6 Little Known Ways to Get Kids to Bathe

Some kids love bath time and can’t wait to get in the tub every time you suggest it. Others fall on the spectrum from disinterested to downright frightened of baths. If you’re having trouble getting your kids to bathe, try these counter intuitive tips to make bath-time easier and more enjoyable for everyone.

1) Limit the amount of toys—

Less is more. Trust me on this one. Adding just one or two types of items, rather than every bath toy you own will increase the joy and ease of bathtime. Reducing the number of toys keeps kids more interested in each item over the long-term because they don’t habituate as quickly and get bored with the toys.

And since they’re not so overwhelmed by a bath full of toys, they actually have room to move and play. If your child is in the habit of dumping everything into the tub, you may need to do two things. First, separate the bath toys into subsets, each in their own small plastic bin or basket. Second, have a conversation with your child about the new routine and hold the line. “You may choose one basket of toys for each bath and save the rest for another bath.”

2) Encourage self-care in other areas—

Install a full-length mirror and offer a hand mirror so your child can begin to notice his appearance. Instead of wiping her face, hand her a wet cloth and help her to a mirror. Then leave. Staring at children rarely gets them to do what we want.

But allowing them to explore, observe, and clean their own bodies helps kids develop an internally motivated sense of personal hygiene. It also helps to provide child sized items like brushes and combs that are easily accessible for self-care.

3) Offer activities or themes (ONLY if this is fun for you)—

Bubbles, bath crayons, dinosaurs, water pump, water mill, cups and pitchers, glow sticks. Or suggest that your child decide on a theme. And remember #1, just one of these items is more powerful than lumping them all together. This makes each bath a unique and exciting experience, rather than the same old thing night after night. But, if this feels more like an obligation than a party, stop. Your job is to get your kid clean, not to constantly entertain them.

4) Make it a shorter bath—

Make bath-time more in demand when you limit the length of each bath to 30 minutes or less. By stopping bath before your child is tired of it, you’re increasing the likelihood that she’ll get excited about the next bath. Sure, you might have some tears or upset as you finish up, but nighttime tears are pretty common, normal and healthy, and right now your aim is to consistently get your child into the bath without a fuss.

5) Ask your child to wash a doll, toy, or item of clothing—

I got this advice from my friend who designs corner baths UK style and I’m constantly amazed at how well it works to take the pressure off of my daughter and ask her instead to play the role of the teacher. By asking your kids to do a task, help out, show you how, or teach a doll how to wash, you’re no longer putting pressure on them to bathe, instead, you’re inviting them to be the one in charge of the washing. For young people, being the knowledgeable one who’s in charge is often an irresistible role to play.

6) Bathe less often—

When children feel forced to have a bath on a nightly basis, they tend to rebel. But when given options of taking a bath once every few nights, kids are far more likely to agree. Again, you’re making the bathing experience more fun and novel. Note: this does go against some popular advice about bedtime routines. However, for us, the bath is an optional part of our bedtime routine and everything else is consistent.

So, if you sometimes struggle to get the kids in the bath, try one or more of these tips and let me know how it goes. And if you have any other suggestions, feel free to share them in the comments section. These are by no means the only ways to encourage baths with reluctant kiddos.

Have a fabulous week full of clean kids!

Warmly, Shelly