- Start the process slowly- Start with a simple sponge bath. When they are comfortable with that, you can gradually switch to the tub. Start with a small amount of water and add it gradually each time to see what the child’s comfort level is. Keep in mind your child may even prefer a quick shower. You can also try changing the time of day to see if your child prefers to relax in a tub before bed or use it to wake up first thing in the morning.
- Make it fun- Try adding: soap to make a bubble bath, bath dye tablets, bath bombs/salts, bath puppets, bath stickers, and floating bath toys. Let the child pick a new toy each time to bring with them to the bath. Make sure you stay and play; take this time to spend quality time playing with your child. Also if the child had one bad experience with the bath where they possibly slipped while standing to get out or got some soap in their eye, they make be fearful in the future. Try your best to make it as fun and safe as possible. You can get non-slip stickers or bath visors.
- Teach what to expect- Talk about what happens when you take a bath and why you need to take a bath. Let your child touch and explore the bathtub when it is not bathtime. Read stories and sing songs about having a fun bath time. Give a warning before bathtime and set a timer so they know how long it will last. Try to pinpoint what moment your child is not happy with bath time and change it. For example, if your child is fine with bath time except when the water is turned on, then try filling the tub before they come into the bathroom.
- Check for sensory concerns- Try using different textured towels and try scrubbing gentle or hard to see which they prefer. Keep in mind that different soaps can affect people differently. Some soaps can be bothersome if they leave a sticky feeling afterwards or they smell too strong. Try soap for sensitive skin or unscented soaps. Also keep in mind the temperature of the water and if there is a chance of soap getting into their eyes. Always check the temperature of the water on yourself first, but also look at your child’s skin after the bath to see if there is any redness or irritation. If your child is sensitive to sounds, fill the tub before they enter the bathroom and maybe play some fun or calming children’s music when they are in the bath.
- Give the child some control- Let them tell or show you what they like and dislike about the bath so you know what to change. Let them choose how much water to put in, what toys to bring into the tub, and how long to stay in. Let them try scrubbing their own body and hair clean first to see which way feels comfortable to them.
If you have tried these techniques and continue having a hard time getting your child to enjoy a bath, please feel free to contact BDI Playhouse in Naperville or Orland Park, IL for a free screening.
Written by: Kelli Mulvihill OTR/L