How to Help the Sensory Child Have a Happy Bath

Last week I wrote about the various fun & frightening happenings during a sensory bath. This week, I want share 18 of the hard-learned helps that have come out of our 12 years of sensory bathing. 

For The Sensory Seeker 

1)  Draw a line to show “full” (to avoid accidental over-flow for the kid that craves the sound of running water).

2)  For smaller kids, sing a goodbye song  at the end of bath time. We sang one like, “Goodbye ducky, goodbye ducky, good by ducky it’s time to say goodbye.” Then we sang to each toy as we put it away and ended with singing goodbye to the water as it finally drained. This way they have time to process the upcoming, undesired transition.

3)  Give the 5 minute warning!  Or 10 minutes—whatever your kid needs to get himself ready to end the bath.

4)  Make it a bubble bath, or add one of those fizzy bomb’s (baking soda + citric acid) to add some fizz to the water.

5)  Encourage good behavior by offering a reward if they stay safe in the tub.

6)  Blow bubble at them in the tub. Using the bubbles that are scented offers a extra sensory punch.

7)  Have lots of bathtub toys like soap crayons, squirt toys, cups to pour from and toy showers to spray. One of our favorites was a car wash bath toy that had a spraying hose to rinse off the car.

8)  Have calming sounds on in the background, like a waterfall, or birds chirping. This will provide the auditory stimulation they crave while calming them down.

9)  When they get out of the tub, wrap them up real tight with a towel—preferable the kind with a hood for added deep pressure, and give them a big bear hug. This will give them proprioceptive input, tactile input on their skin, and warmth as they dry. (Of course, all this to know they will likely toss it to the ground and streak through the house letting the cool air dry them as you try to catch ‘em!


For The Sensory Avoider

1)  Put markings for hot and cold and the ideal placement of faucet.

2)  When anxiety based, have her bathe with her big sister, or “wade” in the bath with her.

 3)  Another anxiety based idea: hold her while you stand in the bath water. Have her say when she is ready to put her feet in. Let her go at her own pace. If she will only touch the water and then insists on getting out, praise her for the little steps and help her out.  Encourage baby steps!

4)  Set up a bath as a Fun Bath vs. Cleaning Bath (no soap or washing hair)

5)  Play a favorite show or kids music on an iPad (away from the child and water!) to distract them and create a positive environment for them.

6)  If freezing after leaving the bath is an issue, buy a small space heater (ours was $30 at Target) and heat up the bathroom. Or, have an electric fire place ready to keep them warm as they dry.

 7)  Used their fascination of numbers/letters or certain songs and sing or chant it while pouring water to rinse out their hair.  Counting backwards to blast-off (and out of the tub) works at our house. Make it fun!

8)  Get bath toys in the kids favorite characters! Right now, Doc McStuffins is an obsession with my youngest two. So we got them bath toys of the characters. If they want to play with them, they take a bath.

9)  Offer a reward for taking a bath, or for washing their hair if that is the bigger problem.

 I am sure there are more tips on how you encourage a “happy bath” for a sensory kiddo.
I’d love to hear your experience! 
What other tips and advice have you discovered?

4 1/2 Ways To Bathe A Child (Part 1)


 "Stevie! You have to turn off the bath water when it is full! You cannot flood the bathroom. Look at this mess!"

"More bath?" he requests.

Um... how about no. "Bath is over. Now we have to clean up this mess!"

Around here, we have a wealth of bathing experiences (or routines, as they so quickly become). Some kids have a happy rubber ducky to keep them company in the tub. We have squeaky Excitement and cranky Exhaustion as our tub-side companions.

We have been through many styles of baths because of our children’s different sensory needs--which fluctuate unannounced, of course!

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4 1/2 Ways My Sensory Kids Bathe


1.  Cooperate, Relax, and Go To Bed. (hint: this never happens)

This first way to take a bath is probably the most common for other families. I have read about the bath in the bedtime routine in many books, articles and magazines. It seems to be recommended by Everyone, but not by me…This is one I have never experienced with my children.

Because it would be so easy if it were to work, I am counting it as half of a way to take a bath.  Don't get me wrong, Someone usually needs to sleep after baths at our house. It's just not usually the child!


2. Cooperate, Splash, Play, Drink Bath Water, Get Wound Up and Refuse to Come Out. 

No matter what time it is, the day will begin again after this kind of bath. My twins introduced me to this phenomenon when they were toddlers.

We tried the bath style described in #1, but ended up with this kind of bath, every time. We consequently did not include a bath in their bedtime routine and opted for calming music instead!


3. Cooperate, Overstimulate, Flood the Bathroom Floor, Refuse to Get Out, Become Hyper (and make mom and dad want to go to bed!)

Now this one I am quite familiar with, as are our mop and laundry machine. The towels? They have stories to tell. Stevie has a harsh reputation with the bathroom floor. After all the cleanup involved in 2+ inches of water covering the floor (I don’t know how it happens so quickly!) we end up frustrated, exhausted and ready for bed.


4. Don’t Cooperate, Become Aggressive and Unsafe, and Don’t Take A Bath (also makes parents want to go to bed!)

This is my least favorite. This one is down-right dangerous when it happens. When he is in this mode (as opposed to that of #3), he has gone many moons without a bath.  We worked hard to find something that would motivate him to cooperate--more on that in Part 2 next week!. 


5. Finally Agree to Take a Bath (with a high incentive promised), Be Stressed Out in the Bath, Cry and Panic When Hair is Washed, Wear Yourself Out (so the child and Mom & Dad want to go to bed!)

This one is my second-least favorite bathing routines. My bathing beauty Joy introduced us to this style of bath. She had a total fear of water and bubble-baths for the first 2.5-3 years of her life. You can read about this here.  She would become so exhausted from her screaming panic attack in the tub that she’d sleep extra long for her nap. The good news now is that she has progressed beautifully the last 6 months and now loves to take bubble baths! She will spend hours in there if we let her. She will even let us wash her hair without trouble...sometimes.  (Part 2 will have tips from how we got to this point with her! So stay tuned!)


I’m guessing you can relate to some of these bath-time tales. Chances are, you can add a few more stories to the list as well!


I’d love to hear your experience! 

Share your stories in the comments below.

I love to hear from you!

**And stay tuned: Next week part 2 will be posted!

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