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5 Things to Do When a Toddler Refuses Bath

5 Things to Do When a Toddler Refuses Bath

Your child who used spending hours in the water suddenly hates the bathtub? You are not alone! Many toddlers are afraid of water on their face or getting their hair washed. The sudden fear may be due to fear of being washed down the drain or scared of accidentally peeing or pooping the tub.
Although for most toddlers’ bath time is the most relaxing, for some it the most dreaded time. Children cry during bath time for many different reasons. If you have to chase your toddler for his bath, it is possible there is something that is making him refuse to a bath.

As with many other issues that children have, power struggling with your child and out-powering him is not the solution. Getting to the root of your child’s fear will give you a lasting solution.

The following are some of the reasons as to why your baby hates bath time all of a sudden:
• Fear of being washed down the drain
• Fear of soap getting into his eyes
• Fear of slipping in the tub
• “I have something at hand to do, I do not want to bath”
• Fear of bedtime – most if bedtime comes immediately after a bath
• Fear of the sound of water pouring in the tub
• Fear of bugs in the bathtub
• Fear of feeling the water on his body
• Fear of the temperature of the water
• Hard time changing from one activity to another

Sometimes it might be a combination of more than one of the reasons above that will make your child hate the tub. Other times it might be one simple bad experience in the tub that turns him off. Whatever the reason your toddler cries a lot during bath time, it is stressful not only to your child but to you also.

You need to be patient with your child and be as gentle as possible. With lots of love, your child will be splashing the water as before again in no time. Try to find out the reason why he does not want to bath. If you learnt that maybe it is the soap that got into his eyes last time, talk to him and let him understand that you know how he feels. Use reassuring words such as, “I will make sure you have closed your eyes before washing your hair.” Do not force him to take the bath, he might need a few more reassurances before he comes out of his fear. However, sometimes he might refuse to bath simply because of merely being stubborn.

How to deal with Fear Sitting in the Bathtub

The following are some of the methods you can use to deal with your toddler if he is afraid of sitting in the tub:

fear sitting in bath tub

(i) Watch the water temperature – your child might be afraid to sit in the tub because of the temperature of the water. To prevent your child from getting burnt, ensure that the temperature of the water is right. The water should not be more than 48.9 degrees Celsius. You can check the temperature of the water with your elbow or wrist. The water should feel warm on your skin and not hot.

(ii) Prevent slips – again your child might be afraid to sit in the tub because he slipped and fell last time. To prevent your child from slipping and falling in the tub, install no-slip strips at the bottom of the bathtub and follow bath safety rules. You can also cover the facet of the tub with cushions to ensure that if your child falls, he will not be hurt. Besides that, ensure that you always close the lid of the toilet. Sometimes your toddler out of curiosity might try to play with the toilet and get hurt.

(iii) Don’t leave your child unattended – sometimes your child might be scared if you leave him alone. Never leave your child alone in the tub even for a moment. This is because your child can easily slip and drown in the bath water. So, even if you are going to answer a phone call or doorbell, wrap your toddler in a towel and go with him.

(iv) Don’t drain the tub with your child seated in it – how sensitive is a child? Is he afraid of sounds? Sometimes the aggressive sucking sound that water makes when draining can scare your child. The sucking of the water will make your child feel like he will be sucked down the drain. However, he might outgrow this fear. Therefore, ensure that you take your child out of the tub before pulling the drain.

(v) Keep all electric appliances away – if you like using electrical appliances such as hair drier in the bathroom, they might be the source of your child’s fear. Maybe your child is afraid of the sound of the hair drier. So, ensure that you unplug all appliances and keep them away before taking your baby for a bath. If you can, use the appliances in another room. This will make your child feel secure sitting in the tub.

Use baby tub

baby bath tub

If your toddler is refusing to use the bathtub, you can introduce the baby bathtub. You can put the baby tub inside the bigger bathtub. You let your toddler sit in the baby tub and you bath him from the main bathtub

In India, you can be able to purchase the baby tub from Amazon and you will have it delivered to your doorstep.

What to do

Almost every toddler goes through the stage of refusing to take a bath. When your child does, here are 5 tried and fool-proof things you can do to get your toddler into the tub and keep him there without crying.

1. Explain the time it will take to bath

One of the reasons as to why toddlers do not like bathtubs are transitioning from one activity to another. Maybe he is busy playing and its bath time. He is likely to resist bathing because he wants to continue playing. But the funny part is that once he gets into the tub, he does not want to come out.

To overcome this, you can prepare your child for bath time at least 10 minutes earlier. If your toddler is too young for a verbal warning for bath time, let your warning be in the form of activity. For older children, you can warn him with a simple statement like, “after you are done with your homework, it will be bath time.” You can also prepare your baby with the help of a bath song. You can have a song that plays every time you want to bath your child.

By singing or playing a song just before bath time will help your child prepare for a bath. The main reason for the song is to let your child know that bath time is coming and it will help him prepare and transition without much problem.

For toddlers, you can have a special towel that you wrap around him a few minutes before bath time. The towel will help him know that in a few minutes coming, he will be taking a bath.

2. Associate Bath time with Fun Time

The primary goal of making bath time fun time is to help your child not to focus on his fears. There are plenty of ways through which you can make bath time to be a fun time. Some of the ways include:

bath time fun time
  • Add bath toys in the tub
  • Add color to the bath – you can add food colors to the bath water. Maybe your child does not like clear water, by adding colors it makes the experience fun.
  • Use bath paint or crayons – it helps turn the bath time into fun play time. The paint is easy to clean and it does not the steak. Allow your child to paint as you bath him.
  • Have bath blocks – there are specially designed block bath toys which your child can use to play with as he takes a bath. For added fun, help your toddler to build with the blocks and then smash them
  • Using the bath table – the bath table can distract your child and make bath time fun. It comes with cups of different colors designed to fit a tabletop that has different shapes. As your child will be busy to fit the cups in their respective shapes, you will have a humble time to bath him.
  • Use Glo-sticks – during the bath time, turn off the normal light and turn on the Glo-sticks. The sticks have different colors which make the bath water glow with different colors. It will create an amazing environment that your child will enjoy to be in.
  • Keep the water level low – once your baby used to enjoy bath time but suddenly he hates it. Keep the water level low so that he can be able to play in it. Once he enjoys the low water level, you can start increasing it slowly.

3. Get in With Him

If all the other tricks will fail, this one is a must win. Give your child companionship in the tub. Children learn from the example set by their parents. The best way to get your child to love the splash of the water once again is to lead by example.
By showing your toddler how much fun you are having in the bathtub, it might inspire him to want to hit the bath again. If he does not like water on his hair, by you getting your hair wet will encourage him to wet his hair as well.

In fact, if you can allow your child to help wash your hair. When you are done, he will be more than willing to let you wash his hair.

4. Avoid Soapy Eye Experience

The biggest fear of most children is getting soap in their eyes. Children have a very good memory of what causes them pain. A teary experience is what they try to avoid at all costs. If he had the experience once, he is likely to want to avoid it.

The biggest fear of most children is getting soap in their eyes. Children have a very good memory of what causes them pain. A teary experience is what they try to avoid at all costs. If he had the experience once, he is likely to want to avoid it.

Apart from soap getting into his eyes, he may not like water on his face as well. Therefore, avoid these experiences if you want your kid to enjoy bath time again.

There are a number of ways through which you can avoid the soapy eye experience. To avoid water from getting to his face, use the bath visor. In addition to that, keep a dry towel nearby such that if water gets to the face, you can wipe it immediately. This will make your child confident that if he gets a wet face, you will wipe his face dry.

Another method of avoiding water from getting to the face is decorating the ceiling. You can put either starts or nice decorations which will keep your child to look up
. As he looks up, water will not get to his face.

When Toddler hates hair wash
Does your toddler hate water on his hair or face? Well, you can help him overcome his fears. Do not use water to rinse his hair. Instead, use a washcloth or a cup to rinse his hair. The truth is it will take you a long time to rinse his hair but it will prevent all the crying.

There are specially designed stacking cups which are meant for bathing. They can act as bath toys also. You can use these cups to rinse your son’s hair without necessarily your get lie the water in the tub. This will prevent water from getting to your son’s face.
If he does not want you to pour water on his hair, don’t force him. Instead, you can use a washcloth to clean his hair. Soak a washcloth in water and clean his hair. It might take more time but it will help prevent a lot of crying.

Also read-

5. Avoid Sensory Triggers

How sensitive is your child? Is he sensitive to temperature or noise? There are various things in the bathtub that might make him afraid. It is crucial to know whether your child is sensitive to anything in the bathroom before you take him there.

Some children are afraid of the sound of the water filling the water tub. If you notice your child putting his hands on his ears, it indicates that he does not like that sound of water filling the tub. It is advisable under such cases to fill the tub with water before you bring the baby to it. A still bathtub might be more appealing to your child than the sound of rushing water.

Other children are sensitive to changes in temperature. You can know this if your baby refuses to sit in the tub. Allow him to stand throughout the bath. However, ensure that you hold him well so that he will not slip.

Some children also do not like water around their bodies. If you try placing him the tub but he clings to you or stands in the tub, don’t force him to sit. To help your child overcome fearing water around his body, let him sit in an empty tub and then fill up the water slowly. This will help him get used to water as it swells around him. The water will tickle his body and he might enjoy it.

Filling the water as the child is seated in the tub will also help him to adapt to the change in temperature. As the cold water comes in first and them the warm will help him adjust to the change and will be able to appreciate it.


As explained above, children hate bath time for different reasons. Sometimes your child might feel disconnected from you or he cannot express himself to you or maybe he wants things done in a different way. In some kids, he is hungry, tired or just mischievous.

Your biggest task is to find a way of making your child love the splash of the water once again. Be kind, gentle and loving in finding out what is the underlying factor. Maybe he needs his toy in the tub but does not know how to ask for it. Once you know the reason behind his resistance, you can start equipping him with the strategies and skills to get what he wants.

Bath time can be fun for you and your child at any age. Take the time to enjoy this experience. All too soon your older child will want to bathe himself. Don’t miss out on these early years that you will always remember with fond memories.

By teaching him new skills that he can use to handle himself better, you are guiding him to be a better child. You need to walk with him through that stage and he will come out a better and lovely child