Toddler Afraid of the Bath- What Would You Do?

by Alissa Marquess on May 3, 2012

How Do You Help a Toddler Who Is Afraid of the Bath?

This is a parenting first for me- my one year old is terrified of the bath and the shower.  She doesn’t even really like being in the water with me and will just cling miserably until we get out.  I’ve been bathing her in the sink (which she seems fine with) but that’s not a great long term solution.

I asked about how I could help my little one be less afraid of bathing on the Creative with Kids facebook page, and got great answers.  Because facebook threads tend to get swept away quickly I’m creating this post.  I’m hoping you’ll add your suggestions in the comments if you’ve found a successful way to deal with bathtime fears as well.

Toddler Afraid of Baths

How to deal with Toddler Bathtime Fears:

Start small- several people suggested using a smaller tub or a bucket in the big tub to get her used to the situation.

Make the location fun first- I loved the idea of blowing bubbles in the bath tub or playing with toys inside a bucket with soapy water before even attempting bathing so that she starts to associate the tub with fun activities.

Add some color-

  • Pop water balloons with colored water (using food coloring).
  • Color Bath Drops helped some parents get their kids clean.
  • Bath crayons and paints

Add some bubbles and toys.  Suggested toys included:

Let your child do most of the work- turning on the water, checking the water level and so on.

Make it unusual- maybe take a bath in the paddling pool outside or have a “bath party.”

Make it routine- One mom suggested using a picture schedule to show each part of the night time routine to help your child know what’s coming next.  I have found picture schedules to be extremely helpful with young children, but haven’t tried one with my one year old yet- maybe I ought to!

Thank you so much to my readers for your help.  I’d love to add to this list of suggestion, or hear variations of the ideas listed.

Have you dealt with having a toddler who’s afraid of the bath? Have any suggestions for me and all the other moms with dirt encrusted tots?

Please leave your suggestions in the comments, or if you have  a blog post that addresses this question, please leave a link to it!

12 comments
Jackie @ Happy Hooligans
Jackie @ Happy Hooligans

Great suggestions, Alissa! This is one of those fears that every toddler seems to go through at some point. It can be so stressful for everyone. Great suggestions. I really love the idea of having them involved in drawing the bath, and beginning with some fun activities in the tub before even turning the water on! Thank you for sharing with us!

Lilly
Lilly

When my children were going through this phase, we got 2-3 different types of shower gel/ foam, and different shower mitts (cartoon characters, animals etc). They were much happier to have a bath or shower if they had a choice of what to use.

caitlyn (ladyphlogiston)
caitlyn (ladyphlogiston)

My daughter is (usually) okay with water, but HATES rinsing, especially rinsing her hair. (We have sensory issues in the family, so I'm guessing it's a sensory thing of some sort, but that's just a guess.) After reading a study that showed that colonoscopy patients remember the entire experience as more pleasant if the tech just leaves the probe stationary for about 15 seconds at the end before removing it (thereby giving them a less-uncomfortable time at the very end), I moved the washing part of the bath to the beginning of bathtime, so that the end of the bath is pleasant. She's far more willing to take baths now. Sounds kinda weird, but it works.

Cassie
Cassie

My son didn't mind the bath until about the age of 2. I'm not sure why, he just stopped liking it. So I took a tip from Dr. Phil's advice on potty training and used it here. He said to use a toy, a doll usually, and have the child "teach" the toy to use the potty. I used some penguin bath toys and played with them all day! My son named them after cartoon characters that he liked. At bath time, I had him bathe the penguins first, reminding him to tell them that "it's not scary," "you won't get hurt," "I'm just going to clean all of the dirt off." It made a significant difference!

Jen Fischer
Jen Fischer

My toddler had this fear for awhile as well, but now loves the bath. What worked for us was the big bucket outside. I started doing that with him as a bath alternative (because the bath tub was a battle and involved a lot of tears). I made it fun by letting him play with the water hose as well and included fun toys. Once he really got into it, we eventually transferred him to the bath.

Jayme
Jayme

Hi Alissa! Thank your for this list of tips. I think my girls would love the idea of having bath drops. Since they were babies, I've always tried to make bath time a fun experience for my girls. We'd have squeaky toys and I'd sing songs while I give them a bath. One thing that really helped was sort of annotating the whole bath time process so they know what happens next. One time, my girls didn't like having water poured over their heads. So what I would do is prep them like, "Okay we'll wash your hair now... get ready for the water... and here it comes....Weee..."Then I'll pour the water ever so slowly. Now they're the ones splashing water over their heads!

amy (mamascout)
amy (mamascout)

maybe make sure to have water play outside too - in the hose or a baby pool or in a sensory tub. try to get the association with water to be fun and playing. and don't worry about washing her hair - that seems to be the thing that a lot of littles hate and they do not need to wash their hair as much as adults.

Ludicrous Mama
Ludicrous Mama

We graduated her in steps. First we'd fill only about an inch of water in the tub. Then our rule was that she had to go in the tub, but could get out whenever she wanted. So for about the first week, she had 3-second baths, where only her toes got wet. We gradually made the water deeper, and would make her stay for longer and longer (a count to 10, then 15, etc.) eventually shed start getting distracted by a fun toy she hadn't seen in a while, or bubbles, or whatever. It took about a month to get her to the point where she was taking real baths

Rebekah @ The Golden Gleam
Rebekah @ The Golden Gleam

Great summary of tips! My daughter has never been afraid of the entire bath, but certain aspects of bath time used to freak her out. She used to hate having her hair washed, and not much helped to improve that but time. =) And she hated spray strands of hair too. That got so bad, even with me removing the hair, that we switched to showers for a long time. I think one tip that might help some kids is taking a bath with your child.

Billy
Billy

While we did have a difficult time (last year) transitioning from the baby bath to a tub/shower, I'm not sure it was fear. Anyway we have a shower together, she mostly sits on the shower floor and plays with the toys while I stand over her and wash (but at first I sat down on the floor next to her and also breastfed her), but sometimes she sits in a tub (I don't have a bath). P.S As for adding colours - I have this recipe for bathtub puffy paint I got from a blog (unfortunately I do not remember which blog so I can't give credits) which though I haven't yet tried it myself, it does sound great to me. So with a blender/food processor/mixer you mix 1 cup of grated soap and 3/4 cup hot water to get a thick and sticky consistancy. Water should be added slowly or else you'll end with bubbles (3/4 cup of water is just a suggestion, stop when it's thick but squishy). Mix 1 tsp dye with a popsicle stick in tupperware (can use water colours or food colouring). Put in a squeezy bottle (or bags used to put frosting on cake) and squeeze all other the shower/bath..

Alissa Marquess
Alissa Marquess

Telling them what will happen next- GREAT TIP! I forget to do this and it is so helpful in many different situations. Thanks.

Alissa Marquess
Alissa Marquess

Good points about outside water play. We just got out this out door splash hop scotch toy yesterday and that made for a fun splashing experience.

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