Is Your Toddler Scared Of Water?

Is bath time a battleground in your house? I don’t mean fighting over who gets to use the bathroom. I’m talking about getting your children to have a bath at all.

Bath time for Little B used to be a pleasure, part of the winding down bedtime routine. But in the last six months it’s become a source of stress, for us and him.

And I think it’s because he’s become scared of water.

In the early days we got him used to the bath using a baby bath support and he loved it; he’d lie there gurgling and kicking his legs and didn’t even mind us washing his head.

As he got bigger he began to sit up and eventually at around five months we ditched the support and helped him to sit on his own in a shallow amount of water.

Again, he was happy with this and loved playing with his new bath toys – a wind up duck, a boat, and brightly coloured stacking containers shaped like crabs that have holes in the bottom so he can watch the water pour through them.

B in bath

The problem began after he began to stand up. We think it was such a novelty at first he simply didn’t want to sit down anymore. We bought a mat so he had some grip on the bottom of the bath. He also developed a fascination with the taps and basically spent the entire bath standing at the plug end trying to turn the taps on and playing with the shower extension.

We watched him like hawks, hands hovering nervously in anticipation, but eventually the inevitable happened and he slipped.

Of course he got a nasty shock and bumped his head on the bath into the bargain. We scooped him out and made sure he was OK.

And that’s where the cycle began. He was almost one and had a good enough memory to recall what had happened the next time he had a bath. So of course he wouldn’t sit down, really wouldn’t sit. Actually screamed if we tried to get him to sit.

As Little B learned to walk the bath became a watery parade ground and our stress levels increased in line with his marching up and down.

There was a brief respite this summer when we managed to get him to sit after he learned the words up and down – so we’d play a game of saying ‘dooooowwwwwn’ and smiling as he crouched in the water. His bum got cleaner but the distraction only worked for a short time and one day he slipped over again and we were back to square one.

This means we can’t relax a muscle as he wanders about in the soap suds, chatting away to us, picking up his toys and throwing them about, while we try to sponge him down.

Hair washing is a particular challenge – not many toddler like having their hair wet but picture using one hand to pour, trying to rinse his head, keep the water out of his eyes with the other hand, and be ready to react if he topples over!

I also wonder if he picks up on my dislike of water. To my shame I never learned to swim, always being too panicked to get the hang of it. And if you went to a bit of a rough comprehensive school in the 80s the teachers weren’t always that great when it came to helping children out who weren’t great at something.

You basically got written off and humiliated by being made to swim with the little kids. So I stopped turning up, along with the other crap swimmers. Or continuously ‘forget’ our swimming kit. It was worth risking detention not the get beaten up after school for being one of the ‘babbys’.

So, yes, I can’t swim. And I don’t like baths either. (I have showers – it’s ok you can stand next to me on the train in the morning!) But I don’t want to pass this on to my son – I want him to learn to swim. But for now taking him to a swimming pool when we know he is going to cry and protest about being in the water seems too stressful to contemplate.

I think it will pass, but we haven’t worked out how to break the cycle of Little B not sitting down, inevitably slipping at some point, and then becoming less and less keen on bath time.

He is 18 months old now and knows exactly what the plan is in the evening. So he’s started doing delaying tactics and running away when we go near the bathroom. Trying to get him in the bath is a struggle and he immediately asks to get out, standing at the side of the bath wailing. It’s very upsetting and hard not to give in.

Finally, none of this is great when it comes to trying to relax him and wind down for sleepy time! His cortisol levels must be through the roof!

So the latest tactic is a new toy – two Peppa Pig toys for the bath to be precise as he is Peppa Pig mad at the moment. I just hope he sits down while shouting “Pippy Peg Pippy Peg” at the top of his voice, which is what he did this morning when he saw these two.

Does anyone else find bath time a batteground? What tips do you have on helping overcome a toddler’s fear of water?

Mami 2 Five

Categories: Advice

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6 replies »

  1. Oh bless you. This sounds so tough. It is really horrible as a parent when you have to make your child do something you know they hate. We’ve never been able to bathe Little Miss H before bed because the bath has always been over stimulating. Either because she loved the bath so much or she hated it. (Very briefly). Moving the bath time to morning also means that occasionally we can have baths with her. Seeing us in the bath and playing fun games with her in the bath has made her enjoy being in the water even more. Maybe your wife could do this with Little B?! Let us know how you get on. Thanks for linking up to #SundaysStars lovely Adrian. I am sorry that it has taken me an age to comment. But better late than never. Hugs Mrs H xxxx


  2. Loved reading this! We’re lucky ours have been ok in the bath, other than the odd freak out. probably because they know bedtime is looming. Love your approach, I hope Peppa Pig works, lets hope that little piggy is good for something!

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  3. We have a bath mat which prevents any slips – it’s from Fisher Price. Covers 3/4 of the bath but does the trick (although they will start to try to climb out of the bath when they are tall enough!)

    Otherwise, my suggestion would be to get him to swimming lessons at your local pool. They do more splashing around than swimming at 18 months but he’ll see lots of other toddlers enjoying themselves and will hopefully overcome fear of water.