#264 - Bath Time Blues? We've Got You!

by Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC July 12, 2023

#264 - Bath Time Blues? We've Got You!

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Bath Time Blues? We've Got You!

In today’s episode, we are answering a listener question!

We discuss the importance of creating a calming and enjoyable bath time experience as well as practical tips and tricks on how to make bath time more sensory-friendly. We also touch on different games and modifications that can be used outside of bathtime.

Whether you're a parent of a child with sensory processing challenges or a caregiver looking for ways to make bath time more enjoyable, this episode is packed with helpful information and resources. So, tune in and join us as we explore the world of sensory strategies for bath time, and discover how you can create a soothing and relaxing experience for your child.

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Episode 56 Navigating the Bath Time and Water Play Sensory Experience

6 Strategies to Help Your Child Take a Bath

The Listening Program

The Safe and Sound Protocol

Astronaut Training Course

Bath Time Blues: We’ve Got You!

Bathing can be challenging for children, regardless of whether they have had a negative water experience. The anxiety associated with bath time can often start even before the water starts flowing and quickly escalate into a complete meltdown when it’s time to step into the tub.

These can overwhelm your child’s sensory system, creating an environment that can be difficult to process and transforming bath time into an enjoyable experience for you and your child.

Start With Waterless Sensory Play

Elevate your child’s bath time experience by turning the bathtub into a captivating sensory bin. Introduce them to the wonders of shaving cream, shaving cream paint, or bath crayons, unlocking their boundless creativity.

Inspire your child to freely explore and unleash their creativity on the walls of the bathtub. Encourage them to fully immerse themselves in this artistic journey, even while dressed in everyday clothes.

Encourage your child to fill a cup with water or use a sponge to clean the walls. By seamlessly incorporating these activities into your daily routine, you can enhance the overall experience for you and your child, making it more fulfilling and enjoyable.

Stay Calm And Co-Regulate

It is essential to consider that children with intense sensory sensitivities may exhibit resistance or avoidance during bathtime. By incorporating co-regulation, practicing patience, and displaying empathy, your positive energy can significantly influence their behavior.

Take a moment to pause and breathe deeply. Additionally, incorporating sensory tools such as textured brushes or soap dough can enhance engagement during your child’s bathing routine, benefiting both of you.

Establishing a consistent routine and providing verbal cues can create a safe and stable environment that comforts your child during bath time. This will help you co-regulate with your child, as you will have a well-defined plan to address their reactions as they happen.

Create Positive Connections With Play

To create a delightful water play experience for your child, start by placing a water table in the bathtub and filling it with a small amount of water. Initially, let your child have control over the water level, gradually increasing it as they become more confident and comfortable.

Introduce creative ways to explore the water with toys, such as squirt toys or ones that light up and make sounds. If you don’t have any of these, improvise using everyday items such as cups, bowls, and sieves.

Encourage your child to experiment with water play differently while avoiding direct contact with the water. For instance, let them use a spray bottle to squirt water or introduce a bubble bath solution and let their imagination run wild.

Explore Alternative Bathing Methods

Consider your child’s preference for bathing - whether they lean towards showers or baths. Ultimately, empower your child to decide where they feel most at ease when it’s time to wash up.

If a bathtub is still the preference, consider experimenting with water temperatures and the amount of water in the tub to ensure your child feels comfortable. If showers are preferred, invest in a shower stool or a handheld shower head to make it easier and more enjoyable for them.

To enrich your child’s experience, you can make a few simple adjustments. Consider the following recommendations:

  • Incorporating a bathchair or small laundry basket into the bathtub.
  • Increase safety in the bathtub by adding a non-slip mat on the bottom and installing a sturdy rail on the side.
  • Enjoy fun bath toys, waterproof books, or other interactive sensory tools.

You can provide choices while gently guiding your child through bathing, empowering them to take charge of each step. This approach enhances their independence and fosters a sense of ownership.

Creating A Sensory-Friendly Bath Environment

Transform your bathroom ambiance by turning off the ordinary lights and embracing twinkling or visually captivating red lights. If it is safe, create a soothing atmosphere by diffusing calming essential oils or adding a drop to your bathtub.

Consider filling the bathtub before your child enters to reduce the loud and echoey acoustics often present in bathrooms. Another option is to provide them with water-safe earplugs or play soothing music.

If your child dreads the sensation of water on their body or during hair washing, consider using goggles or a washcloth to shield their eyes when pouring water over their head. Also, bathing caps are available to prevent water from reaching their face.

You can also let them select their bubble bath, a delightful fizzy bath bomb, or colorful bath tablets, engaging all of your child’s senses. This can add an element of excitement and serve as a distraction from the task at hand.

Primitive Reflexes’ Impact On Bathtime

To evaluate the presence of primitive reflexes, specifically the Moro reflex about anxiety, include functional activities during play. One effective activity is “peanut rocking,” where the child sits on the floor, embraces their knees to their chest, and gently rocks back and forth.

The labyrinthine reflex is another reflex to assess through activities like tummy time in the prone position, the Superman position, and transitioning to holding the supine flexion position. These exercises specifically target balance, postural control, and connection with the inner ear.

Integrating A Sensory Diet Into Your Bathtime Routine

For a better bathing experience, have your child finish a sensory diet approximately 20 minutes beforehand. A helpful strategy is to utilize a visual schedule to assist your child in understanding and engaging in sensory activities.

Consider incorporating a therapeutic listening program, such as Advanced Brain Technologies or the Safe and Sound Protocol by ILS, into your child’s daily routine. These programs address auditory sensitivity and anxiety and promote the rewiring of the brain to enhance sensory processing.

Furthermore, the astronaut training program incorporates visual, vestibular activities that can provide valuable benefits when included in preparatory exercises before immersing your child in the water. These activities encompass rotational movements of the trunk, upward and downward gaze, spinning, and exercises focused on visual tracking.

Activities that provide movement followed by deep pressure, proprioceptive input, and tactile and vibration may be valuable too. Addressing all sensory systems before bath time gives your child maximum control over bathing.

Create An Effective Bathtime Routine

You can prepare the bathtub and gather their toys as your child completes their sensory diet. Once ready, your child can step into a bath already filled with water, accompanied by toys, and surrounded by bubbles.

To prioritize safety, consider incorporating a laundry basket or bath seat complemented by sticky mats to prevent slipping. Enhancing the ambiance with twinkle lights and soothing music creates a tranquil environment.

If you have difficulty getting your child into the bathtub, consider wearing swimwear and getting in together, which may provide co-regulating support and help ease any problems as they arise.

Typically, what happens is that your child goes through a single unpleasant incident during bath time, like accidentally getting water in their eyes, which leads to tears. Afterward, their minds become fixated on that negative experience, affecting their perception of all future instances of bath time and water play.

Introducing your child to positive water experiences and fostering enjoyable bathing moments is crucial. You can transform their negative perception into a more positive outlook through experimentation and perseverance.




While we make every effort to share correct information, we are still learning. We will double check all of our facts but realize that medicine is a constantly changing science and art. One doctor / therapist may have a different way of doing things from another. We are simply presenting our views and opinions on how to address common sensory challenges, health related difficulties and what we have found to be beneficial that will be as evidenced based as possible. By listening to this podcast, you agree not to use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or your children. Consult your child’s pediatrician/ therapist for any medical issues that he or she may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guests or contributors to the podcast. Under no circumstances shall Rachel Harrington, Harkla, Jessica Hill, or any guests or contributors to the podcast, as well as any employees, associates, or affiliates of Harkla, be responsible for damages arising from use of the podcast.

Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

This podcast should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever, including but not limited to establishing “standard of care” in a legal sense or as a basis for expert witness testimony. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast.

Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC
Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC

Rachel Harrington, COTA/l, AC, CPRCS, and Jessica Hill, COTA/L, CPRCS are Harkla's in-house Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTA) and Certified Primitive Reflex Clinical Specialists. They have been working with children for over 6 years in outpatient settings. They specialize in creating easy-to-digest, actionable content that families can use to help their child's progress at home. Jessica and Rachel are the in-house experts, content creators, and podcast hosts at Harkla! To learn more about Jessica and Rachel, visit the Harkla About Us Page. Make sure to listen to their weekly podcast, All Things Sensory by Harkla for actionable, fun advice on child development.

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