Toddler fears – your questions answered

Our health visitor answers all your questions about what scares your toddler the most

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1) My toddler is terrified of bugs

Q: My 4 year old is terrified of bugs. How can we make summer bearable for us both?

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A: Most grown-ups spend summer running around shooing and swatting bugs, so it’s hardly surprising that some little ones are scared of them, too. If you try to keep calm yourself and ignore insects, your little one will soon follow your lead.

Read storybooks about bugs, or watch some films featuring cute creepy-crawlies, so your tot can learn about the good work they do. Buy some plastic insects, or catch samples of the real thing in a jam jar, so your little one can have a closer look without getting spooked.

Praise your toddler when he’s calm around insects and distract him if he starts to freak out. It’ll take time, but most kids get over this fear eventually and most soon become fascinated by bugs.

2) Dealing with fears

Q. My 3 year old is fearful of escalators and I’m not sure how to tackle it, as we often have to use them when we go out. How can I help him overcome it?

A. It’s understandable that he’s unsure as this is a big, new thing for a little person. The best thing to do is start by taking his worries seriously and reassuring him that you’re there to keep him safe.

Explain before you approach the escalator how you step on and off, how the emergency stop button works, how to hold onto the side, etc. Spend some time watching how others do it.

You may need to take the stairs for a while, but keep showing him how to use the escalator safely.

If necessary, carry him on and off for a few times or try and practice with a smaller escalator at a less busy time.

3) My toddler is scared of bugs – what can I do to makes summer bearable?

Q. My toddler is terrified of flies, wasps and bees, despite never being stung – it makes this time of year a misery. What can we do?

A. Your toddler sees all flying creatures as unpredictable and scary so feeling frightened is only natural. Have a chat with your little one about insects in general, explaining what they do and why they’re helpful for our gardens and flowers. Use picture books to get your child used to what they look like, while plastic toy insects are useful for familiarising your child with wings and antennae.

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Try catching bugs in a jar and have a good exploration of them through the safety of the glass. All these little steps will help rationalise your toddler’s fears, but it’s a gradual process. Get used to bugs and insects yourself and show how you stay calm and still when wasps are around, if that’s possible. Remember, your little one will be watching you to see how you react; and if you’re calm, he’ll be more likely to be as well.

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