Parenting is a never-ending string of surprises: You thought your kid loved baths? That was yesterday! Today, they flat-out refuse to wash. Toddlers avoiding bathtime isn’t uncommon, but it can be incredibly stressful. (For both of you.) The first step is to find the culprit, and some clever ways to work around it.
They’re too busy playing.
Racing trucks, building Duplo towers, drawing on walls: that’s fun for kids! You know what’s less fun for kids? Scrubbing grime off their tiny elbow creases. If you’re finding that your rowdy little rascal is reluctant to interrupt playtime for bathtime, try giving them a 10-minute warning, so they can start to wind down their activities. And use bubbles, bath toys or water crayons to create even more fun, exclusively in the tub!
They’re testing their independence.
As babies become toddlers, they become their own little people, with their own thoughts and opinions. And a new favourite word: ‘No!’ They’re testing their ability to be in charge. (Approximately 358 times a day.) So try giving them choices at bathtime: Would they like a bath before or after dinner? Which product would they like to use? Which toys would they prefer to play with? Give them a bit of ownership, and something to say ‘yes’ to.
They’re not in a routine.
Kids like things to be predictable. (Baby Shark on repeat all day: Good! Surprise broccoli on their dinner plate: Bad!) When your child knows what to expect (and what’s expected of them), it makes them feel safe, calm and confident, and it makes transitioning from one activity to the next much smoother. Try making bathtime a regular part of their evening wind-down routine, so it doesn’t become a big fight every night.
They’re afraid of something.
Fear of the bath is very common! (Especially as your toddler is developing and becoming more aware of their environment and surroundings.) Their fear could come from a discomfort they’ve felt before – maybe from the temperature of the bath, getting soap in their eyes or slipping over in the hard tub. Or it could come from their imagination – getting sucked down the drain with the water. Try talking to your child, and take their fears seriously. (Simply telling them that the bath is safe is unlikely to change their minds!) Depending on what they’re most afraid of, experiment with a shallow bath, put a non-slip mat down, allow them to bathe with a cap or visor, or even get into the tub with them.
Their senses are overloaded.
The sound of taps filling up a tub! The trickle of water over the skin! The smells and textures of different products! The dozens of bath toys! All the unique sensations of bathtime can be a lot for kids to take in. Try to make it less intense, by removing away anything that might be overwhelming. Run the bath while your child’s out of the room, keep products to a minimum, simplify the environment in the bathroom and avoid too many toys.
They’re ready for a shower.
If your child’s issues are tied specifically to baths, it might be easier for everyone to replace the tub with a shower! Having a shower can be a fun novelty for a kid who’s bored with the bath. Of course, you’ll have to accompany them and guide them through, showing them how to wash and teaching them about the hot and cold taps. After a week or two, you might find it’s just what they need to encourage them back into the tub. Or, as your child gets older, they’ll gradually be able to shower on their own.