The Fear of Puppets in Children

Although puppets are fun for some children, for others it can arouse great fears and even become a phobia. Today, we'll take a closer look at the fear of puppets.
The Fear of Puppets in Children

Last update: 07 September, 2021

Puppets or marionettes are toys that are easy to make with few resources and materials. At the same time, it’s also easy to find them in any toy store. Children can use them to recreate games and express themselves, and they’re a great tool for educators and psychologists. However, sometimes there are children who are afraid of puppets. Why does this happen?

This type of irrational fear of puppets is called ‘pupaphobia’ and is more common than you might imagine. It’s important to understand children who have this type of fear in order to help them overcome it.

Fear of puppets

Although puppets can be great fun for some, others may feel an irrational and uncontrollable fear. And if a child has a fear of puppets and treatment doesn’t take place in childhood, the fear could even carry into adulthood.

If this fear alters the quality of life of the child who suffers from it, then experts consider it a phobia. And it’s important for parents and professionals to do everything they can to help the child overcome it.

A young boy screaming with fear.

For those who have no fear or panic regarding puppets, it may seem absurd to think that others do. However, in reality, for those who suffer from it, it’s a very real fear and they have a very hard time. On many occasions, this fear also encompasses any marionette or articulated doll, in many occasions.

Pupaphobia has to do with other phobias such as automatonophobia (fear of human-like figures) or pediophobia (fear of dolls). It can also have to do with coulrophobia, which is the fear of clowns or mimes. This will all depend on the type of fear or panic the child has and how they experience it.

The symptoms of a fear of puppets

The symptoms of pupaphobia depend on the severity with which the child experiences them. Physical symptoms can be dizziness, a feeling of unreality, headache, palpitations, nausea, and panic attack.

But, in addition to the physical symptoms, there are also the psychological ones. These occur when the child or adolescent is aware that their fear is irrational and their thoughts are distorted. However, they can’t help but avoid the dolls or puppets because of the unpleasant feeling they give them. This can cause self-esteem problems in the affected person.

The possible causes of a fear of puppets

A fear of puppets may have certain causes that you should take into consideration, although most of them are unknown. It may be that the child has had some kind of traumatic experience with these types of toys. It’s also possible that they may have a genetic predisposition to suffer from phobias or that their personality traits make them more prone to it.

However, with this in mind, we should also remember that, in most cases, it happens because of an unpleasant experience. It could be because of a scary movie or story, a bad experience that involved puppets, a dream, etc…

Who does it affect the most?

These types of fears and phobias usually affect children and adolescents more than adults. It’s also a phobia that, with maturity and an understanding of what’s real and what’s not, can be overcome. Understanding why little ones are afraid of such dolls is necessary to overcome the irrational and uncontrollable panic.

How to overcome fear?

The biggest challenge, first of all, is to overcome the fear of puppets. It’s important to focus on the child and their particular condition in order to help them in the best possible way. Therefore, seeing a professional is essential. The professional will help to channel the whole situation around the fear and know there’s only one fear or several.

A young girl frozen with fear.

Once the fear or pupaphobia is diagnosed, ideally, there should be psychotherapy through a cognitive-behavioral desensitization process where the child may be able to overcome their fear through professional techniques. The child will be able to get rid of the fear thanks to the help of a professional who will continuously monitor the process.

Losing the phobia of puppets or dolls

It is not easy to overcome a phobia or fear, so it’s a slow and complex process. It must be approached in the right way so that it does not worsen and, for this, it will always be necessary to be in the hands of a good expert. The objective is that the person can be in front of the puppets without experiencing anxiety.

In a controlled environment and together with a professional, therapeutic techniques should be put into practice through the progressive exposure of the puppets. Thus, the person’s mind will be able to assume and internalize the experience and put an end to the irrational thoughts and unpleasant symptoms they experience.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Méndez Carrilo, F, X. (2012) Miedos y temores en la infancia: Ayudar a los niños a superarlos. Editorial: Pirámide.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.