There’s nothing like ending long days with a relaxing bath in the bathroom you’ve managed to make feel like a spa. You may find that you’re not the only one who looks forward to bath time. Your little ones may even beat you to the tub if they’re mobile, which can be great. Who can resist the giggles that erupt from babies and toddlers when they’re splashing in the water? OK, you may not be a fan of your bathroom floor and clothes becoming soaked, but at least your little one is having fun—unless they aren’t.
What happens when your child isn’t a fan of bath time?
Although it may be surprising to parents whose kids love baths, you may find that bath time produces tantrums in your household. What you think should be a relaxing evening may become stressful for everyone involved. As much as some babies and toddlers enjoy baths, the reality is that some are not a fan of being in the water. Or you may find that your child enjoys baths so much that removing them from the tub is equally stressful.
Sometimes, there isn’t an in-between when it comes to little ones and bath time. If you find that bath time isn’t particularly fun for your child—or for you—we talked to two experts who provided great tips to help you create a more soothing environment for bath time.
What are the benefits of baths (aside from the obvious)?
As stressful as bath time may be for you and your child, there are several benefits. Dr. Kaeya Choksey, MD, of South Slope Pediatrics said, “The main benefit is, of course, hygiene. It’s also a great time for parents to bond with their children by listening to music, playing with toys, or sharing stories together.”
If parents do allow toys in the bathtub, Dr. Choksey warned parents to make sure the toys are safe for the water and free of toxins. Aside from that, Dr. Choksey wants parents to understand how helpful creating a routine for their children is. Bath time is a part of that routine and it can help relax children before bedtime.
What are signs bath time may not be enjoyable for your child?
Toddlers are often labeled as difficult due to their big emotions, but Devon Kuntzman, PCC, toddler expert and founder of Transforming Toddlerhood, said parents should know that “at the root of every behavior is a feeling, emotion, or need.”
This doesn’t mean that you’re not paying attention. Again, it can be stressful trying to navigate tantrums or outbursts. However, Kuntzman said there are a few signs that indicate your toddler isn’t enjoying a bath. This includes:
- Crying when in the bath
- Refusing to take a bath
- Screaming when you try to rinse their hair
In addition, Kuntzman detailed some of the things that can disrupt an enjoyable bath experience such as “parental preference, not wanting to transition from playtime to bath time, or separation anxiety, as it signals their impending bedtime.”
To help parents navigate tantrums during bath time, Kuntzman suggested parents focus on physical safety first. This can look like “using a non-slip mat in the tub, draining water from the tub, or removing your child to a bath mat with towels,” she said.
While it can be natural for you to try to stop your child’s tantrum, per Kuntzman’s suggestion, it’s best to let them express themselves. “When a toddler is at the height of a tantrum, talking to them or touching them can intensify the tantrum,” Kuntzman said. “Sometimes, it’s best to sit quietly nearby and offer intermittent words of comfort such as ‘I’m here to help.’ As they start to calm down after releasing their emotions, they generally can accept more physical and verbal support such as hugs and words of encouragement.”
How can parents center themselves when tantrums occur during bath time?
The way you respond during stressful moments, tantrums included, has everything to do with your mindset. Kuntzman said you can “shift your mindset from ‘my child is being bad’ to ‘my child is having a hard time coping.’ Furthermore, once you’ve established physical safety so that your child doesn’t harm themselves during tantrums, it can help to ask yourself how you’re able to help your child ‘within your boundaries,'” Kuntzman said. “This might look like offering a choice between a bath and a shower or between a bath and wiping them down with a washcloth.”
How can parents create a soothing bath time environment?
We know it’s not always easy to create routines for your child if they’re having a hard time, especially when your idea of relaxation elicits a different response from them. However, it is possible for you to create a soothing bath time routine that works for you and your little one. Here are a few additional tips to help:
Check the water temperature
For safety (and comfort), always check the temperature of the water to make sure it’s not too hot or cold for your child. Dr. Choksey warned that water that’s too hot can cause burns on your child’s skin while anything too cool can disrupt their overall body temperature. This is especially true for babies and toddlers who may have sensitive skin.
Introduce water gradually
Dr. Choksey said it’s possible their child may be afraid of water. Because they are unable to verbally express that fear, this can result in a display of big emotions that may feel overwhelming.
To help children become more comfortable in the water, Dr. Choksey recommended that parents try putting them in the tub sans water if they are old enough to sit up by themselves. From there, slowly introduce them to water by allowing a little of it to splash on their feet. “The goal is to desensitize children to water [if they’re afraid of it],” Dr. Choksey said.
Use the right products for their skin
If your child has eczema, making sure their skin isn’t being irritated during baths is essential. At South Slope Pediatrics, Dr. Choksey sees this skin concern in many babies and toddlers and tells parents not to bathe them as frequently. Not only that, but by using fragrance-free products such as Pipette Baby, Burt’s Bees Baby, or Dove Baby, you can also lessen the chance your child will feel uncomfortable during or after baths. “Another tip I like to tell parents,” Dr. Choksey said, “is to pat their child’s skin dry so they do not remove moisture.”
Editor’s Note: Always seek the advice of your child’s pediatrician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Give them choices (and make it fun!)
For further relaxation, Kuntzman suggested dimming the lights and adding glow sticks to the tub to create a fun environment. She also recommended giving toddlers a sense of control such as rinsing their own hair because it can encourage more cooperation from them.
Remember, your child’s goal isn’t to add to any stress we may or may not be feeling. Like adults, babies and children are trying to find a way to communicate their emotions. Bath time may not magically become an oasis for your little one, but you can help them learn to appreciate it over time. And isn’t that one of our goals as parents? To help our little ones navigate the big world they live in.