Have you ever noticed that most stories attempting to combat your child’s fear of the dark can actually make them more afraid? And there are many children’s stories that are scary in and of themselves….The Three Little Pigs, Hansel and Gretel, and Little Red Riding Hood, to name a few. It’s no wonder our little ones hear these stories and their creative imaginations take them off to a scary place.
As a sleep consultant, I hear about toddlers’ fears of the dark being a barrier to healthy sleep ALL DAY LONG. As a mama of two, I want to prepare for that day with my own littles. So, I decided to go on a search for picture books that will actually help your child with their fears, not make them worse. Here are my favorites:
1. Touch the Brightest Star by Christie Matheson
Part of what makes the dark so scary is the unknown of what actually happens in the dark! In Touch the Brightest Star, even the youngest of kids can learn about the magic of the dark night. This book normalizes nighttime and helps young kids understand that it is nothing to be afraid of!
2. Elsa and the Night by Jöns Mellgren
Elsa finds the night, a small “creature” of darkness, inside her house one day and holds it captive in her cookie jar throughout the story. Because of this, the night never falls across the city and the story depicts what would happen if night never came. People become so tired because they haven’t slept, birds go hoarse and stop singing after so much daytime, owls and bats are wearily waiting for the dark to come, and cars are crashing from their sleepy drivers. In the end, a beautiful friendship emerges and the night listens to Elsa’s tales, ultimately protecting her and carrying her across the city, before taking over the day and putting all of the people to sleep for a much needed night.
3. Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett
Orion is afraid of many things, but the dark is one of his biggest fears and one that he just can’t beat. After all, monsters and scary noises lurk in the dark. But one night, everything changes and Orion invites the dark, which seems to have come alive, inside his room! Orion is surprised that his new visitor isn’t as scary as he expected and Orion and the dark go on an exciting adventure to explore and debunk all the spooky sounds that have caused Orion to stay afraid. Orion learns from the dark himself, just how fun, interesting, and magical the dark can actually be.
4. The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield
Little Chris is afraid of the dark, and his parents spend every night trying to help ease his fear before bed. One night, they motivate him to stay in his bed by telling him he can’t go next door tomorrow if he doesn’t stay in bed and go to sleep. This is very important to Chris, as Chris wants to be an astronaut, and tomorrow he has plans to watch real live astronauts land on the moon! Little Chris stays in bed successfully and drifts off to sleep, despite his fear of the dark. And that next night changes his life forever. He notices just how dark the moon and outer space actually are. He realizes he will have to overcome his fear to become an astronaut himself one day!
Stories are an integral part of bedtime routines across the world and are important to how our kids process emotions, but reading the wrong one just before bed, to an already fearful child, will do NOTHING to help them sleep. If you’re struggling with fear of the dark, start with one of these!