Forty reasons to be fearful - childhood phobias from ants to zombies

(AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

(AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam) - Credit: AP

The world (and all that is in it from moths to mascots) can be a scary place for the phobic. But bear with your children's fears to help them get over them...

I like to make sure the wardrobe door is closed before I go to bed. I choose to think this is because I am a tidy person but I fear, and the word is accurate here, that it might go way back to the days when mythical monsters hid there.

Fear of monsters under the bed (or in wardrobes) is in the top 40 of childhood phobias, jostling for the terrifying top spot with an a to z of horror ranging from ants to zombies.

Scuttling, malevolently, into first place is the spider. And now I remember what was scary about the cupboard in my childhood bedroom. Spiders might be lurking there. It wasn't monsters I was scared of, it was monstrous spiders.

Eight-legged, eight-eyed, eight-times-as-evil-as-anything-else arachnids are judged more scary than dentists, ghosts and death itself by the children of our land. And anyone paying close attention will realise that it is not just the under 18s who share the shudders.

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I did my best not pass on my phobia to my children, but with limited success. My plan was to breed a tribe of fearless spider-catchers, who would remove the hairy horrors whenever one ventured into our home. But watching their mother race from the room and direct operations from a safe (far, far away) distance probably didn't paint spiders as their bestie bug mates.

If only I had carried a fear of zombies or sharks into adulthood. I cannot remember the last time I found a shark in the bath or a zombie crouched in a web.

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However, there could be a positive aspect to children's phobias. They are a chance to read, or watch, Michael Rosen's 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt.'

The story follows a family who set out in search of a bear, overcoming a series of obstacles and facing their fears along the way.

As the animated DVD was released this month, former British Children's Laureate Michael Rosen said: 'When children join in the Bear Hunt, they discover that the thing about today and tomorrow is that you can't go over it, you can't go under it, you do have to go through it!

'This is a fantastic opportunity to think and talk about feelings. The film will show children that it's a good thing to face up to our fears and worries.'

We're Going On A Bear Hunt, was first shown on Channel 4 over Christmas and became its most-watched programme of the year. Norfolk-raised actress Olivia Colman features on the soundtrack which follows the adventures of a group of siblings and their dog as they search for bears.

Producer Ruth Fielding said: 'First and foremost, We're Going on a Bear Hunt is a charming story, about children heading out on their own for an adventure, but it also provides a great opportunity for parents to talk to their children and let them open up about what they're finding challenging.'

Parenting expert Eileen Hayes, author of books including Understanding Your Baby and Tantrums, said: 'It's important for parents to remember that it's completely normal and natural for children to have fears, especially in the pre-school years when they don't have an adult understanding of the world, but have very fertile imaginations. Some fears are perfectly rational, especially seen from the child's point of view, but even when they seem irrational, parents shouldn't laugh at fears or say they are silly, as they are very real to children.'

A survey of more than 1,500 parents revealed the top 40 phobias, plus a few peculiar extras. One child confessed to being scared their hair would blow off in the wind, which seemed a little weird until I remembered Mark, from my primary school class, who was afraid of the sky falling in.

And it might be best not to read through the list if you are at all suggestible. From thunder and lightning (very, very frightening,) through the terrifying sequence of 'strangers, dentists, clowns, ghosts,' to the final entry, in at number 40, the bedroom-invading, pillow-lifting, tooth-stealing tooth fairy, those kids could be all right.



The dark

Monsters under the bed or in the cupboard

Thunder and lightning


Being alone

Loud noises

People wearing masks










Costume characters including football and theme park characters




Toilets and bathrooms








Santa Claus






Cars and other vehicles




Tooth Fairy

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