Bathing and Showering

Bath and Shower time can provide a variety of sensory experiences that can be fun and can help the bedtime wind down routine. However for a child with sensory sensitivities, this activity can be emotional and anxiety provoking. Children with postural or motor planning difficulties may feel unsecure sitting and moving around the bathtub. An over-responsive child may not like the feel or sound of the water and may even interpret these as alarming or threatening. The result of the above sensory processing difficulties is a child refusing to engage in this self-care task.

It is always helpful to have predictable routines and making bath or shower time part of the daily bedtime wind down routine can help prepare your child for the sensations associated with this.

Ideas to support Bathing and Showering

  • Engage in movement and heavy work activities prior to bath or shower time.
  • Providing your child with a seat and a non-slip mat if they have difficulties with their posture.
  • Have toys that encourage ‘heavy work’ for the muscles whilst in the shower or bath e.g. pouring water from one container to another.
  • Allow the child to play with hand toys e.g. squeeze toys, sponges and other bath toys that they have to squeeze.
  • Use a straw to blow bubbles in the bath. Be careful they don’t drink the bath water though.
  • Use firm, maintained touch pressure through the shoulders during bath or shower time.
  • Use a wet towel over your child’s shoulders whilst taking a bath.
  • Using firm, maintained touch pressure, massage your child with a flannel, bath mitt or your hands before and/or during bath time.
  • Use firm, maintained touch pressure when drying your child.
  • Wrap your child in a bath towel after bath or shower time and pretend they are a ‘hotdog’. You can then offer firm, maintained pressure with your hands to put on the ‘ketchup’ and ‘mustard’.
  • Use visuals to support your child’s understanding of the bath or shower steps.
  • Tell your child where you are going to wash so they are ready for your actions.
  • If the sound of water running bothers your child, fill the bath without them in the room.
  • Sing bath time songs. Slow, rhythmical music is most calming.
  • Use earplugs to minimise bath or shower noises and also prevent water going in their ears.
  • Use a visual timer or a sand timer to help the child know the end point of the activity.
  • Use calming scents or unscented soaps e.g. lavender.
  • If your child struggles with a bath, try a shower or vice-versa. The tactile input from a shower may be more difficult for over-responsive children to cope with and tends to be more alerting so you might want to make this part of the morning routine rather than the wind down bedtime routine.