While some parents are lucky to have toddlers who take to water like a duck, for others, bath time often spells crying fits, temper tantrums and a traumatic time for all. Even if you are a parent with a child who loves playing in the bath, often the process of getting your autonomous child into the bath can present a challenge. Toddlers are learning lots of new things everyday and are often in a world of their own. Getting them to take a bath right this instant isn't quite as simple as saying, "Hayley, come take your bath now."
Until your toddler can respond to such requests willingly, here are some creative ways to get your toddler to take a bath. It might be worth noting that not all methods work all the time and sometimes a combination of approaches and some modifications are necessary. With a little trial and error, they should at least help to minimise the number of times that taking a bath ends up becoming a battle of wills.
1. Creative Suggestions
It's all in the marketing... Even little children respond well to creative marketing. Sometimes the way you phrase "bath time" can make all the difference between a toddler rushing to take a bath and one who steadfastly refuses to be "told what to do".
Here is an example: A toddler who enjoys Thomas and Friends might respond more eagerly to the phrase "let's go to the wash down so we can be a clean and shiny engine like James". Just in case you aren't familiar with Thomas and Friends, James is one of the engines who loves going to the wash down (the place where all the engines are cleaned), and he is also very proud of being shiny and clean.
Alternatively, rather than say "take a bath", you can talk about "playing with water" or even "playing with bubbles" because both suggest engaging in a fun activity that appeals to some toddlers.
2. Let's Play with Bubbles
All children love bubbles. Sometimes the mere suggestion of playing with bubbles is enough to bring a toddler running. If you can, try to entice your toddler with a bubble bath first. If that doesn't work, you will still have the leeway to increase the ante with more bubble fun.
For instance those bubble solutions where you can blow bubbles with a special looped stick might just do the trick.
Alternatively, you can invest in a bubble gun that shoots high speed bubbles with a minimum of effort on your part. Your toddler, who hasn't quite learned how to blow bubbles will also find the bubble gun more interesting since it is easier for a child to press a trigger than to learn how to blow bubbles. The ability to make their own bubbles can be more appealing to toddlers who enjoy exerting their independence.
3. Bath Toys and Water Games
Special bath toys like rubber ducks or boats can add an extra dimension of fun to bath time. These days, there are a myriad of bath toys you can purchase to engage little ones in the bath. You can also buy bath books and interesting, colour-changing toys.
Returning to our earlier example with Thomas and Friends and the trains, one example of a water game would be to get your toddler to "take his engines to the wash down for cleaning". While your toddler is busy cleaning his engines, you can bathe him.
Alternatively, there are plenty of water durable objects around the house that you can introduce into the bath. A fun and educational activity is to offer your child cups and small bowls in the bath to practice pouring water from one receptacle to another. This serves to fulfill your toddler's desire to learn how to pour liquids in a suitable environment that doesn't require you to clean up after.
Another activity that some toddlers might enjoy is getting into the bath with a t-shirt on and later "washing" the shirt in the bath. One mother whose daughter hated bath time found that the only way she could get her daughter into the bath was to put her in fully clothed and slowly remove her clothes after she was in the bath.
4. Pictures in the Bath
Sticking plastic stickers onto the walls of the shower cubicle or onto the bath tiles, especially of characters that your child likes, can also be another way to entice your toddler to take a bath more willingly. If you don't have or can't get stickers, you can laminate pictures cut out from magazines, toy catalogues, CD covers, etc. Tell your toddler to "wash" his friends to keep him occupied while you get busy with soaping and rinsing your toddler.
5. Sweet Rewards
Rewards usually work better with older toddlers that understand the nature of a reward. Some effective rewards are stickers, small toys, and sweet treats, especially the normally forbidden ones. Sometimes the promise of being able to do a special activity after the bath can be quite effective, too. For instance, "After your bath, you can watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse."
Initially, when you are introducing the concept of a reward, you might have to offer a treat as a "taste test" then promise another one after the bath. When you toddler gets a hang of the idea, you can reserve all treats for after the bath.
6. Giving Options
Sometimes the objection to taking a bath is not necessarily the activity itself but the feeling of being imposed upon. This is especially important to a toddler who is learning to express autonomy over self. By offering an option and letting your toddler make a choice, you can still achieve an amicable end result.
Here is an example of offering an option for taking a bath: "Do you want to take a bath with the yellow bubbles or the blue bubbles?"
Sometimes negative options can work more effectively than offering a reward. For instance, "Do you want to take a bath now and watch Mickey Mouse after, or do you want to play for another ten minutes and have lights out after your bath?" Most toddlers don't like the thought of having to go to sleep and will try to avoid it almost as much - if not more so - than taking a bath.
7. Cleaning Up After Getting Dirty
Some toddlers have a natural predisposition to dislike getting dirty, although that fact itself may not stop them from engaging in fun activities that require them to get dirty. Allowing them to engage in these activities prior to bath time can be extremely effective in getting them to hop straight into the bath right after. For instance, finger painting is a fun and dirty activity that most toddlers enjoy, and washing up afterward usually brings a cooperative toddler to the bath, especially one that doesn't like to stay dirty.
With toddlers who dislike getting dirty, sometimes merely taking them to the mirror and pointing out food stains on their mouths or t-shirts can work as well.
There are many other ways to be creative about bath time and get a toddler's full cooperation. These suggestions and ideas might even help you think of other, more creative ways that suit your toddler's interests and temperament.
Although there may be times when it seems nothing you do can convince your willful toddler to take a bath without a tantrum, using tactics like these will help to prevent the majority of meltdowns.
Shen-Li is a stay-at-home-mum dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in parenting. She has a formal educational background and former work experience in healthcare. If you enjoyed this article, visit her blog Babylicious at figur8.net/baby and follow her as she learns how to raise a happy, confident and successful person.
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