Bathing A Toddler – Toddler Tantrums & Tears At Bath Time

According to child psychologists, there are many reasons why a toddler, who may have loved bath time before, suddenly refuses to go in the bath. These include:

  • Testing the boundaries and their independence (oh joy!)
  • They’ve become scared of the bath because something happened. This could be something as simple as getting soap bubbles in their eye (one of the most common bath time hazards).

When this happened to us, I asked friends and family for advice and trawled through loads of parenting websites (as you’ve probably been doing too). Although refusing to get in the bath appears to be quite common, there is no one size fits all solution. In our quest to overcome this toddler challenge, we came across loads of great ideas which we started working through until one worked for our (now quite grubby) little one.

Soap bubbles in the eye

  • A friend from work told me that when this happened with his daughter she would happily go in the bath and wash her hair if she could wear her dad’s swimming goggles (or superhero goggles as they were to her!). It got her over her fear of getting into the bath and washing her hair and eventually she didn’t need the superhero goggles anymore!
  • A new wash cloth worked for some to protect their eyes from the naughty soap bubble monsters!
  • Taking a break from hair washing for a few days to get them back into the bath and then starting washing hair again when they were more confident.
  • Sticking something high up on the wall is a great idea to get your little one to look up when having their hair washed so water runs off backwards and not into eyes.
  • Playing a game to change the little one into…. ‘a mermaid or merman’ (i.e. lying flat on their backs in the bath) was also a great idea for some kids.

But what if they’re scared of the bath?

  • Filling the bath before they go in; for some little ones the sound of water rushing into the bath to fill it was the issue. An already filled bath helped overcome this.
  • Some parents found that their little one was scared of being sucked down the plug hole (more children are scared of this that you’d think). So, they didn’t take the plug out until their little one was safely on dry land and in a towel.
  • Bringing out their favourite toy…. This could be their favourite bath toy to be put in the bath before them or a favourite teddy to sit on the side of the bath.
  • A new bath toy they’ve picked out (or one that’s not been used – and forgotten – that can be brought back in as something new to play with).
  • Having a bath before tea time rather than before bed worked for some as their toddler was so bewildered by the idea of bath before tea time (and the idea that this was a new game) that they forgot about being scared of the bath.
  • Playing with cups and water during the day and moving it to the bath at night (a tea set was suggested as a great game to do this with).
  • Trying out the shower was another option suggested; particularly where the shower is over the bath tub as the little one was more focussed on the shower and less on the fact they were in the bath.

The thing that worked for us….. I got in to an empty bath with our little one! We ran some water with us in it and splashed a little (she loves splashing so this worked for us) and finally got out, filled the bath with water and got back in. Whether it was because this had become more of a game, whether it was having someone else in there with her for support, or just because mummy was being silly splashing around and she wanted to join I’ve no idea why it worked. It just did.

Hopefully this has at least given a few suggestions to try until your little one is happy to go back in the bath again.

Happy bubbles (and splashing)!

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