this because there are other things that aren't allowed in the house too (like throwing balls.) I used anti-monster spray too, like Tamra. Another parent I know whose child was afraid of monsters coming out of the toilet, put monster poison in all the toilets (food coloring). Another thing I did was to assure my son that I would come at once if he called me during the night. This worked for me when I was little too - I was afraid of ghosts. Even though it seems understood that you'll go to your child if they call, it seems they like to be reassured of this. Ginger

In response to the parent with the night monster: My daughter at about age 3 began to fear monsters. I discussed this with my pediatrician who recommended There Used to Be a Nightmare In My Closet by Mercer Mayer. She LOVED this book, and literally memorized it cover to cover. Not only did it scare away her monsters, but she has a great love of books and reading. She is now 12, and still loves this book. I would recommend it highly. Sherry

Hi, about fear of monsters at night: Try giving your child a small flashlight, so he can see for himself that there are no monsters. The only reason I didn't do this when my daughter said there were monsters in her room is because she would have just unscrewed the flashlight and removed the batteries to play with, probably delaying her sleep as long as any fear of monsters would have done. But not all kids do that kind of thing. I just read an article (Scholastic Magazine, I think) about this, and it's also important to acknowledge the fear; especially near Halloween, I guess kids have lots of dreams about monsters, etc. Probably you'd do better to discourage any scary Halloween costumes this year. Good luck! Nancy

This is for the parent who wondered what to do for her child who had developed a fear of monsters. If you are a religious family, or belong to a particular religious faith, you could give your child a religious item or hang a religious symbol or icon on the wall of your child's room. If you are not religious, feel free to ignore the rest of this message.

About a year ago my daughter started have nightmares. I gave her a rosary to put under her pillow (which was the same thing that my mother had done for me when I was a young boy having nightmares). I explained to my daughter that there was no such thing as monsters per se, but that anything that was bad would be afraid of something that represents the power of God (getting that concept across to a 4 year old was a challenge, but that's a whole other series of discussions). In any event, it worked. My daughter stopped having nightmares. Of course, now she won't go to bed unless her rosary is underneath her pillow, but it's a tradeoff that I can live with.

If you are not Catholic then you will want to use something other than a rosary, but almost every faith has some kind of holy symbol that is used to represent the power of God. Another advantage to come out of this whole episode was that it helped me teach my daughter that good is stronger that evil.

If you try it, please let me know how it works. Bob

From my childhood, my mom would pretend call the zoo (on my play phone) each night to make sure all the tigers were in their cages. This seemed to reassure me and I slept through the night. Some books advise not indulging the child's fantasy. It might work better, if you son is convinced that monsters exist, to ask him who would know if the monsters were all in bed for the night (or locked in their cages etc). Then to callthem and get reassurance. Good Luck. Karen

Re monsters and three year olds: My son is the same age. Whenever a different fear has come up, starting with fear of goats (because of the aggressive one at the Little Farm), spiders, monsters, ghosts, I always tell him that I checked his room first (I do, for spiders), and that there are none there.

Then, per my daycare provider's tip, I never mention them, deal with them seriously on the spot, but don't make a big deal of it, etc.

Recently when he went to bed, he called me in and asked me to take down his beloved plaster seagull mobile, AND to turn over his lamb blanket to the plain side, as the lamb's big black eye was frightening him.

These fears seldom come up, seldom recur, and by asking him in the mornings if he has good dreams, I've sort of inclined him in a direction away from bad dreams. But it's good to know if there's a bad dream, then I comfort him and cuddle him (even) more.

As far as any night waking: I think it's best to come in, don;t take child out of crib, privide reassurance, and leave, telling them it's the middle of the night and go back to sleep.

Hope this helps. Wendy

My husband's mother gave him a bell which he could ring if he had a problem. This would help both to scare away the monster and to call her. He doesn't ever remember using it, but now we use it as our dinner bell. Barbara

4.5 year old afraid to sleep in her own bed

Feb 2003

Does anyone have any tips on how to convince my 4 1/2-year old daughter to sleep in her ''big girl bed''? She naps fine in her bed, but is afraid of night-time...says she's scared of monsters. We talk about it a lot and she sometimes says she's ready, but when bedtime approaches she ''chickens out'' and comes back to our bed (which includes our 16-month old daughter as well). I love the family bed and it's worked out fine, I just feel that she should sleep in her own bed soon! thanks, Alexis

When my daughter went through a ''fear of Monsters under the bed'' stage, I tried the following which seemed to help. I stood beside the bed with her before bedtime, hands on hips, and in a loud ''Mother'' voice said ''OK monsters, everybody out. Come on out. All of you. I mean it. I want you all out. Yes, grab your stuff. Hurry up. You too. Because you are scaring my little girl, that's why. Come on come on. (looking under the bed) I see you hiding in the corner. Yes you with the pink scales. Grab your horn and your hat and move.'' Then I marched down the hall and held the front door open for several moments and acted as if I was ushering them all out. My daughter was delighted - at first not sure what I was doing, then pleased that I was ordering the monsters away and that they were going. I think it helped that I took her fears seriously and that a grown-up could ''see'' monsters. We checked under the bed repeatedly every night (me on my hands and knees with a flashlight to be extra sure) and it gave her a lot of peace of mind. Eventually I even ''found'' a pathetic little (imaginary) monster that was afraid to come out and it became an instant friend to my daughter. I don't know if any of these strategies would work for your kiddo, but it helped us quite a lot. Rachel

(editor note: advice also received about Moving Child out of Our Bed )