Is your toddler or child scared of vacuum cleaners? My son, now 4, was absolutely terrified of vacuum cleaners for a couple of years. This fear of such an innocuous household item can seem irrational to adults, but it’s actually very common!
Most children will outgrow their fear of vacuum cleaners, but there’s a lot you can do along the way to help them overcome their fears. Small children are not very rational, so telling them to stop being afraid isn’t going to help them.
So before you swear off cleaning for the next few years, have a read of my post. I share tips on how to gently help your child and hopefully use your vacuum cleaner without scaring your little one.
How Jonah’s fear began
I remember the first time we realised Jonah was scared of vacuum cleaners.
He was about 6 months old and his daddy was at work. I popped him in his bouncy chair with the hope of getting some cleaning done. I started the vacuum cleaner, making sure to begin at the other end of the room incase the noise was too loud for a his little ears.
As the vacuum cleaner roared into life, so to did Jonah’s fear of the vac. He was terrified. He screeched, arched his back, his little legs and arms furiously kicking. It was pure panic.
I immediately shut down the vacuum cleaner and held him until his fear abated. Afterwards, I felt awful. Poor Jonah! And once we realised his fear of vacuum cleaners was a permanent thing, I worried how I’d clean the house without taking Jonah out of it!
Fear of vacuum cleaners has a name?
It certainly does! Zuigerphobia, the fear of vacuum cleaners, is a very common type of fear in babies and toddlers and is simply a reaction to overwhelming sound stimulus.
But as Jonah got older, his fear continued. Now he’d developed the ability of object permanence, he knew that a vacuum cleaner could be hiding out of sight but appear at any time!
He also remembered where a vacuum cleaner might live at playgroups and relatives houses, making getting him in and out of places quite tricky.
With hindsight, it made our lives quite hard. And coupled with Jonah’s speech delay, I think he found processing his fear and explaining it to us really hard.
What we needed were practical steps! So here’s what we did to allay my son’s fear of the vacuum cleaner.
How we helped our child scared of vacuum cleaners
We bought a quieter vacuum cleaner, and involved him in the selection
Okay, I’m not suggesting you rush out and buy a new vacuum cleaner. This post is not an ad for Shark vacuum cleaners. But our old vacuum cleaner, the one that brought so much fear, was on the noisy side. It had parts hanging off it, and it was over 10 years old at this point.
We made the decision to buy a new one, and I’m so glad we did.
Jonah came with us to the electrical shop to make the choice. Outside of the home environment where his fear had first been triggered, he was able to look at the vacuum cleaners and show us which he liked and disliked.
Why did this help? Not only was the new vacuum quieter, I think the process helped Jonah to feel more in control and increased his familiarisation with vacuum cleaners in a less fearful situation.
I’m sure it helped to see other children in the shop not reacting to the vacuum cleaners and everybody acting normal and happy!
We let him play with it unplugged
Children are so curious, and this curiosity can often trump fear! Once we got our new vacuum cleaner home, we would put it in his playroom and let him explore it freely, and regularly.
This repeated exposure is essentially desensitisation and a component of cognitive behavioural therapy used to treat other phobias.
We gave parts of the vacuum cleaner comforting names
The modular structure of a Shark vacuum cleaner means it’s really easy to take apart. So we named parts of our new Shark vacuum cleaner “daddy hoover”, “mummy hoover”, and “baby hoover”.
Showing how they all come together as a “hoover family” absolutely delighted my son.
We got his hearing and health checked
We worried my son might have hyperacusis, a condition where sounds are perceived as excessively loud and even painful. He also shows some signs of high functioning autism, which he’s still under observation for.
It’s definitely worth checking in with your GP if you have any health concerns over your child.
How it ended and we helped our child scared of vacuum cleaners
Eventually, at about 3 years old, Jonah’s fear of the vacuum cleaner melted away. I think everything we did plus his developmental readiness to overcome his fear all came together at once.
Now, Jonah’s actually a little bit obsessed with vacuum cleaners, especially the cute little Henry vacuum cleaners. He draws vacuums, watches the Henry vacuum cleaner YouTube channel, makes play dough vacuum cleaners, and has dress up as a vacuum cleaner!
Not only does he play with the concept of vacuum cleaners, he actually helps me to vacuum our floors. He can take apart and put together our Shark vacuum cleaner in record time! I think that’s a total win!
It’s so nice to see him overcome his fears and turn them into a passion!
Final thoughts on helping your child with their fear of vacuum cleaners
I hope sharing our story and tips has helped you to know you’re not alone with your child’s fear. Fear of vacuum cleaners is so common and you’re not powerless to help your child. Why not try some of my tips to help them through?
Let me know what you think, and if you’ve helped your child over a fear, what did you do to help? Let me know in the comments section below.
Wishing you the best of luck with your little one!