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Parents say: What to do if your toddler hates baths

If your former water baby has turned into a toddler who fears the tub, you're not alone. Many toddlers hate the feeling of water on their faces, may fear getting sucked down the drain, or may be scared by accidentally pooping or peeing in the water. #BabySuddenlyHatesBaths #HappyBaby #MondayMorningMoms #ChildCare

What to do if your toddler hates baths

Fortunately, there are many parent-tested approaches you can take to help your child overcome this challenging stage. Here's how other parents restored order and calm to their bath-time routines:

Break out the bubbles

"This may sound obvious, but our older kids had grown out of bubbles, so we had forgotten about them. When our daughter suddenly started hating baths, we tried all sorts of new toys, songs, etc. One day while she was helping me wash dishes and playing with the bubbles, it occurred to me that she might like bubbles in the tub. It worked!"

Turn the tub into an art zone

"I bought some special crayons and paints for the bathtub, and today my toddler took a 30-minute bath with no fussing or crying. She had a great time scribbling all over the tub and walls and at the end everything wiped off with a quick swipe of the sponge."

"Our solution has been to let her 'paint' in the tub. I bought some bath-time paints and a sponge paint brush and let her go to town on the walls. They're nontoxic and wash off with water, so there really is no mess. She has a blast."

"My 18-month-old is really into letters, so I bought those foam ones that stick and some bathtub crayons. I let my husband bring her into our (dry) tub one day where I was sitting and drawing all her favorite shapes and letters all over the tub. She didn't get in right away, so we let her color on the outside. She eventually got into the tub and I let her do this several times a day, whenever she asked to, eventually adding the water back in for a real bath."

"I discovered colored bath fizzies that make the water turn different colors. I think they come in red, blue, and yellow, and you can mix them to make secondary colors, too. My son loves watching the water run and change colors, and now he'll stay in the bath."

Bathe with favorite toys

"My son has two little plastic monkeys that take a bath with him. When it's time to wash, I say, 'Okay, monkeys! Time to get clean.' I wash the monkeys and name their body parts out loud, and he repeats them. Then I say, "Okay, dude – your turn!" and he lets me wash him with no problem."

"I bought a little pink bunny-shaped sponge. The minute I brought it home, I showed it to my daughter. Then bunny went into the bathroom to 'wait for her' in the tub. She couldn't wait to join her bunny friend for a bath."

"My 2-year-old daughter is going through the 'no bath' stage. One way we get her into the tub is to fill up the bath and tell her that we're just going to give her toys a bath. Within a couple of minutes she's pulling off her diaper and getting in with them."

Make every night showtime

"For distraction, I went out and got some bath puppets. (You can make some out of old socks.) I give my toddlers one puppet to play with, and I use the other puppet to bathe them and wash their hair."

"My kids got over their fear of having their hair washed when I let them lather up their hair into funny shapes. We have a handheld mirror in the bathroom so they can see the funny 'dos."

Play beauty salon

"I get into the tub with my daughter and let her pretend to wash my hair. Then we switch and she actually lets me wash hers."

Cover the drain or get out before draining

"When my daughter developed a fear of the tub almost overnight, my mother suggested she might be afraid of the drain. What worked for us almost immediately is to put one of those Elmo faucet covers on top of the drain. Elmo will 'protect' her and she can't even see the drain."

"Make sure you're not letting the water drain while your child is watching. When my son went through a stage of being scared of baths, we figured out it was because he thought that he was going to get sucked down with the water."

Use a washcloth or cup for rinsing out hair

"My son is afraid of getting water on his face so I use a washcloth to rinse his hair. It takes longer but we make it through with fewer tears."

"I bought some stacking cups that are made for bath time. They're great tub toys, and I can use them to rinse my daughter's hair without her having to lie back in the water or under the faucet."

Bring back the infant tub

"When my toddler starting melting down about getting into the bath, we dug out her old infant bathtub and let her sit in it while we bathe her in the big tub. It gives her a sense of security."

Take a step back

"My son hated the bath from around 11 to 15 months. I tried everything – toys, bubbles, and so on – and finally decided that we were going to start all over again. I didn't put him in the tub for almost an entire month. I just wiped him down with a washcloth and soap every night, and after almost four weeks I got some new toys and put them in the tub and he loved it! Now he fusses every time I take him out."

Try standing up

"Get a full-length, non-slip bath mat or attach non-slip stickers to the base of your tub, remove anything your child might land on if she did fall, such as an over-the-bath book rest, pad the faucets with a towel or a faucet cover, and stay close during tub time (as you would anyway!). Letting our daughter stand up in the tub was all it took to end the drama and she eventually went back to sitting down."

"When our toddler refused to sit down in the tub, we decided to try the shower where we had a handheld shower head. We did have to get into the shower with him and water would occasionally get sprayed everywhere, but no more screaming and crying."

Wear a shower visor

"What seemed to scare my child was the water getting on her face, so I found a set of shower visors online. The visor eliminated about 90 to 95 percent of the water from getting on her face when I had to wash her hair and she was happy as could be and started loving baths again."

Try a children's shower head

"My 23-month-old daughter had become fearful of the tub so I bought a children's shower head and a bath mat. The shower head looks like a hippo. You attach it to the bath spigot and water shoots out the hippo's mouth and cheeks. She finds it hysterical and is too busy giggling to cry."

Decorate the ceiling

"My 18-month-old doesn't like getting water and shampoo in her eyes. To get her to put her head back when we rinse her hair, we hung her favorite butterfly toy (one with a great big smile) from the ceiling. Now, when we want her to put her head back, we just say, 'Look up at the butterfly!' It works like a charm. You could hang a favorite poster or photo or anything that will get your child's attention."

Transition back to the tub gradually

"One of our twin daughters developed a bathtub fear at about 21 months. For a week or so we washed her outside the tub, and then slowly started to add a little water to the tub and let her splash it around while she still had on her diaper and shirt. Then we started filling the tub up more, taking off the diaper and shirt and soaping her up a little. Now she'll sit down and play and takes to the bath just like she used to."

"After my daughter completely refused to take a bath, I backed off and started slowly re-introducing her to the tub without the water in it. I let my daughter throw her rubber ducks into the tub over and over again throughout the day and let her play with them and other toys in a dry tub. I then slowly added a little water one night, then a little more the next. By the third or fourth night, I had a hard time getting her out."

Bathe together

"I ended up having to sit in the tub with my son while he played with his bath toys. Eventually I started shortening the length of time I was in there and now I can sit on the edge of the tub and have just my arms in there with him."

Sit on the potty before getting in tub

"My daughter got really scared when she pooped by accident in the bathtub one time and refused to take a bath for days after that. I now have her sit on a training potty before she goes in the tub, which she happily does, and she has slowly been willing to start bathing again."

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