3 Year Old Scared of Shadows

Updated on May 17, 2010
J.B. asks from Pueblo, CO
7 answers

Hi moms and dads! Recently, like 2 weeks ago, my normally good sleeper son, who has never had an issue falling asleep in his room alone, can't do it because he says he things in his shadows that are cast on his wall from the light of his night light. His room has always been as dark as it has since he was brought home from the hospital and his room is arranged the same way too, so nothings really changed. Well last night, he said he saw something on the wall and was visibly shaken and scared. We turned back on his overhead light to show him that there was nothing there, but he was still scared. I layed down with him because that usually calms him down, nope still didn't work. He wanted the hallway light turned on and left on and wanted my husband to lay down with him, so he did until he fell asleep, around 11 which is about 2 hours later than normal for him. The hubby got up after Jackson had fallen asleep and turned off the hall light. Jackson woke up at 4 and found the light in the hall was off and freaked out again and requested that daddy come sleep next to him again; again he oblidged and we turned on the bathroom light this time and he slept until 7:20 this morning.

Anyone have any advise or tips on how to help our little guy out? This is so not like him. He's always been a pretty good sleeper and liked the darker room and had no issues with shadows, things under the bed/in the closet, or anything like this. I know he's scared and want to help but we can't keep having the hallway light on since it illuminates the entire top floor and all the bedrooms off of it including ours!

Please help!

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answers from St. Louis on

THis is a very real fear for kids. I remember being afraid of the dark as a child, so I am ultra sensitive to my daughter who is 5 and recently claims to be afraid.

Some suggstions would be to leave his bedroom light and or closet light on. You can also purchase a childrens flashlight or plastic lantern. The hall light in our house also lights up our bedroom, but if we are having a rough night with her, I will leave the light on and shut my door almost all the way. If thats still too bright I will cover my eyes with something.

To me, I would rather get a good nights sleep, so leaving all the lights on is worth it to me.

During the day, play a shadow game. Use a flashlight to make shadows on the wall and ask him to guess what they are. Then, graduate to guessing shadows on his bedroom wall, using his light. Ask him, is that the shadow from your table, is that the shadow from your toy box, etc. You should eventually be able to graduate to playing the shadow game at night, and then eventually the light situation can go back to normal.

Also, maybe he has seen a cartoon recently that has scared him or maybe an older kid told him a scary story.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Maybe you can leave the closet light un instead of the night light or get him a little lamp and leave that on. With my oldest son, when he started up with that I figured out that it was every time he would watch scooby doo! He could watch anything else and he would be fine, and it didn't matter what scooby was about, I would always know the days he watch scooby at my mother's house (babysitter) because it would be a horrible night for us with him waking up through the night!!! So having said that, even cartoons or shows that we don't see anything wrong with, may be the cause of his actions; so keep your eyes open :)
You can also stay in his room with him and show him how it is his shadow that's scaring him and play games with it, we used to make all kinds of shapes with our hands and that always helped.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Poor little guy! My son went through this too, but in our case I figured out that what he was seeing was the limbs on a tree that had really started to stretch out in the spring. Before that the branches were too small to really cast a shadow through his window, but when they grew a little more they made a scary shadow where nothing had been before. We trimmed them back and left the hall light on for a few night until he understood that the scary thing was gone and that was the end of it. It might be worth checking on anything outside that might have changed since everything inside is the same.
It sounds like you are handling this with lots of love and support. In the long run that's what really matters. This too shall pass!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My 3 yo went through the same shadow-phobia. I agree with the mamas who suggested playing with the shadows. We do it all the time and he gets a big kick out of it. We also play with shadows when we are playing outside, so that he can see that shadows also occur when it is bright and sunny outside, not just at night time in the dark.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

It's very real to him and is common for kids 3-4 to start being afraid of shadows or monster when they weren't before. Work with him to find out what will help him -- probably different lighting, but maybe something like shadow spray or a magic safety bubble or a toy that promises to take care of him and keep him safe.

It will pass (and something new will come up to challenge you). Use this as a chance to show him that his concerns are important and you are there to help him when he needs it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

You might try putting a camcorder in his room, where he can't get it and tape his room at night. See if you can see the shadows............they might be there......you never know.

You can also tell him that you are going to get the shadows out of his room.........You both (might want Daddy to do this) can stand in his room and demand the shadows leave his room and the house. This is Jackson's room, not yours! Sometimes, letting him know he can be in control helps.........

Good Luck and take care......

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Memphis on

My son is going through this now. He is 3 also. It is pretty normal for 3 year olds to become afraid of things they had never been scared of before. It is because their imaginations have begun developing. My son wants us to leave his door open. We do until he is asleep but we also have a night light on so if he wakes up in the night it is not completely dark. We have also given him as small flashlight to keep by his bed. However, sometimes he plays with it and it keeps him up but we thought it would give him some control over his environment. It helps some but not lots. My son also wants me to lid down with him until he asleep. At this point, we do. I don't have a solution and don't mind if it is just a few minutes but it sometime is much longer. I assume he will grow out of it.

1 mom found this helpful
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