Ingredients: Scraps of old fabric, dried lavender seeds or oil, pipe-cleaners, needle and thread or sewing machine.

The Big Sell: “You say, there’s a monster hiding under your bed? Well, let’s try giving him a cuddle!”

Strategy:

Now if the Wish Pillow didn’t work, or maybe it did but you want more from where that came from, try making a home-made monster instead. I guess it’s the equivalent of showing them the Pixar film ‘Monsters Inc’ (except my two are really scared of this film, so the reverse psychology didn’t work there!)

Our home-made monsters came from an idea my eldest had once, when despite my protesting that “Honestly, monsters really don’t exist”, he made a sign for his bedroom door which read “Good monsters welcome. Bad monsters go away!” and it seemed to have a magic effect on his sleep.

Following on from this, we decided to make our own cuddly sleepy monsters, and years later, they still spend the night in their beds. Importantly the monsters were made from their own specific designs – three eyes and one tooth for one, one eye and a curly antennae for the other – and was sewn together from scraps of fabric, pipe-cleaners to make cuddlable arms and antennae, and lavender seeds inside.

The Verdict:

The monsters seemed to have that desired talisman effect, much like a dream catcher which also hangs above their beds. I know there are conflicting schools of thought as to whether the parents should or should not try and enter into the spirit of the imaginary world to help calm nightmares. A cuddly toy which externalises the problem seems to me like a nice compromise. You’re not admitting there’s anything else there, but distracting from the unknown and the shadows by making them benign and tangible.

I’ve found, if they call out for you to say “There’s a monster in my room!” when you say “Of course there is – give him a cuddle” it makes them giggle and defuses the tension. You can even give the cuddly toy a few firm words “You are to STOP scaring the children, and if you look after them tonight, Mummy might give you a special monster breakfast in the morning – maybe some garden snails.”

Catchphrase: “Good night children, Good night little monsters. Look after each other and sleep tight.”

Left wanting more?

• You can find loads of books about monsters at the local library – from monsters that are scared of children, to ones that need the opposite things to children to get to sleep. Try Bedtime for Monsters by Ed Vere, published by Puffin.

• Another excellent book is The Huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside, published by Hodder Childrens Books. It gives a clear message about talking through your worries and showing them the light of day, much like this technique of externalising the problem with a custom made toy.

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