HELP: How Can I Make Bath Time a Positive Experience With Special Needs?
How can I make bath time more fun? My child hates taking a bath and it’s a nightly battle in our home. — Raja
Why don’t kids appreciate a warm bath the way we do!? It is so tough when daily tasks are a fight and I can empathize with the dread you must feel as bath time approaches each night. But don’t lose heart, there are lots of ways to spruce up this chore. Here are some ways you can add fun to bath time!
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning! Find ways to integrate your child’s favorite color, characters, toys, or activities into the bath time routine. Maybe get a princess washcloth or dinosaur-shaped rubber duckies, for example.
Sometimes the thrill of doing a non-bath time activity IN the bathtub is an exciting distraction. Some examples might be letting your child bring Legos or a Barbie into the bath. Maybe your child can use cups and spoons to play kitchen in the tub. Let your child color or paint in the bath. They make bath friendly paints, crayons, and markers! Instead of just using bubble bath, actually blow bubbles with a traditional wand in the bath. Have your child try to catch or pop the bubbles as you blow them, then take turns and you can be the one to pop them. Toss in some plastic balls and make the bath a ball pit party. Find simple ways to combine play and bath time.
Include sensory experiences
There are tons of products out there to make bath time a full sensory experience. Think of things that feel nice, look nice, and smell nice. There are a variety of colored bath fizzes and scented bath bombs. A website for DaBomb Fizzies even sells bath bombs with surprise toys inside. Foam and shaving cream are an easy way to provide neat sensations, as well. Additionally, there’s a product that changes the consistency of bath water into a variety of textures to provide a full body sensory experience. These products change the water into slime, gel, or gooey crystals. (Check Amazon or WalMart for Squishy Baff, Gelli Baff, and Slime Baff). You could even do a “cosmic” bath in the dark with glow sticks!
Create a simple schedule with a highly preferred activity right after a bath. Be sure to leave extra time for the reward activity. This may mean starting bath a little bit early. For my daughter, we use five minutes of YouTube after a bath. Maybe for your child, it’s getting to snuggle in your bed for a few minutes, or extra time playing blocks before bed. You can print out pictures to show your child “First bath, then ____.” Make sure the reward is ready to go and deliver it immediately after the bath. Don’t require all the follow up tasks to be completed first. For now, just focus on getting bath done. In other words, don’t worry about putting pajamas on, brushing teeth, and so on. Just give your child the reward as soon as possible, even if that means letting your child play in a bathrobe for a few minutes.
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Kids, like adults, like to have some freedom and space to do things for themselves. Let your child take charge of small aspects of the bath. Maybe your child can turn the water on and off under your supervision. Or perhaps your child wants to be the one to pull the drain out. Let your child squeeze the shampoo or pour in the bubble bath. Find small ways to give your child the chance to take control.
Switch it up
Maybe your kid isn’t a bath kind of kid. Try shower time! Or, you can try doing bath in a different bathroom. My daughter loves getting to use mommy’s bath! A change of scenery can make a world of difference.
I hope these ideas are helpful at making this daily chore a bit more bearable. Keep thinking outside the box and don’t be afraid to try new things. If your child receives ABA therapy, ask the team for help with strategies you can implement, or better yet, have your child’s team perform bath time with you to coach you through it. Best of luck!
Angelina M. works as a board certified behavior analyst specializing in assessing and treating children and adolescents with autism, Down syndrome, and other developmental delays. She began her career in applied behavior analysis in 2006, following her youngest brother’s autism diagnosis, and has since worked with dozens of children and families. She also writes a blog about her experiences as both a professional and a big sister. Her brother, Dylan, remains her most powerful inspiration for helping others who face similar challenges. You can learn more about Angelina on her blog, The Autism Onion, or on Facebook.
This article was featured in Issue 79 – Managing Everyday Life