Bath Time for the Young Child

By Ron Hindbaugh M.A.

Sometimes getting a small child to "clean up" or take a bath can be a very traumatic event for both the child and the parent. The following are some suggestions that may be useful to parents to help survive the hot summer ahead.

1.    Make a step stool available so your child can reach the sink by themselves. You will need to monitor its use but eventually your child will become independent in hand washing because they can take care of this task themselves.

2.    Provide you child with their own "child height mirror." It is always more fun to wash up if you can see yourself in the mirror.

3.    Make a soft washcloth or sponge available for the tender skin of a child.

4.    Get some bubble bath and a hand egg beater and make the bath a real "sudsy experience."

5.    Sometimes "soap crayons" can be purchased at the store that will "draw" kids to the bath tub.

6.    Baths taken earlier in the day are sometimes more fun than those associated with bed time.

7.    In the bath tub get the washing done in a hurry and let your child play in the tub for a specified time period.

8.    Carry on a conversation with your child while they take their bath. This allows for quality time with your child and supervision of the bath at the same time.

Sometimes children are afraid of the bath water. It could be because they have been hurt by hot water, soap, or a fall in the tub. A few youngsters are afraid of whooshing down the drain. As an adult it is easy to see that these fears are unreasonable. To a child, these fears are very real. They can be classified as simple phobias. The key to overcoming these fears is to slowly help the child come to the same conclusion you have about such fears. As a result, patience is the most important attribute the parent must possess to help the child gradually overcome these fears.

The method used to help a child who is afraid of soap, water, hair washing, etc. is called "Successive Approximation." The parent gradually gives experiences that become more and more like the real thing. To help a child who is afraid of getting their face, make a game of "face wetting." At fist the game would consist of sprinkling water on the child's face in a playful way. Gradually give the child experiences that required more and more water to be on the face. Eventually the child will place there face in the water or under the shower head and find it a fun thing to do. They may even be proud of themselves for overcoming a fear.

Although it may seem like learning to be responsible for their own bathing takes a long time, the day does come when your child can be responsible for their own personal hygiene. Be patient not only with them but with yourself.

If you can make routine tasks like cleaning up and taking a bath pleasant times to be with your child, you make life better for both yourself and your child. As a bonus you also create good memories that will last for a lifetime. If we can help our children learn to overcome little fears, like the fear of water or hair washing, they will have the skills needed to overcome the big fears that they will face later in the future