Making bath time fun? Not an easy task for kids with Sensory Processing Disorders... particularly, tactile defensiveness!
Every task associated with bathing and hair washing can truly be torture for these kids; getting their hair wet, pulling the hair while washing it, getting water or soap in their eyes, using washcloths that feel like sandpaper... and don't even think about getting them under those stinging streams of water that come from a shower head!
Oh, I remember these days with my daughter well.
As parents we often resort to some very creative thinking when dealing with these issues and trying to make bath time fun. I know I did!
Whether your child has sensory issues or not, the everyday monotony of taking a bath can, in itself, take the fun out of it. Anything that makes this time more fun will be invaluable! For you and your kids sake... spice it up!
After you read these great ideas below from Jennifer, I will let you in on some of my secrets for making bath time fun (or tolerable anyways) for kids with tactile defensiveness.
by: Jennifer Gove
Bubble bath can be irritating to little ones causing urinary tract infections, yeast infections, as well as skin irritation. A few drops of food coloring is a wonderful solution adding interest and fun to your child’s bath. You can also turn each bath into a learning experience; drop one color in, such as red, then ask your child what they think will happen if you add a drop of yellow.
Measuring cups are fun for pouring and filling in the tub and if you have an old set they are a great free fun set of toys for the tub. They can stack and pour to their hearts content and maybe even learn to wet their hair for washing. Control gives many children the power to overcome fears such as getting their hair wet for washing.
Learning time can be created through the use of measures. Take the one cup measuring cup and ask the child how many of each cup it will take to fill your big cup.
You must use supervision with young children, but we all know you must supervise young children in the bath any how ;-)
In a few small cups put some hypoallergenic shaving cream (test on the child a few days before on a very small spot for allergies) then add a few drops food coloring to the desired color. Mix well. Your child can then enjoy painting their toes, legs and belly. I would discourage using it in the face area. These paints are very easy to clean up.
Kids love to sing and to be sung to. Bath time songs like "Rubber Ducky" and "Splish Splash I Was Taking A Bath" are great bath time songs. When my children were very young we played "This Little Piggy" as I washed each toe.
Little ones like to do as their parents do. Bringing a doll into the tub for them to wash is often great fun. Show them how to shampoo and rinse the dolls hair. My daughters all loved to wash their dolls hair as I washed theirs. They were so preoccupied they did not even care that theirs was being washed!
Wash well with soap and hot water the Styrofoam plates your meats come in. Once you have about four cut some fish shapes from them. Your child can use the big one cup measuring cup to capture his fish!!! See how fast your little fisherman or fisher girl is at catching their fish! If the fish are different colors you can play fish store and request your special fish and watch them chase it around the tub. This one makes for lots of giggles.
I save my margarine tub covers and cut out the centers. My shampoo bottles make great posts to play ring toss with. My only caution is making sure when you cut out the centers there are no sharp edges. My older kids love to play this in the tub together.
Cut animal shapes from new sponges; frogs, alligators, sharks, and fish are all popular bath choices. But really, the choices are endless; you could even make a fleet of trucks for your little boy! Fabric puff paint would be great to lightly decorate one side of the sponge. Once it is dry they are grate bath time companions. They float as well as stick to the tub walls.
Jennifer & Gregory Gove
About The Author
Jennifer if a full time stay at home mother living in Maine.
As promised, here are some of my own suggestions for making bath time fun and tolerable, after having had to bathe my tactile defensive child for years!
The first suggestion is to give your child some good proprioceptive input and deep pressure before bath time. For some great suggestions on how to do this check out heavy work activities . These will put your child into a more relaxed neurological state before beginning!
Now, for specific techniques I used for making bath time fun (or, at least,
tolerable). The most bothersome issue for my daughter was the hair washing.
The slightest pull of the hair or getting water in her eyes was shear "torture".
Two things that helped were:
Knowing that the "torture" had a predictable end to it, as well as focusing on counting instead of her fears, enabled us to get through it more easily.
As for tactile defensiveness and washing up, she has always used (and continues to this day) "baby" washcloths for washing her face and body. However, there are times we work on tolerating the rougher textures, which is important to continue so one day she may be able to use them.
If all else fails, try the no rinse shampoos and soaps while working on the tactile defensiveness issues through professional treatment (i.e, Occupational Therapy).
If there are particular spots that are real tough for your child due to hypersensitivity (for my daughter it is the neck area), have her rub a strong "mask-like" cleanser on these spots. Let it soak into the skin and "do it's thing" while she is playing in the tub. Rinse it off or rub it off with the most she will tolerate that night (i.e., just plain water splashing, palms of hands, baby washcloth, or a regular one if she is having a good night). The last in our "bag of tricks" to make bath time fun was to use music during her bath. On one of the tapes she had, there was a "Rub-A-Dubba-Dubba" song that helped us wash her while we sang along. There are many bath time fun tapes out there... believe me, the entertainment and distraction factors are priceless!
And of course, just as you started the bath time "fun" with some good deep
pressure, end it there as well. We would heat a towel up for her in the
dryer, then give her some good tight rubbing and squeezing to dry her off.
Also, good was warming some lotion in our hands and giving her a nice
I know bath time fun is not so fun with kids with tactile defensiveness, but
I hope you find some of these "tricks" helpful. So, go get some great
bath time toys, make some at home, and/or get creative using activities and songs. Bring bath time fun into the "scary" task of getting clean!
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