How do you bathe your sensory sensitive child? Many children dislike bath time, especially getting their hair washed. Here’s how to bathe your child in a gentle way.
How to bathe your sensory sensitive child
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It’s been a long and active day for your child, they’ve been running around, getting dirty and enjoying childhood. They love the splash of a good puddle, and the feeling of mud in their hands.
But when it comes to bath time, their joy for all these sensory experiences end.
Bath time is a struggle. They cry, scream, and fight it off as much as possible. As dirty as they are, they just do NOT want to take a bath.
As a gentle parent, you try to empathize…you know they don’t like it…but at the same time you really, really need them to get clean.
So what do you do?
Here are some tips to bathe the sensory sensitive child how can’t stand bath time.
1. Minimize bathing – if you can
If they don’t need a bath every day, don’t feel bad about skipping it. If they do really need a bath every day, maybe consider skipping washing their hair (often this is the most traumatizing part of bath time) or use a dry shampoo in between washes. Maybe you’re child would be open to a shorter haircut if it meant they didn’t have to wash their hair as often.
You can also be sure to use as little soap/shampoo as needed to make rinsing as easy as possible.
2. Keep the bath routine predictable
Try to keep everything a predictable routine to make it easier for your child to get through the experience. Include them in the routine too so they always know what will come next. You can have some “tricks” for when it’s time to wash their hair, like they plug their ears and close their eyes, so you can prepare them to do that and it will help them feel like it’s a sense of protection or security from the scary hair washing.
Your child might feel less overwhelmed by bath time if they can have goggles to cover their eyes and nose. Make sure you adjust them so there is a snug fit so the water doesn’t get inside. This might make it much easier for when they get their hair washed.
4. Join them or bathe with a sibling
Some things are less scary if someone you trust is there with you! Bathing with your child or having them bath with a sibling might be helpful. Even if that’s not a possibility, be sure to remind them that you won’t leave the bathroom and that you’ll stay close. Maybe a stool for you to sit on will make it easier for you too.
5. Maximize a detachable shower head
With a detachable shower head you might be able to wash their hair without their face getting wet, or allow them to do it on their own. Giving them control over the bathing experience might make it easier for them, but it could also become overwhelming. Try it first with very little water coming out to see how they like it.
6. Switch to sponge baths for a time
In some cultures it is quite common to bathe with a basin of water and a washcloth without getting a drop of water on the floor (but still getting exceptionally clean). This might make it easier for your child than being fully emerged in the water.
7. Be sensitive to their sensitivities
It’s not uncommon for children to feel overwhelmed with bath time, but most of them will grow out of it eventually. Those who aren’t able to will find an alternative they’re most comfortable with (such as the sponge bath). As the parent, it’s important to try to understand what about the experience they don’t like. Maybe the bath is fine but their hair washing is the worst part, so try to find an alternative just to that.
It might be tempting to force them to take a shower or just “get it over with” as quickly as possible, but this can make the experience even more traumatizing so future baths will be even harder. As a gentle parent, you want to empathize with their struggle and try to understand it so you can find the best solution for them. If they’re old enough you can ask them to help solve the problem too, maybe they know what would work best for them.
Sensory experiences are more overwhelming when we’re not the ones controlling them
An important thing to remember, is to give your child some control over the situation. This is why a predictable routine is important. Remind them of the things they DO have control over in the experience:
“You can plug your ears if the water is bothering you.”
“Don’t forget, you can close your eyes if you want to.”
“Your goggles are right here if you need them.”
In the overwhelm, remind them of the things they can control with the situation.
It might be frustrating during this time to try to bathe your child. You want it to happen as quickly as possible, and they don’t want it to happen at all.
Try this solutions though and be sensitive to your child’s leading and bath time can be much easier, especially once you take the pressure off.
If you have any other solutions that have worked for bathing your child, be sure to leave them in the comments.
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The Moving Mama
Lizzy Mash is an experienced early childhood educator now living in Africa as a missionary working with children and families.
She teaches Christian moms how to take a more respectful and Christ-like approach to motherhood by using Gentle Parenting strategies.
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