Tuesday, April 10, 2012

10 Gentle Tips for Kids Who Hate the Bath

Welcome to the April 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Personal Care
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles relating to their children's personal care choices.

Somewhere along the line when Gumby was around 2.5 she started hating baths.  Loathing them, really and straight out refusing to be in the tub.  I think I put her in a few times when the water was too hot and I also figured out she *hated* when she would get her hair washed and the water would drip down her face.  I'm guessing part of the problem was normal toddler stuff as well. She enjoyed swimming, and calling the tub our "indoor pool" worked for a very short time.  And then, it didn't.  It was summer and she was getting frequent chlorine baths at the local pool and we figured the phase would pass.  It didn't. 
Eventually, we were able to establish a bath routine with which she felt comfortable.  Here are some things that were helpful for us.

First, the really helpful items:

1. Routine
We are a very "go with the flow" family and have a difficult time sticking to any type of routine.  It makes sense that kids feel more comfortable when things are familiar and they know what to expect.  We were desperate, so we implemented a few bath days and designated 'hair washing' days, and we stuck to them .  She hated it, so we went slow, not trying for every single day.  Routines removes choices when choices become a problem (ie: do you want to have a bath in the little bathroom or big bathroom ... answer: 'I don't want to have a bath anywhere.') The routine cut down on arguing with us about having a bath.  It is simply bath time because that is what it is.  It's not randomly thrown into the day, but designated and we can look on the calendar and know when exactly it is.  Feelings and expressions of disapproval and upset were acknowledged with empathy, but in the end, it was bath day.

2. Just for Fun
The goal was just go get Gumby into the tub.  Seriously.  On many of the bath days after our new routine started, they were 'just for fun'.  She didn't have to get wet, soapy, etc.  We just wanted her to feel comfortable being in the tub.  Maybe even play a little. 

3. Stool to sit on
Gumby did not want to touch the water.  At all.  We took her step stool into the tub to use as a seat.  A dry seat.  Towels required in case of a droplet of water hitting her seat.  She could sit with her feet on the stool and put them into the water when/if she was ready.

4. Sponge baths
We had to keep her clean'ish somehow! :)

These things are also fun and helpful:
Gumby happy suds-ing up

5. Songs
The hair washing was the biggest challenge.  Even with a little visor hat to keep the water out and telling her to look up, it only takes a moment of her looking down for the water to flood her face resulting in much upset.  We have a silly little song that we sing while we wash Gumby's hair.  She looks forward to it and it seems to help.  She even smiles now (months later) during hair washes!

6. Predictability & Narration
Since she dreaded the hair washing so very, very much, we thought it would be helpful to let her know what would be next and when it would be over.  We tell her we're going to wet her hair with six cup fulls of water.  We count them with her.  We also tell her right where they will be going.  "This one is going down the top!  Look up up up!"  "Here comes the next one down this side." ... the narration goes with our silly song.

7. Toys
Not just bath toys, but any toys.   We let her choose animals that may need baths, containers for pouring, boats or the many uses of a container, blocks, etc... anything a little different to keep it interesting and fun.

8. Paint
Gumby may not want soap on herself, but she loves painting herself.  Don't mention that the paint is food coloring and bubble bath soap.  :)

9. Themes
We've only done this a little bit with adding food coloring to the water and one with balloons in the tub.  You can actually find a lot of really cool themed baths for kids online. 

10. Location
Once we established a routine and that bath time was going to happen, we found that Gumby did have a preference on which tub to use.  The corner tub in the master bathroom is more open and larger and she had a clear preference for that one over the one that we used to use all the time ... you know, the one where I made the water too hot and then poured it over her face to wash her hair ;)

What tips do you have for bathing kiddos' that do not want any part of the water/tub?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon April 10 with all the carnival links.)

  • Holistic Care of your Toddler's Teeth — Erica at ChildOrganics tells a tale of her children's teeth issues and how she uses homeopathy and good nutrition to keep cavities at bay.
  • Bath Time Bliss : Fuss-Free Bath Time for Toddlers — Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares how she has made bath time completely fuss free for both her and her toddler.
  • Homemade Natural ToothpasteCity Kids Homeschooling hosts a guest post on a homemade natural toothpaste recipe that kids will love!
  • Bathing Strike StrategiesCrunchy Con Mommy offers her best tips for keeping your little ones clean when they refuse to bathe.
  • Bodily Autonomy and Personal Hygeine — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses the importance of supporting a child's bodily autonomy in the prevention of abuse.
  • A Tub Full of Kiddos! — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment has kiddos who love the water, so bathtime is a favorite evening activity!
  • The Trials of Tidying My Toddler — Adrienne at Mommying My Way shares the difficulties she has with getting her on-the-go son to be still enough to get clean.
  • Wiped Clean — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen shares her recipe for homemade diaper wipe solution to clean those sweet little cloth diapered bottoms in her home!
  • Snug in a Towel: Embracing Personal Grooming — Personal care is time consuming,especially with more than one child; but the mama at Our Muddy Boots is learning to embrace this fleeting and needful time.
  • EC: All or Nothing? — Elimination Communication. Even the title sounds complicated and time consuming. It doesn't have to, if you adapt it to meet your family's needs, says Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy.
  • Routine Battles — In a guest post at Anktangle, Jorje of Momma Jorje outlines a simple incentive to help inspire your little one to follow a routine.
  • Redefining Beauty For My Daughter — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger relays her struggle to define her own femininity and how her preschooler unexpectedly taught her a lesson in true beauty.
  • Rub-A-Dub-Dub, Three Girls In The Tub — Chrystal at Happy Mothering shares how she turns bath time into a few minutes of peace and quiet.
  • Montessori-Inspired Activities for Care of Self — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now has a roundup of Montessori-inspired activities for care of self and ideas for home environments that encourage independence.
  • 10 Gentle Tips for Little Ones Who Hate the Bath — Kim at life-is-learning gives 10 tips to get your little one into the bath and maybe even enjoying it.
  • The Boy With The Long Hair — Liam at In The Now discusses his son's grooming choices.
  • Personal Care in a Montessori Home — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings shares a summary of the ways she has organized her family's home to make for easy, Montessori-inspired toddler personal care.
  • Styling Kids — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is letting her kids decide what to look like.
  • Clean Kids: Laundry and Bath Tips — Kimberly at Homeschooling in Nova Scotia shares tips on how to get your children helping with laundry plus recipes for laundry and liquid soap.
  • How to Clean Your Children Naturally: A Tutorial — Erika at Cinco de Mommy shows you how to clean your children.
  • Cleaniliness is next to... dirt — The lapse-prone eco-mom (Kenna at Million Tiny Things) sometimes forgets to bathe the kids. Except in the mud pit.


  1. Putting a stool in the tub? Genius. We should give Kieran that option when he is feeling anti-water, because eventually he'd get in - but the novelty of the stool would get him there in the first place.

    1. exactly on getting them there in the first place. Gumby's had many a "baths" at first where nothing hit the water. but, she was in the tub. Success! :)

  2. Bath time has never been an issue, but the idea of adding something to the routine and then following through on it because, hey, there it is on the calendar, is something we've done in the past. Actually, my oldest daughter was terrified of bubble bath the first three or four times we tried it, and her brother had an unexpectedly bubble-filled bath a little earlier than he'd expected when we had to postpone bathtime to a later, less-bubbly time for the girl.

    1. it really surprised us how crucial a simple routine and sequence of events was to help gumby feel comfortable b/c she knew what to expect and it was no longer up for discussion. it made it so much easier for all of us.

  3. I wrote about the same thing too, but from a younger toddler's perspective mostly (my son is only 2.5 now, so I mostly wrote about bathing strikes when he was younger). The stool idea is brilliant. Definitely will have to try that sometime!

    1. just commented on yours - sounds so familiar! thanks for sharing!

  4. Great tips! I really have been surprised how much routine has helped smooth the way for some things I thought were insurmountable obstacles. My husband and I are very non-routine types, so it's been hard for us to implement and stick with anything, but things like bathtimes and bedtimes go better if we do.

    We still have balking with hair washing (not liking hair on the head, face, or ears), so I will try your idea of counting out how many cups will be used and where they will go in advance — I think that might help us, too. I also love your "paint" idea. :)

    P.S. I wrote this comment when I first read your post & was able to try the cup counting idea in our last bath since then — it really did help! He counted along and seemed less stressed by it. Thank you. :)

    1. You sound just like us on the routines - SO HARD, yet so helpful. :) We have really lucked out that Gumby still has "baby hair" with how much she hated getting it washed. I dont know what we would have done if we had a beautiful head full of hair! I'm really glad the counting was helpful for you guys :) Hopefully it continues to help!

  5. We've been fortunate that neither of our kids mind the bath, but I still can learn something from this post as a parent. Every parent will be faced with obstacles their particular child is stressed by, and I am impressed with your ability to surmount the obstacle in a gentle, patient manner instead of barreling through. It seems to me there is no more important responsibility of parents than to show children they are in a safe, predictable environment...and yes, baths are a must!

    1. Thank you for stopping by and for the kind words.

  6. I was lucky that neither of my kids minded baths, but your tips are great for kids who do mind them! I think your thoughts about routines and making bathtime fun are awesome. I loved using songs for many activities, and bathtime is a great time for singing! :) Deb @ LivingMontessoriNow.com

  7. My older daughter hates having her long wavy hair washed too. The only reason she allows me to do it because she knows how much easier it is to brush with conditioner in it than when we don't wash it. I had to not wash her hair a couple times then brush her hair when it was still full of knots and talk to her while I was doing that about how much easier it would be if we had washed her hair. The next time I washed and conditioned her hair I didn't have to say anything, she did. She told me that it didn't hurt at all to brush when I did it that way and it has been a lot easier ever since.

    1. I love that you explain the reasons and importance of washing her hair and showing her the difference! Useful information always has such a larger impact on the little ones in helping them process and internalize things.

  8. Your post has some really good tips. My little one was only aversive to the bath at first and maybe because I only bathed her 3x a week as a newborn (for the 1st 2 weeks). Then I started bathing her every day as a pre-bed time ritual and she got accustomed to it. She didn't like it at first because she seemed to feel insecure, but when she could hold on to the edge of the bathtub, she started enjoying herself. Now I make bathtime time to learn about the body. I tell her when I clean her eyes, face, hair, hands, toes, etc. and she pics up fast. So when I ask where her foot is she'll show me her foot and say "foot!" This is similar to points 1. and 6. Routine, Predictability and Narration. It's great how you have engaged your little ones to tolerate and enjoy the bath :)

    1. Thanks. Gumby hated the bath when she was a newborn, then LOVED it, then suddenly the hatred came! lol. That is so adorable how you teach your little one about parts of the body while getting her all cleaned up :)

  9. My mom would count the number of cups to wash my hair but also let me put a clean, dry towel over my face to keep the water from getting in my eyes and mouth.

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