When Bath Time Becomes a Battle
Bath time has been a fun and relaxing way to end (or start) the day, until suddenly it’s not. The screaming banshee being dragged to the tub or the wailing toddler trying to crawl up the sides lets you know something’s changed. These bath time fears are very common. In fact, they often emerge, along with other fears, around the ages of 12-24 months.
First, try to figure out the fear – is it of the drain? of water in the eyes? or water over the head? Second, this age happens to be a sweet spot for asserting self and independence, so sometimes it’s less fear and more stubbornness or anger. And finally, sometimes it’s just hard to stop playing and transition.
Even if you can’t pinpoint the cause, when bath time becomes a battle, these tricks may help:
If your little ones are steady enough on their feet, try switching to showers. A no-slip, flexible bath mat allows them to escape the kiddie tub and either take a full bath or be a “big kid” by taking a shower. This also allows you to offer a choice: bath or shower? This little bit of independence lets them feel more in control.
It Takes Two
Let your toddler take a shower with mom or dad. It is definitely not uber-relaxing or extra-hot shower time for the adult in there. But it’s a perfect way to take care of cleanliness while offering support and comfort. Once the novelty wears off, you can ease out after a few minutes and let them play.
Break out some music or rotate in some new bath toys. “Head, Shoulders, Knees And Toes” is a great song for learning body parts and getting ’em washed. “Splish Splash”, “Rubber Ducky” and “Wheels on the Bus” are fun tunes for distraction and a little movement. Bath letters and numbers, a plastic tea set for fixing mama some drinks, even empty Easter eggs can be introduced to tub time play.
Daniel Tiger has an episode that tackles bath and drain fears. Sesame Street has a song and Ernie has his rubber duckie. The Bath Song is super catchy (there’s a reason it’s been watched over 200,000,000 times!). Check out your munchkin’s favourite show to see whether it addresses bath time. Watching it a few times may help normalize and work through the fear. Your toddler will see that it’s ok to be nervous or scared. Kids also see that they can do it “just like Daniel Tiger” (or Ernie or Elmo or any character really).
Dirty Hair, Don't Care
Remember that you can wash hair and even wash bodies less frequently during rough patches. Unless spaghetti was on the dinner menu or a paint explosion happened at daycare, a quick wipe-down could suffice. And while your baby may have loved water streaming down their face, your toddler? Not so much. Use the detachable shower head for a “salon experience”: have them tip that head back and look to the sky so you can rinse without trauma and minimal drama.
Bubbles - or Not
Try out a bubble bath. Splashing, bubble beards, discovering toys under the foam- all fun distractions from fear! But remember that toddler fears can mutate. Bubbles can work for a day, then panic can set in when they can’t see their feet or the bubbles stay on their skin. #toddlerwhiplash
Like Water Down the Drain
Like many toddler challenges, this too shall pass. Just as fast as it comes, it can fade and disappear. Showing empathy to their fear – whether we find it rational or not – and choosing our battles when faced with a stubborn streak can ease bath time battles. Then, one day you realize there are no more tears and the storm has passed.