I can't make out who said this to her at daycare, and it doesn't matter since I don't have any control over the daycare people.

Toddler is 2.6 years old.

3 days back the toddler told me that there is a "ghost" behind you. Other room was dark, and she said, "there is a ghost in that room too because it is dark".

I took the child to the dark room, took the lead and explored every point of that room to show her that there isn't any ghost.

She agreed to me that day, but yesterday again she started mentioning that the ghost is in the dark room. Again, I took the child to the dark room, took the lead and explored every point of that room to show her that there isn't any ghost.

Still she kept on repeating the same.

I am not worried about the fear of dark. She had that fear before too. I am worried about the ghost part.

The fear hasn't yet set in. This is the time to act. It has been just 3 days. How should I deal with the child before the fear sets in completely?

P.S. I think the answers of How do I help a child overcome fear of ghosts? do not apply here since it has been just 3 days that she was told about ghosts at daycare. The fear hasn't "set in" completely yet, I think.

  • 1
    You didn't mention what your child's emotion reactions were. Is she obviously terrified and clinging to you? Or is she just gravely informing you? If the former, just remaining calm will go far to preventing escalation. You are doing just that. If the latter, perhaps she is just using "ghosts" as a way of interacting with you. Kids love to find things that will make their parents react. It make them feel in control. You might consider taking @Erica's suggestion and play a ghost-finding game with her. Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 20:04

1 Answer 1


From my own experience, it seems that a toddler doesn't have a strong understanding of what a ghost is supposed to be (the spirit of a dead person). Rather, it's a term that can be applied to "something that scares me" -- picked up by hearing adults (or other children) use the word while talking about being scared. If a teacher mentions she is afraid of the dark because of a ghost in the room, a toddler can pick up on that very easily.

When we were visiting family while work was being done on their roof, the shadows of the workmen could be seen on the nearby buildings (as well as random noises from the construction). My tween daughter told her toddler brother that they were scary ghosts. Rather than the game of pretend she expected, he got very scared and started hiding under the couches "from the scary ghost." She'd given him a distinct term to use to personify the anxiety he experienced from unpredictable loud sounds and unnatural shadows.

At first I tried pointing out that ghosts aren't real. However, he could simply point at the moving shadows to "prove" to me that there were, obviously, ghosts around the building (and did so in an increasingly frustrated state, presumably wondering why I pretended to not see the very obvious shadow-ghosts).

Instead, I made a game out of it. I'd say "Aaaah, it's a ghost!" and gasp and point at something. He would jump, and stare at where I was pointing. Then I'd say, "Oh, no, it's just the cat" (or "the couch", "the ceiling fan", "Mommy" -- or, eventually, "the shadows of a worker on the roof"). We played for a few minutes, then started doing something else, but I came back to this game randomly over the next few days. When it was mixed into play, it helped him relax and even take the lead on "scaring" me with ghosts that he then explained were really Uncle John, a fuzzy pillow, or my purse.

  • It showed that it's easy to be mistaken about what you're seeing; a glimpse of a moving cat might look unnatural or ghostly at first, but on second look it's clearly a familiar pet.
  • It's OK to be scared at first, as long as you take a moment to calm down, think about what you're actually seeing, and then even laugh about your mistake afterwards.
  • A "ghost" can be easily explained as an actual object. Even in a dark room, once we turn on the lights we can see that spooky shape was actually just a favorite toy, or a familiar lamp.
  • It can be fun to be a little bit scared by something we know is imaginary, particularly when done in a safe space (with a parent) and followed up quickly by a reassurance that everything is fine.
  • I would also start by explaining that ghosts aren't real, and ask him to clarify/point to the 'ghost'. At that point, I'd explain what he's pointing at actually is. In the case of a shadow, I'd demonstrate how shadows work :) ie, puppets, turn on a bright light, at one end of a hall so my shadow runs down the length of it, wave at him, etc etc
    – Orion
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 18:23
  • It gets more complex if somebody else (particularly a caretaker that is trusted by the child) has indicated, even in passing, that a ghost is real, present, and/or the cause of a visible or audible scary thing. I did explain that the shadows were shadows, and we've played with shadows in the past — but since his big sister had said these particular shadow shapes were ghosts, it was a quandry for his toddler logic. He ended up concluding that I just didn't understand his problem, so we needed a different approach.
    – Acire
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 18:29

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