Convincing a reluctant toddler to love bathtime

At this age, Baby is becoming more perceptive, and also more independent. Even toddlers who used to love splashing in the tub can suddenly begin resisting bathtime, and while it is frustrating, it is also developmentally appropriate.

If Baby is suddenly making bathtime a battle, it’s important to determine the source of his resistance. It may be that he has developed a fear of the water, or of shampoo getting in his eyes while his hair is being rinsed. As he starts to connect the dots of your daily schedule, he may also begin to associate the sound of running water with the end of playtime, and the beginning of his bedtime routine. Because playing is more fun than sleeping, it’s natural for him to start to push back.

Whatever the reason for his reluctance, bathtime is still an important part of his day, so it’s up to you to banish those bathtime blues and make the bath seem more fun.

  • Bring in the toys: Who says playtime has to stop once bathtime starts? Offering some exciting toys that are exclusive to the tub will help make this time more appealing. Bath toys these days don’t stop with simple rubber duckies, either. Foam letters, bath crayons and paints, and toys that move and paddle are game changers at tubby time.
  • Make bath supplies appealing: Does Baby have a favorite color, or even a favorite character? If so, try to incorporate it into the bath. Look for washcloths with familiar faces, or sponges in a favorite shade of blue, to help get him excited.
  • Let your toddler help: With careful supervision, you can start to let him help you set up the bath. Sometimes, toddlers are afraid the water will be too hot, or too deep. If you let Baby be your assistant in the bathtime prep, and even “test the waters” before climbing in, him will feel much more secure.
  • Share responsibility: Toddlers love being independent, so letting Baby take over some of the washing duties with him. You’ll want to finish up for him, of course, but there’s no harm in letting him practice washing his body with a washcloth before you get into the real cleaning.
  • Talk about what to expect: Instead of plunking him into the water right away, let him know it’s almost time to stop playing because he needs a bath. Similarly, instead of suddenly telling him it’s time to get out, tell Baby it’ll be time to towel off in one more minute. This will help him prepare for the transition.

Many toddlers go on bath strikes, and it’s usually nothing to worry about, and simple tweaks to your routine can generally solve the problem. If Baby seems irrationally afraid of the water, or becomes inconsolable at bathtime, consider talking to his pediatrician to see if they have any other thoughts about what may be causing the fear.

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