I'm typically careful of not instilling needless fears in my toddler as I want her to be afraid of important danger and not everything and anything that might be dangerous.

We went for a vacation recently and I was being followed by 3-4 deer flies. I kept waving my hands around to shoo them away and my daughter understood that these bugs bite but has generalized this idea to ALL flies. She also got bit by something (deer fly or black fly) but I'm not sure she noticed what bit her or what happened (just saw a scab in her scalp).

This became a problem later during our vacation when she would break down at a restaurant because a (regular) fly was wandering around our food and also in the car until I managed to get the fly out. I don't mind my toddler being afraid of deer flies but being afraid of all flies is going to be hard on her! They are sort of difficult to tell apart as well so I'm not sure how I can help her out. I've tried explaining to her that they are not the same kind, that the regular flies don't bite. If one landed on my arm, I'd leave it there so she could see that I'm not scared.

I assume this fear is simply going to pass like many other things but are there any actions I can take to speed up the process?

I live in a place where most bugs are not dangerous at all; at most they will take some of your blood but there is no venom involved or direct threat to life. How do people living in places like Australia teach their toddlers to distinguish between a dangerous and a non-dangerous creature?

ETA: I was thinking some light exposure like trapping a regular fly and doing some observation involving the "protection" of a mason jar may be good for a start.

1 Answer 1


Catching some flies for her is a great idea, but it may be more useful as a second stage. Right now, she may just shut right down instead.

Personally, I would go with books featuring protagonist flies or other bugs. Once you’re able to develop a character for a fly to be, flies in the real world can suddenly be projected with that image. You can make a game or new stories by watching a fly travel around the room/garden.

Something else to consider is to wave more discretely when a deer fly is around. It is pretty easy to shoo a fly away with a slight hand motion; ever try to swat a fly slowly? They’re pretty sensitive. If your motions are soft and not agitated, your daughter is less likely to become anxious about them. Since she isn’t noticing when bites happen, it also wouldn’t be the worst idea to just let her get bit. It sucks a bit (I remember having bites from camping trips as a kid), but experiencing the effect first hand is a good way to reduce the worry about getting bit in the first place. Panic is a result of inexperience, after all.

  • "If your motions are soft and not agitated, your daughter is less likely to become anxious about them." I totally agree (didn't think about it at the time though!). The next day, we were in a hotel and the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night. I was really anxious but did my best not to let it show and she seemed completely unimpressed by all the noise and chaos as we evacuted. I feel so silly about the fly problem I've caused now! Then again, I'm one of those people bugs love to love and they'd been following me for a good hour. Difficult not to get annoyed!
    – curious
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 19:24
  • 2
    I’d say don’t sweat it too much. This kind of thing usually all comes out in the wash, as they say. Kids freak out over all sorts of things. Just be happy you’re pretty sure you know why this time. 😉 Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 19:39

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .