Most newborns and toddlers just love to take a bath, but sometime around age two or three, it is not uncommon for children to suddenly refuse to get in the tub. They may hate to have their hair washed. Some may kick and splash and scream, and put up such a fuss that it’s almost easier to just try to keep them clean than have to give them a bath at all! While that may be a temporary solution, it obviously isn’t the best. So here’s a handful of ideas to try. Maybe something will work in your situation.
Tips and Techniques to Calm Tub Time Fears
Keep bath time fun!
If it isn’t fun now, try to find a way to make it fun again. Give up hair washing at all for now. Get some new bath toys. Put even less water in the tub. Don’t leave your child unattended! Of course, no one leaves a baby alone in the tub, but at around 2 or 3, many parents may leave their child alone but with the door open. If your child hates his bath right now, then something is frightening him. So don’t leave him. Stay in the room, and play with him. His bath is his special time with you (or with the other parent, if your spouse is agreeable!).
Bubbles and Bubble Bath
Special Time After the Bath
Don’t forget to make “after bath time” fun, as well, rather than setting bedtime immediately following. Develop a special routine for after the bath. Maybe you wrap your youngster up in a big, soft towel and cuddle. Tickle his toes, or read a book, or snuggle under the blankets until he’s dry while you talk about the day. Use your imagination. My granddaughter and I brush our teeth after her bath (she loves to brush her teeth!) and this allows her to get a little bit drier. Then I bounce her on my bed and help dress her, while playing tickle and catch games with her. Then we cuddle for a story.
Desensitize your preschooler
Get him used to water on his head. This may take several sessions – not just once. Buy a cute little watering can, and let him play with it. You can play with it, too. Let the watering can spill water in a stream and put your fingers in it. Laugh. Let him pour a stream and put his fingers in it. Make sure he’s enjoying it. Sprinkle a little on his back and laugh, then sprinkle it on his hands again. Next time, sprinkle a few drops on his neck, laugh, and go back to his hands. Keep it up until you are sprinkling it on his head.
Let him use a wash cloth.
Fold it over his eyes so he can keep the water out. Even if he gets it wet, just wring it out and let him hold the wet wash cloth over his eyes. It will still keep pouring water and soap bubbles out of his eyes. Or let him hold some swim goggles over his eyes – but not put them on, which would interfere with washing his hair.
Give Him Some Control
Try a different brand of shampoo, or no shampoo at all! (read a previous post Never Shampoo Again). Maybe all it would take for him to willingly let you shampoo his hair, is to let him buy some commercialized shampoo in a colorful bottle of his favorite cartoon hero.
Start Swimming Lessons
Get him into a swimming pool! Many areas offer swimming lessons, although smaller towns might not have them year round. If your area doesn’t have a swimming program, you can teach your child yourself. Glenn Doman published “How To Teach Your Baby to Swim from birth to age six”. It’s still available, and a great book, as are all of his other products.
Set Up a Splash Pool
Take a Bath Together
I heard one mom describe how she put her husband in the tub, and bathed him! She let him play with all her son’s toys, and she sang to her husband, and made it so much fun, that her little boy got jealous and climbed in the tub with his dad! His fear of bath time ended immediately.
Do Not Reinforce His Fears
Do not force a bath, or continue to shampoo a screaming child. You will only reinforce his fears, and create mistrust between you and your child. Find a way to make it pleasant, and work this through. Your child may develop other fears as he grows – fear of the dark, fear of strangers, fear of kindergarten – and he really needs to be able to trust you to help him get through those!
Dress Up the Bathroom
Light candles in the bath room. Add a space heater, if your room is normally chilly (a safe model, and out of your child’s reach). Use aroma therapy, sprinkling some calming essential oils in a diffuser.
Give Up Tub Baths Temporarily
Switch to sponge baths for a while, or if your youngster isn’t too big, bathe him in his old baby bath or the kitchen sink. Something different, get him away from the normal bathroom that has become part of his fears. Try painting the bathroom, or redecorating it really special – perhaps in his favorite color, or with a shower curtain or towels of his favorite TV character.
Try a Shower Instead
Switch to showers. You might need to take a shower with your preschooler at first. Some moms wear a swimsuit, if they’re uncomfortable being naked in front of their children. Some families are very open about nudity. Your child might enjoy taking a shower, and feel more “grown up” if he’s allowed to take a shower instead of a bath.
Identify the Fear
Try to find out WHAT about the bath he is afraid of. Many children became afraid that they might get sucked down the drain after watching the Disney cartoon about a fish that gets flushed down a toilet. If that’s the case, take your child out of the tub before pulling the drain, or put a sock in the drain while the water is draining. The water will go down more slowly, without making scary burbling noises, and your child might see that the sock will “save” him from being sucked down.
Brighten UP the Water with Color
Color the bath water your child’s favorite color! You can buy Fizzy Bath Bombs that will color the water and add scents and softening oils as well, or you can find a recipe to make your own online.
Good luck, and may you and your little one soon be enjoying bath time again, as a perfect ending to an otherwise wonderful day.