Toddler Bath Time: How to Help Your Child Love Baths

For many toddlers, having a bath and splashing around in the tub is a fun and relaxing part of their day. For other toddlers, bath time is not as appealing, especially as they develop their likes and dislikes, learn how to say “no,” and prefer to do things on their own. This is completely normal behavior, but it can sure make bath time a challenge! Read on to learn how to help your child enjoy taking a bath.

Why Kids May Not Like Taking Baths

It can be hard to understand what’s not to love about warm water, bubbles, and bath toys, not to mention having Mom or Dad’s undivided attention. Yet some young children—perhaps even your toddler—seem to have an aversion to bathing and bath time.

Here are a few common reasons kids dislike taking baths:

  • Sensory sensitivity. Some toddlers dislike bath time because they don’t enjoy the sensory experience—they don’t like being wet or getting their hair washed. Or maybe they’re too cold when they get out of the bath or the towel is scratchy against their skin.

  • Anxiety or apprehension. If your toddler’s aversion to bath time comes on suddenly, they may have had a bad experience with water and now feel nervous or fearful. Perhaps the baby-bath temperature was too hot or cold, or maybe your baby nearly slipped once and that scared them.

  • Preferring other activities. Some kids don’t want to stop what they’re doing in order to hop in the tub. For some children, it’s hard to swap playing and other fun activities for taking a bath. (This is partly why it helps to make toddler bath time more fun!)

If you’re encountering strong opposition at bath time, experts recommend not forcing your child to take a bath. Instead, focus on being patient, getting to the root of the problem, and addressing your little one’s needs. When you understand the reason behind the aversion, it will be a lot easier to know how to get your baby or toddler to like baths!

How Often Should Toddlers Bathe?

Deciding how often to bathe your toddler may depend in part on how sticky and dirty they get! But unless your little one is playing in the mud every day, bathing a toddler on a daily basis wouldn’t be necessary and may not be ideal, as kids have delicate skin that can become dry and irritated. Giving your toddler a bath two or three times a week is usually plenty. Of course, it’s OK to bathe more often as needed.

If your toddler puts up a fight at bath time, it’s better not to insist, even if that means less frequent bathing. A quick sponge bath or wiping your toddler with a soapy washcloth will work until they get used to baths.

How to Make Bath Time for Kids More Fun

Whether your toddler loves or hates bath time, you can take advantage of these tips and tricks on how to make it more fun for all. When bath time doesn’t feel like a chore or obligation, there’s a better chance that children will embrace it—and getting your toddler to take a bath becomes a lot easier. You’ll find a few of our best strategies below.

Include Bath Toys or Music

Bringing toys into your toddler’s bath is the oldest trick in the book, and it works. Kids love splashing around at bath time, and it’s even more enjoyable if you plop some boats, animals, squirters, cups, dolls, letters, or balls into the water and play some lively tunes.

When choosing bath toys, look for nontoxic, water-friendly varieties that are made with plastic and without holes, if possible. Mold, bacteria, or fungus can grow inside toys or along creases, so solid toys are best. Set the toys out to dry after every bath and store them away from the tub in between bath times.

Let Your Toddler Take the Lead

Giving your child some control over bath time may make it more enjoyable. Let your little one choose which bubbles to use, or squeeze the shampoo bottle, or use the washcloth without your help. Letting toddlers make decisions and do things on their own, such as when getting dressed or at bath time, helps boost their confidence and encourages their emerging self care skills and independence.

Include Pretend Play

Providing toys during bath time is a game changer for toddlers, but play (and especially pretend play and any kind of unstructured play) is also essential for your little one’s overall development, as toddlers learn through play. Why not encourage it in the tub? Some ideas for pretend play in the bath include

  • using kitchen items (kid-safe and water-safe) like a strainer or cup while pretending to make dinner

  • bathing a doll and pretending to be the caretaker

  • acting out stories you and your child read the night before

  • playing games like Simon Says

  • creating a story with the bath toys

  • pretending the tub is the ocean and making discoveries.

The options for pretend play are endless when you let your toddler’s imagination lead the way!

Use Bath Paints

If you think toys will make your toddler love taking a bath, get ready for the power of bath paints! That’s right—painting in the bath. Let your little one paint on their body or the tub, then wash everything off during the bath. Not only is it fun for your child, but it’s also easy to clean! (Note: Be sure to test the bathroom grout for staining before the art session begins!)

You can buy these paints from baby or craft stores or you can also make them yourself using water, food coloring, cornstarch, and soap. Bath paints help make bath time for toddlers a lot more fun, but they also provide a sly distraction if your child protests getting in the tub. Every toddler loves an opportunity to get messy!

Learn more about the benefits of finger painting, which can help your child build important motor skills, in the video below.

Tackle Concerns or Needs Early

As mentioned above, there may be a reason why your toddler dislikes or resists bath time. Ask them what they don’t like or what could make it better. If your little one can’t quite articulate their feelings, observe them and see if you can get to the bottom of it. Does your toddler hate being cold or wet in general or did something scary happen involving water?

Once you know what’s going on, you can start to address your toddler’s needs by adjusting the bath routine. If your little one hates being cold, check the water temperature often or use a towel heater to make sure it’s nice and cozy when out of the tub. If your child hates getting their hair washed, let them help you scrub or distract them with some toys.

Add Bath Time to Your Routine

Kids thrive with structure and order, so if you make bath time part of their daily or nightly bedtime on certain days (say, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, for example), it may help your child embrace it. Your little one will know to expect it, and that could make all the difference. If you bathe your child in the evening, a calming bath and bedtime routine can also help your toddler sleep better—a win-win!

Bathtub Safety for Toddlers

How you bathe your toddler has a lot to do with bathtub safety for kids. Children need constant supervision when they’re in or around water, so take these safety tips into consideration when it’s bath time:

  • Choose a safe water temperature. Whether you are bathing an infant, older baby, or toddler, make sure the bath temperature is warm but not too hot. To prevent accidental burns and control the bath temperature for your toddler, set your water heater thermostat to no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit and try to get the bath water to around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It helps to test the water with your wrist or elbow to make sure it’s not too hot.

  • Always supervise. Never leave your child alone in the tub, not even for a few seconds. Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in children, and kids can drown in less than two inches of water. Staying close and watching your toddler when they’re in the bathtub is critical for their safety.

  • Prevent slips. Slipping in the bathtub is dangerous for anyone, but preventing it is especially important for toddler safety. When you add toys or play into bath time, your little one might want to stand up or push on the tub to reach for things. Use anti-slip strips or mats adhered to the bottom of the tub. Cover any protruding parts of the tub (like the faucet) with rubber or a washcloth.

  • Set and follow rules. Kids love to mimic your actions and are far more observant than we think! Your little one may watch you turn on the water or plug the drain and want to try it on their own. When finished with bath time, drain the tub completely and block off access to the bathroom using latches or doorknob covers. Set some standard rules for the bathroom so your toddler knows not to use it without you.

  • Keep baths short in the winter. To prevent your toddler from developing dry or itchy skin in the cold winter months, limit bath time to no more than 10 minutes. Baths are better than showers to keep skin hydrated, but long baths during dry weather will have the opposite effect.

If you have any questions or concerns about your kids taking a bath, contact your child’s healthcare provider, who is there to support you in all parts of your parenthood journey.

How to Give a Toddler a Bath

Bathing a toddler is a little different than bathing a baby or newborn, but some details are similar. Follow the steps below to better understand how to give your toddler a bath, making use of the tips above as needed to help get your growing and opinionated baby to like baths!

  1. Prepare. The key to a successful toddler bath experience is preparation. Unless your little one is helping you, fill the tub and add the bubbles beforehand. Gather all your supplies and have them handy before your little one gets into the tub.

  2. Check the temperature. As mentioned above, aim for a baby-bath water temperature of around 100 degrees Fahrenheit for your toddler, and check the water with your wrist or elbow.

  3. Play. You may want to start playing right away to make the experience more relaxing. Toys and play can also offer a distraction if your little one apprehensive about getting into the bath.

  4. Wash gently. Start at the top, work your way down, and use baby- or kid-friendly soap or shampoo. First, wash your toddler’s hair and rinse while cupping your hand over their forehead to avoid any soap getting in the eyes. To keep your baby’s scalp healthy, try to wash their hair just two or three times a week, even if they need more baths. (Of course, more are OK when hair is muddy or dirty!) Then gently wash their body with a soft washcloth.

  5. Keep warm. Check the temperature of the water from time to time during longer baths. If it feels too cold on your wrist or elbow, add some more warm water.

  6. Play and take your time. Bath time should be soothing and relaxing for toddlers. Unless your child is unhappy, take your time and keep playing, but stick to your usual routine, starting your toddler’s bath at the same time of the day or evening.

  7. Dry off. Wrap your toddler in an absorbent towel (such as terry cloth) and pat dry. Try to dry off quickly so your little one doesn’t get cold, and dress in pajamas if it’s time for bed.

  8. Drain the tub and clean. As mentioned above, drain the bathtub as soon as you’re finished to ensure safety for your toddler. Watch the tub until it’s completely drained so there’s no risk of any standing water. Rinse off any toys and set them aside to air dry to avoid mold growth.

  9. Prepare for sleep. Baths are great ways to prepare your baby for sleep – the warm water and quiet time can get them in the proper mindset and turns bedtime into a positive, loving moment. For even more help on the sleep front, download the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. We created this app with pediatricians to help you understand and shape your baby’s sleep from day one.

And that’s it! Bathing a toddler isn’t difficult, though it can get tricky if your little one objects. A little preparation and some fun can make everything go more smoothly.

The Bottom Line

Learning how to get your baby or toddler to like baths can be a tricky process but one that’s certainly doable. Toddlers may resist bath time for various reasons, but adding toys, play, a routine, or music—or giving your little one some control over bathing—can make all the difference. Before long, you’ll be on your way to fun-filled splishing and splashing!

Remember that your child is developing, and that some of these behaviors, like deciding what they like and saying “no” whenever possible, are just part of growing up. Read more about toddler development milestones to know what else is on the way! If you need a little encouragement, boost your mood by earning rewards and Pampers Cash by downloading the Pampers App!

How We Wrote This Article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.