For some parents bathtime can be a fun and/or relaxing experience. For others, bathtime can be quite challenging. It often causes a negative reaction in children with sensory processing difficulties. Some things that might trigger a negative reaction in kids include: the sound of running water, water temperature, bathroom lights, the smell of soap or shampoos, fear of getting soap in the eyes, the feeling of being wet after washing, and the feeling of being towel dried. The best way to make bath time more enjoyable is to limit fears and incorporate some of your child’s favorite activities and toys. Some tips to make bath time more fun and enjoyable include:
Preparation – Prepare the bathtub beforehand. Fill the tub and turn water off before your child comes into the bathroom so that the noise and environment does not cause sensory overload.
Routine – Ensure that bathtime occurs at the same time each day to remove fear of the unexpected. Be consistent with your bath time schedule. Bathing in warm water before bed may be relaxing for some children, but for others it is overstimulating and therefore an early bath time might be preferred.
Preparatory words- Use preparatory words to ease any anxieties (for example: say “soap, scrub, rinse, towel”).
Incorporate favorites- Take notes of the items your child engages with frequently and incorporate these toys into bathtime!
Switch it up – If your child doesn’t like a bath, try a shower. You can also try a different bathroom in the house (changing the scenery may make a big difference).
Fun activities to try:
-Bath foam- make fun beards and mustaches
-Reading bath books
Providing proprioceptive input through heavy work before bathing, such as animal walks or pushing a heavy shopping cart, can be regulating and provide calming sensory input. It is important to pay attention to your child’s reactions and body language in order to find what strategies work best!
Written by Tyler Boeing, MS OTR/L