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Understanding and addressing kids afraid of the dark: With Moon Bear

It is not usual for children to be grappling with one of the most common fears: the fear of the dark. Kids afraid of the dark isn’t uncommon. The fear can manifest as anxiety at bedtime, reluctance to sleep in their own room, or on their own, and even panic attacks in the middle of the night. It’s helpful for parents and caregivers to approach this fear with empathy and effective strategies. Let’s explore some ways to help young children overcome their fear of darkness, incorporating elements from the enchanting book “Moon Bear” within our awesome Shelf Care Book club, alongside other creative activities. Don’t forget to join the club if you aren’t already a member:

Let’s introduce the book first, and then think about some of the ideas and activities that we have to help ease children’s fears of the dark:

We love the simplicity of this book, with its few words, and the key message contained within its wonderful illustrations.

Moon Bear

In this beautifully illustrated picture book, perfect for children who fear the dark, a tale of bravery and discovery unfolds. The story reassures young readers that it’s okay to be afraid while revealing the beauty and mystery that darkness can hold.Ettie dreads bedtime. Every evening, her mummy calls out, ‘Time for bed, Ettie!’ As the curtains are drawn and her bedside light goes out, Ettie finds herself enveloped in the darkness she fears so much…….

One night, a beam of moonlight sneaks through a crack in her curtains. Curious, Ettie reaches out and is amazed when the light leaves a sparkling trail on her hand

Filled with wonder, she begins to dance around her room, tracing patterns with the magical moonlight. She opens her curtains wide and starts connecting the stars as if they were dots. To her delight, a moon bear appears in the sky, and when she completes the final dot, he comes to life right in her bedroom.Ettie and the moon bear begin to explore and play in her room.

However, when Ettie turns on her flashlight, the bear shies away from the light. By facing their fears together—Ettie’s fear of the dark and the bear’s fear of the light—they learn that both darkness and light can be wonderful and frightening at times, and that’s perfectly fine.

This heartwarming story helps children understand that courage isn’t about not being afraid, but about finding beauty in the things that scare us. With minimal words and comforting illustrations, this book gently teaches kids the power of bravery and visual storytelling, offering solace and encouragement to those who fear the dark

How can the book “Moon Bear” help ease nighttime fears?

Moon Bear is a beautifully illustrated story that tells the tale of Ettie, a little girl who is afraid of the dark, and her magical encounter with a moon bear who fears the light. Together, they discover that both darkness and light can be beautiful and scary, and that’s okay. Reading this book with your child can serve as a comforting bedtime story, showing them that their fears are normal and can be managed.

We have created a set of activity sheets that you can use with the book to help illustrate the ideas within its pictures.

What activities do we have inspired by “Moon Bear”?

We have a pack of ideas an activities inspired by the book and focused on helping kids who are afraid of the dark.

Ideas within the pack include:

  1. Coloring sheets: We have created coloring sheets based on characters and scenes from “Moon Bear.” Encourage your child to color these during the daytime hours. This activity fosters positive associations with the dark while allowing their imagination to flourish. Why not have a chat about what you see in the pictures as well?
  2. Discussion questions: Ask open-ended questions about what they find scary about the dark and what they think could be fun or beautiful in the dark. For example:
    • What part of the story did you like the most?
    • Can you think of something beautiful that happens in the dark, like seeing the stars?
    • How does the darkness feel when you are in it?
    • What can you do in the dark that’s fun that you can’t do during the day?
  3. Writing prompts: Encourage older children to write stories or journal entries about the dark using prompts such as:
    • “Describe a nighttime adventure where you find something amazing in the dark.”
    • “Write about a time when you were scared but then found out there was nothing to fear.”
  4. Acrostic Poem: Create an acrostic poem using the word “DARKNESS” to help children express their feelings creatively. Here is an example for you:
    • Dreams can come true even in the dark
    • Allowing myself to be brave
    • Realizing the beauty in the night
    • Knowing I’m safe and sound
    • Nighttime is full of wonders
    • Every star shines bright
    • Silence is soothing
    • Sleep brings new adventures

Here are some of the pages from the activity sheets to show you what you would be downloading:

Now you have seen some of the ideas, you can download them by clicking on the button, and also the square image below. We hope you like these ideas, do let us know though.

We do have a few more ideas for kids that are afraid of the dark to help a little, so why not try some of these too?

Other practical strategies to reduce fear of the dark

  1. Night lights and comfort items: Providing a night light can create enough light to reassure a child without disrupting melatonin production. Comfort items like a teddy bear or stuffed animal can offer a sense of security too,
  2. Consistent bedtime routine: Establishing a consistent bedtime routine helps signal to a child’s brain that it’s time to wind down. Including calming activities like reading “Moon Bear” can be beneficial.
  3. Shadow puppets and imaginative play: Engaging in imaginative play, such as making shadow puppets, can turn a dark room into a fun space rather than a source of fear.
  4. Positive associations: Integrate positive experiences into the night. For example, a treasure hunt with a dim flashlight can show that dark places can be exciting and safe.
  5. Exposure therapy techniques: Gradually exposing children to the dark in a controlled manner can help reduce irrational fears. Start by dimming the lights slightly each night until they are more comfortable with less light. Do bear in mind that for some children it is very important to do this with a professional’s help.
  6. Avoid scary media: Avoid exposing children to scary books, scary movies, or scary TV shows before bed, as these can exacerbate nighttime fears.
  7. Calming sounds and white noise: Using white noise or soothing sounds can help drown out any unsettling noises that might scare a toddler’s imagination.

When to seek professional help

If a child’s fear of the dark is significantly impacting their daily life, sleep patterns, or causing intense anxiety disorders, it may be time to seek professional help. Consulting with a family therapist / counsellor can provide tailored strategies and support that your child is encouraged to come up with on their own.

Incorporating fun activities

To make bedtime more engaging and less daunting, consider these fun activities too, alongside the suggestions above:

  1. Moon bear-themed treasure hunt: Hide small treasures around the house and use a dim flashlight to find them. This game can transform a dark room into an exciting adventure. Pick some of the items from the story – so a bear, a torch, a tent peg, a cushion, anything that works from he illustrations in the book,
  2. Magic wand craft: Create a “magic wand” together that can “cast away” scary thoughts or monsters. This can empower children to feel in control of their fears.
  3. Night sky exploration: On clear nights, spend a few moments outside looking at the stars. Explain how beautiful and vast the universe is, which can shift a child’s focus from fear to wonder.

Keep going gently

Helping children navigate their fear of the dark requires a blend of empathy, creativity, and consistency. By using resources like “Moon Bear,” engaging in imaginative play, and maintaining a good bedtime routine, parents can guide their children toward better sleep and a healthier relationship with the dark. Remember, it’s perfectly normal to have fears, but with the right support and strategies, children can learn to embrace the night as a time of rest, wonder, and dreams.

if you are looking for other amazing books to use to spark your kids imaginations, check out our Amazon Shop, as well as these activity sheets too:

Shelf care book club books from Jan - Mar 2024

Here are the three books that we have covered within our shelf care book club in Jan to Mar 2024. Download the activity pack and then buy them from Amazon to help support your kids with their wellbeing.

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Lovely to see you on site as always.

This image features resources designed to help children overcome their fear of the dark, including a book titled "MOON Bear" and a poem worksheet.

Helen is a mum to two, social media consultant, and website editor; and this site is (we think) the only Social Enterprise parenting magazine! Since giving up being a business analyst when juggling travel, work and kids proved too complicated, she founded KiddyCharts so she could be with her kids, and use those grey cells at the same time. KiddyCharts has reach of over 1.1million across social and the site. The blog works with big family brands (including travel) to help promote their services, as well as offering free resources to parents of kids under 10. It gives 51%+ profits to Reverence for Life, who fund a number of important initiatives in Africa, including bringing running water and basic equipment to a school in Tanzania. Helen has worked as a digital marketing consultant (IDM qualified) with various organisations, including Channel Mum, Truprint, Talk to Mums, and Micro Scooters. She loves to be creative in the brand campaigns she works on. Get in touch TODAY!

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