Sensory Strategies to Make Bath Time a Breeze 

By Nicole Tutaj OTR/L

Do you dread bath time because your kid rules the place or doesn’t like their hair washed?

Maybe they don’t like being tipped backwards, having water poured on their face, or they’re just having too much fun and refuse to get out. 

Try the following strategies: 

1) For the kid who doesn’t like being tipped backwards: 

This can be due to having a vestibular sensitivity, meaning they have a hard time knowing where their body is going, making them feel scared and unsure of what is to come. To help with this, you can offer them a choice of how they want to do it. Some options can include having them dump water on their head, allowing them to independently use a washcloth to rinse their head, or providing them the shower head to use. Kids will often feel more comfortable when they are in control of rinsing. 

Another strategy is firmly holding their shoulders when tipping them back or before pouring water as the proprioceptive input can help decrease tactile and vestibular sensitivities. 

2) For the kid who doesn’t like washing their hair: 

Try holding up a mirror or using pretend play to get them interested in the task. Sometimes all they need is to see what is going on instead of only relying on their sense of touch. Another great way to get kids engaged and develop a positive relationship with washing their hair is using pretend play! Grab some dolls or animals to use either in the tub or as an activity before bath time. During pretend play, you can even ask your child how they think their doll would like their hair washed. This can be a good way to understand what your child might like. 

3) For the kid who gets a little too amped up about bath time: 

Altering the environment can help your child relax and offer a nice transition into their bed time routine. This can include dimming the lights, using essential oils in an aromatherapy diffuser, or playing some soft music in the background. Some things you can do with your child before bath time include heavy work activities that will help calm and relax their bodies. Some heavy work activities can include pushing and pulling a laundry basket with clothes or a box full of toys, going up and down stairs, yoga poses, wall push-ups, tug of war, squeezing play dough, bear hugs, and massages. Try doing the activities for about 15 minutes before bath time to get some of their energy out. If they are having a difficult time transitioning out of the bath, some strategies to try can include using a visual timer and prompting when they only have 5, 3, 1 minute(s) left or using a visual schedule with pictures that depict each step of the bedtime routine so they can have a better sense of what is to come next and when it is time to move on to the next step. 

Each kid is different and it may take time and patience to figure out what works best, but some of the above strategies can be a great place to start!



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