If your toddler has developed a sudden fear of bathing (even when he always enjoyed it), you’re not alone. Discover effective techniques to help make bath time easy and fun.
What do you do when your child develops a sudden fear of bathing? Yesterday, a reader wrote in with that very question:
“We are going through a phase right now where she is completely scared of the water. How did you get your toddler to take his bath? What did the trick? I’d be thankful for any ideas.”
When my toddler was close to two-years-old, he developed a fear of bath time. The first few times started off innocently enough with some protests and crying. But the fear grew where even the sight of any bath props like a washcloth would send him running away.
How to help your toddler’s fear of bathing
We tried a few tactics to ease our toddler back into the water and stop feeling scared of the bath using these tips:
Place your child into an empty tub
Your toddler might be afraid of the bath when he sees the tub filled with water. Try placing him in with no water first, and then later turn the water on.
Keep as many clothes on him as possible
Some bath time battles start with removing clothes. Try keeping your child’s shirt on while he’s sitting in the tub. Then, as the water gets higher, remove the shirt. The extra clothing might stall his anxiety or ease the transition.
Test the water temperature
A warm bath and the extra warmth can feel comforting. You might also want to turn a heater on in the bathroom during cold weather. Or during summer months, a cooler bath might work just as well.
Tie in your child’s interests
My toddler enjoys watching fountains and waterfalls. Turning the water on at a trickle resembled just that and held his interest. Normally the faucet remains shut after we fill the tub, but I let the water trickle and said, “Look! It’s like your own fountain!”
Find your child’s interests and use them to your advantage. Maybe it’s his love of boats, ducks, the ocean or ponds.
Introduce bath toys and books
Even if your child already has bath toys, a new set of toys might focus his attention less on fear and more on fun. And play with the toys yourself to make it even more interactive.
Then, read books about bath time to ease his fears. Check out my list of bath time books.
Use your hands instead of a washcloth
If your child resists the washcloth, use your hands. They may be more gentle, and you introduce one less bath prop that might upset him.
Find the reason behind the fear
Let’s say your child’s fear stems from water. Even a splash of water on his arm would send him crying. In this case, reduce his fear of water by highlighting its positives.
Or he could feel scared about the drain and believe he’ll also get sucked down the pipes. Explain that only water goes down the drain. Show how toys stay in the tub and don’t drain down.
Acknowledge your child’s fears
It’s easy to assume your child’s complaints are yet another protest or act of defiance. Avoid the mistake of brushing aside your child’s emotions when he acts up.
Addressing his emotions as petty will only make the problem worse and won’t solve it.
Make bath time a positive experience
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Are you tense and stressed at bath time as you anticipate another tantrum? Or are you relaxed and calm? Kids will notice those behaviors!
Sing silly songs. And buy new bath toys and books to lighten the experience.
- Bath crayons
- Alphabet and number foam toys
- Stacking cups
- Squirt animal toys
- Bath fingerpaint
- Bath time books
After two days, my toddler resumed his normal bath time fun. We continued several methods, such as the trickling water, the heater and the new bath toys.
His bath time terrors were one of the most challenging chapters of parenthood. While I’ve learned plenty, am glad they’re gone. (For now!)
Struggling with your child’s tantrums? Get my FREE quick guide to help you figure out what to do when tantrums strike. Download it below:
Get more tips:
- 9 Useful Techniques for Dealing with Anxiety in Young Children
- Nobody’s Perfect, Including Our Kids
- THIS Is Why Your Child Is Testing You
- Help Your Child WANT to Behave
- 8 Children’s Books about Bath Time
Tell me in the comments: How do you handle your child’s fear of bathing?
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