My son loves Sesame Street characters, and "costume" characters... When they're on TV.

However, he's very afraid of them in person. He gets clingy, must be picked up, and holds us in a Death grip.

We've so far just tried introducing him to the characters, usually with a name. "That's Cy, he's a big bird like Elmo's friend."

We also try being pleasant and friendly with the mascots, but it doesn't seem to help.

Other fears, like new kids on playgrounds, he overcomes after 5-10 minutes of exposure. Not so with costumed people.

So far, he's seen Santa Clauses, Easter Bunnies, a Gopher, and Cy the Cyclone's bird. He's been equally fearful of them all.

I'm sure he'll grow out of it, but right now the fear interferes with his enjoyment of the events we're at. We never run into these characters intentionally, but they end up being at family-oriented activities and events. Once he spots them, he seems unable to resume his enthusiasm for the place until the mascot has been out of site for 10 to 15 minutes, which can be a large portion of these events.

My son in just over two years old.

  • Mine also hated costumed characters at that age, and we think it was due to their unrealistic appearance and movement (and, often, silence). Unfortunately I found no remedy besides growing out of it :(
    – Acire
    May 2, 2015 at 21:04
  • @Erica I'm sure it's pretty typical. I really wouldn't be concerned, except that it clearly affects his engagement with the rest of the activities afterwards. Also, he really hated people dressed as Santa, despite being around bearded people in the past. (But, we don't really talk about Santa at home, so there wasn't any of that excitement to counterbalance it? We acknowledge he's a character, but he's not part of our Christmas traditions.)
    – user11394
    May 2, 2015 at 21:08
  • 2
    It's actually a fairly legitimate fear, at that age. Just imagine how these characters must look from his angle. Don't worry about it. He'll grow out of it. Mar 9, 2016 at 2:26

3 Answers 3


An event is quite a highly arousing place (noise, strangers, etc..) so senses on high alert anyway, so I would suggest practicing any strategy before the situation happens in a calm, safe environment, i.e. at home.

Maybe a costume could be hired for the weekend and maybe family members could all dress up in the costume in front of your child - letting him in to the secret. As in desensitisation, you could have it lying on floor, take a peek in the room, then play a game sitting on it, then put the legs on, then sit with just the body on and your head out of costume, you could all sit on the costume, eat a snack on it, etc… if possible film the situation to encourage the possible established link with TV characters.

My little girl had similar, but not to the same degree but now goes up alone so as you say may just be something your son will learn to handle independently.


Unfortunately and fortunately exposure is usually the answer to most if not all "irrational" fears and or anxieties for the vast majority of ages. However, the hard part of exposure therapy is finding a way gradually desensitized your child to their respective anxiety provoking event and or thought. For example, a common starting point for children who are scared of spiders is imagine those spiders or to pretend that a spider is nearby and then they move into the next stage like having a spider on the other side of the room, but out of view and so forth. By now, you'll notice that I am speaking very generally because the reality is every case tends to be fairly different and also I am not a big fan of giving direct advice (especially when it involves other people's kids).

However if you want to become a little more informed about at least the practice of exposure therapy, an excellent resource if your library carries it is: Exposure Therapy for Anxiety: Principles and Practice. Admittedly, you might have brush up on some theories, but I recall it being somewhat general enough for the consumer who has a general knowledge of psychology or perhaps this book might be more useful.

In summary, my point is don't overprotect your child, but also don't go directly to the beast (fear) so to speak. Rather, get there gradually so when your child does get close to this beast it doesn't seem so scary.

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    – Rory Alsop
    Aug 18, 2022 at 10:07

they end up being at family activities

I suppose you mean extended family? Perhaps the person who is planning the family event for a preview of the event ahead of time, and this could help you decide whether to accept the invitation, whether to arrive late or leave early, etc.

I remember my older son was terrified of clowns at age 2. He wanted to go to the circus, but the moment a clown came into the ring... I'd get the death grip you described so well.

How to help a child overcome their fear of mascots?

As Erica said... just be patient. The less you force the issue, the quicker the child will get over it. In other words, the more protection and avoidance you provide, as a trusted ally, the less of a big deal it will be, in the grand scheme of things.

  • I meant family-oriented, I'll edit that in.
    – user11394
    May 3, 2015 at 5:12

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