For the past month or two, Charlie has decided he doesn't want to take his nightly bath. Getting him into the tub has quickly become a nightly battle of wills... which is a battle we would never win (let's be honest).
I asked around, and it turns out that this is actually a very common toddler phase. It's probably due to a combination of Charlie asserting his independence, and not wanting to go to sleep because he's having too much fun playing. So we have had to use our brains and try to outsmart him! Here's what we've come up with.
- Pretend you're having sooo much fun. I'll run the water and start playing in the tub, laughing the entire time, saying how much fun it is and how it's daddy's bath and not Charlie's bath. I don't bother being believable - it's all about overacting! Soon Charlie is begging to come in the tub and join in on the fun.
- Create a neutral intermediate activity to ease the transition. We run the bath at the same time every day (7 pm), but Charlie is often watching a Thomas the Tank Engine video and doesn't want to stop watching to take a bath. So I learned to phase in a neutral intermediate activity. For example, around 6:55 I will start the bath water and transition him into reading a book together... that calms him down and centers him. Then halfway through the book, I will tell him that we're going to take a bath next. I think it helps him to know what's coming up next. It's a lot easier to bring him from a book to the tub, than to tear him away from Thomas to take a bath.
- New toys. There are so many household items that can double as toys - plastic bottles, funnels, spray bottles, colanders. We also regularly rotate waterproof plastic toys. Even without buying new bath toys, we can usually find something new and exciting that we can use to entice Charlie into the bathtub.
- New games. We're constantly thinking up new games we can play in the tub. For instance the other night Mrs. Bee stuck bath bubbles on the bathtub wall, and started washing them away by splashing water on them. Any chance Charlie has to throw water on something, he's going to take!
- Favorite characters. Our Sesame Street bath toys have provided countless hours of bath play time. We have them pretend to eat the bath bubbles, and tell Charlie doesn't he want to join Elmo, Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Ernie and Abby Cadaby in the bath too? Now we're just going to have to get some Thomas bath toys!
- Bubbles! What kid doesn't love bubble baths? I'll fill the tub with bubbles and give myself a Santa beard out of the bubbles. Charlie goes insane; he thinks it is sooo funny!
- Deep Sea Diving. I look Charlie in the eye, take a deep breath, and then go underwater to hold my breath for 10 seconds. By the time I come up, he is delirious with excitement! Why? I have no idea.
- Water pouring. Pouring water on my head is also a big hit. Charlie hates it when I pour water over his head to rinse him off. So to get me back, he loves to pour water over MY head. I guess that makes sense from a toddler logic perspective? Anyway I will start pouring water on my head over and over, until he begs me to let him pour water on me!
- Letting Charlie wash himself. One of the reasons Charlie doesn't like the bath these days is because he is getting more independent. So to change things up, I've started to teach him how to wash himself. We do it the same way every time: first I put soap on his hands, then he washes his arms with it, then he washes his tummy and then he cleans up his privates. This had made bath time a lot more fun for him! We have to be careful though, because too much soap can exacerbate his eczema.
- Add color to the bath. There are tub color tablets that turn bath water different colors. We give these as gifts to other children, but haven't used them with Charlie because he loves to drink bath water. An alternative we're going to have to try is adding food coloring (if it doesn't stain the tub).
Slowly but surely, we've been able to turn bath time into a war of trickery rather than a battle of wills! It still isn't easy to get him into the tub, but it's been a long time since he absolutely refused to take his bath. Progress?
Is your LO ever reluctant to take a bath? How do you coax them into the tub?