What to do when your toddler hates bathtime

written by: Laura Petix | @theotbutterfly

Be honest, do you sometimes feel like you’re summoning the spirit of Steve Irwin as you try to wrestle your sensory sensitive child into the bathtub?

If you said yes, trust me, you’re not alone.

I know tons of parents who have a toddler who hates bath time and are desperate for tips on making bath time easier. Keep reading to find out common reasons why toddlers hate bath time, best ways to set up a bath time routine and sensory friendly bath time strategies.

Reasons why your toddler hates bath time

To be honest, it’s a pretty common occurrence for most toddlers to start avoiding bath time at some point in their life. It’s quite on brand for toddlers to just out-right refuse to do anything that’s remotely good for their hygiene or safety!

But as a pediatric OT who works with children with sensory processing disorder, I want to bring your attention to some of the common reasons toddlers hate bath time, from a sensory perspective:

They’re sensitive to the feeling of water dripping on their face, down their back, or just getting wet in general. Note: it’s common for toddlers to hate bath time but be okay with playing with a water sensory bin.

They’re sensitive to the sounds in the bathroom, such as the echoes or the sound of running water.

They may have vestibular sensitivity that gets triggered when they need to tip their head back to rinse off shampoo.

They may be extremely sensitive to the temperature of the water.

Tips for creating a sensory friendly bath time

Bath time routine starts from the moment you say “It’s time for bath!”. Rather than having a toddler run away screaming from you, here are some ways you can make the transition to bath time a little easier (and dare I say, fun!)

Include heavy work- the magic sauce of self regulation. Get your toddler to help you push, pull, carry items to the bathroom or have them crawl like a crab or hop like a bunny to the bathroom. Not only does this make the transition more fun, but it offers them proprioceptive input, which is calming to the nervous system.

If you have a bed time routine your child looks forward to (cuddles, books, songs), talk about it right before you go to bath. For example “What book do you want to read for bed tonight? [they answer] Oh that sounds great! Ok, time to hop to the bath now so we can have time to read that book after”.

Recruit them to help pick out what bath toys they get to have in the bath tonight (it helps if you switch out bath toys to keep it exciting, maybe you could switch between the different GloPals characters!)

Utilize a visual schedule and visual timers throughout the day. Even if your toddler is already speaking, visual charts and visual schedules can help them process the day, even if it’s the same schedule everyday. Remember, their executive functioning skills are still developing, and visual supports help them.

To read the full article, head over to The OT Butterfly


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