Tricks for taking a shower with your baby

From Kendra:

I used to have trouble getting a decent length shower.  I had to get up EARLY before dad left for work or wait until my son was napping to do it.  Now I get nice, long showers every day by taking my son in with me. 

When he was smaller, I put his little sitting-up bathtub at the end of my tub and filled it with water and toys.  He got to play and splash while I showered.  Now that he’s older, we keep a plastic tub filled with his bath toys in the shower.  He loves to pour water in and out of his teapot, play with his boats, take the lids off empty shampoo bottles, and more.  It’s good playtime AND I get to shave my legs!  When I’m all done, we wash him off.  Sometimes I put the plug in the drain and run a bath so he can continue to play while I get out, do my hair, and put on makeup.  We recently got a shower head with an extra faucet so that he gets his own shower spray.

He loves it and runs eagerly to the bathroom if he hears the word "shower."  When he’s getting out, he almost always says, "Mommy, nice shower!"

Disclaimer: This hack only works with kids who are old enough to sit or stand on their own.  Also, since he is a boy and I am a girl, it will need some revision as he becomes more aware of bodies, body parts, and nudity.  But for now, it’s working great!

Related: Bring the high chair in the bathroom

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  1. Rosemary says

    I used to do this also. My son is 2 and 4mo, and I recently stopped. I’m not sure when it’s inappropriate but I thought to myself that if I had a daughter this age, my husband would never consider taking her in the shower, so I’m not sure I should take my son either.

    Any other ideas on how to get in showers?

  2. radmama says

    My daughter was a fussy baby, but she liked the shower. I would wear her in a lightweight sling, enjoy getting clean and having time to wash my hair. When I was done, I would take her out of the sling for a quick wash.

    Once she could sit up in the tub, in a laundry basket at first, she would sit and play while I showered.

    My son hated to shower, but I think I probably occasionally showered or bathed with him until he was 4ish. My daughter is only now demanding privacy in the bath- at 8- but it has been many years since I have needed to shower with the kids outside of the public pool.

  3. says

    Any tricks or tips about how to get the little ones to wash their hair? Our oldest (who is 3+ yo) hates to wash her hair in the tub (and hates showers even more). Since we are not encouraging dreadlocks, we need a way to get her to have her hair washed more than once every few weeks.

  4. says

    Great tip! I’ve showered with my daughter but find it hard to do if my husband’s not home to help me (and/or make me feel more secure about holding a slippery baby). I recently tried having her stand with me, but felt bad that she was stuck standing by herself at my knees with the dregs of the shower spray. this morning, I left her to ‘keep me company’ at the side of the tub, and she wanted IN so badly!

    Little tub. Filled with water and her toys. Check. Trying that tomorrow. Perfect!

  5. wdskmom says

    Neal Patrick – my boy is a bit younger, but hates having his hair washed as well. I lay him on the bathroom or kitchen counter on a bath mat w/ his head ‘hanging’ into the sink. Then I use my hand to get his hair wet, wash, rinse. We sing songs & the likes to pass the few minutes it takes. Less chance of soap in the eyes this way, too. :)

  6. Betsy says

    I let him wash MY hair for a while, that helped. And then let him wash his own hair. I also have let him use a headband around his forehead. I think all of those and time helped.

    I still shower together with my 3 and 1 year old – trickier and more crowded. I have vowed to stop as soon as he shows any interest in any body part of mine. He grabs his own parts, but hasn’t seemed to notice I exist differently or hasn’t mentioned it. I secretly think that the one year old might notice before the three year old does – they are just different that way….

    OH, and this has been a time when I turn to the all mighty electronic babysitter when the shower was too small for two kids. I’d take the little one in and park the other in front of the TV. I rationalized as, sometimes WITHOUT a shower I’d be a much worse mom for the day. And somedays… I just don’t shower.

  7. tamacat says

    Wow, this is a nice hack, but are there people who are really that uptight about nudity out there? My husband gives my 2.5 year old daughter baths all the time (where he’s in there with her). Most of my friends do this as well…

  8. hedra says

    We’re pretty comfortable with the nudity here, too – my 9-year old son sees me naked regularly, and the main reason our kids don’t see dad naked very often (other than when they barge in on him in the bathroom) is because he wakes up first and is usually at least partly dressed by the time they have their eyes open. (I was breifly concerned over the whole nudity across genders issue, but by-and-large, the challenges seem to have been mastered with very little effort, and some proper terminology… granted, the initial questions can be a bit astonishing, but once answered, they’re really answered! And they all know what privacy is, and demand it when they want it.)

    We’ve tried the showers thing, but my kids are very sensory sensitive, so shower spray has been a bad thing for most of their lives. Sigh. I used the bouncy-seat outside the shower while I watch, and the bath toys outside the tub, both worked for a while. But I still end up preferring just getting up early and getting the shower in while DH sits with the kids – they get good cuddle time in that way anyway.

    RE: The hair-washing… each has had unique and different reactions to the washing hair routine:

    G: Hates the feeling of water hitting his head. Overtimulating, irritating, freaks him out (used to scream, now just flinches and squeals, though he WILL take showers on his own). Things that helped: shampoo-hat/visor, pouring water with the cup edge resting ON his head (water does not cause the ‘impact’ sensation, just pouring), washing his hair while lying down in the tub in shallow water (scooping with hand), washing and rinsing with a soft bath brush (many rinses, but does a reasonable job).

    B: Face wetness, soap in mouth or eyes, and a sense of not being in control are the main issues. Wetting was okay, soaping was okay, RINSING was bad. Used a wet washcloth to rinse with, both just wiping down repeatedly and wringing gently on head. Coached him to hold a handtowel over his face as young as possible during rinsing, and he still will do this. Also recall vaguely that he had an issue with his hair being moved the wrong direction or tugged – it hurt. He had cradle cap for AGES, and his scalp was sensitive. Oh, and changing shampoos really helped for him, too – again, an ownership/control thing, it was HIS shampoo, just his.

    R: Interruption of play time is the biggest issue, moving/tugging on her hair while washing/rinsing was secondary. Once she learned that I’d leave her alone (figuratively, not literally) if I just got the shampoo out of her hair, she immediately tolerated having her head sprayed down with the shower-on-a-hose thing (set to gentle flow – none of them can bear the rain-spatter feeling up close). Bonus, the shower routine meant I didn’t TOUCH her head/hair while rinsing, so no tugging/pulling while working the soap out.

    M: Power/autonomy and sensory issues. Will wet, shampoo, and rinse her own hair (starting around 2 1/4 years old) if given the chance. Will tolerate a little help if I explain why the help is required. Will try almost anything to wash her own hair (without regard to safety), rather than have me do it (somewhat ‘eek!’ there). Earlier on, used soft bath brush and comb to wet, shampoo, and rinse. Also used a wet washcloth, and avoided pouring from any distance (hates all of the negatives – interruption, autonomy, water impact, soap on face/eyes… all at once!).

    All of them have issues with face-drip, so teaching them to ‘look up at the owl’ (as my mom did with me) has helped.

    So, from my perspective, if you can figure out WHY they hate it, you may be able to figure out a solution to the fight. Just remember that the issues also change with age (such as autonomy/control being a biggie from 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 for many kids).

  9. anna says

    Re: hairwashing. My two year old hates to have his hair washed, he hates the water and suds running down his face, so we now use “the little shower.” I bought a watering can, the kind for houseplants, we will it at the faucet, and I can control where and how fast the water runs. I tell him “chin up” so the water runs over the back of his head. He tolerates this.

  10. Ben says

    Yeah, I’m surprised about the nudity issue too. As long as no one’s uncomfortable (including the kids), what difference does it make?

  11. Miss Mea-Mea says

    My son is 19 months old and is miserable when I try to shower with him. I’d say that it’s the “water-from-overhead” thing but overall he’s just not too keen on bathtime anymore. Used to be bathtime was the best time of the day, now I have to chase him around and quickly soap him before his little foot starts searching for a way over the side of the tub.

    I was all for the idea of comfortable family nudity, and wanted to encourage the idea of being comfortable with bodies, so when showering failed, I tried just sharing his tub with him on the days I hadn’t already gotten my own shower. The problem is that he’s a really curious kid and immediately started playing with my breasts and exploring and pulling at my pubic hair. REALLY annoying!

    I don’t plan on covering up for the rest of my life, but for now, nudity is a very brief thing. Later on we can talk about body parts and differences but for now, I’d rather not deal, you know?

    My parent hack is just to shower either with the door open and him nearby, or if he’s in a troublesome mood, I keep him in the bathroom with me with the door closed and some really interesting toy or forbidden object to fiddle with. Crayon wipes off the floor really easy! :)

  12. Parent Hacks Editor says

    Re: “face drip” and soap in the eyes — have your toddler/kid hold a dry, folded washcloth over her face while you’re rinsing to absorb any drips. Having an important job to do and a bit of control over the situation (plus “chin up”) does wonders for my daughter.

  13. Whitney says

    For the whole hair rinsing thing- I have a 3.5 yr. old with rapunzel long hair. After I shampoo it I have her lay on her back and swish her hair around like a mermaid. She thinks it sounds cool and I get out a majority of the shampoo that way. Then I have a shower head that I got for $10 at walmart- the type that have a long hose- they are really easy to install and are great to rinse kids off. It only takes 2 seconds to rinse the rest of the shampoo out and no fight. Oh- plus I put some wallies on the ceiling (the wall paper pictures that can come off when you want to take them down) for her to look at. It’s easy to tell her to look at the butterfly or duck, etc..

  14. Jenn says

    My daughter refused to have her hair washed unless she was sitting on the edge of the tub with her head over side of the tub and one of us with our leg in the tub supporting her head while watching it. We finally got a hand held shower head and she still complained until I told her she needed to pretend she was a model on the beach, So she lays out in the tub with her hair back and I tell her it’s like a photo shoot. The rest of the bath we tell her is like a spa treatment.

  15. Rachel says

    The family shower is a great way to get you both clean in a hurry– I know from experience it’s a life-saver when there is a grape jelly disaster at breakfast, and you’re trying to get out of the house in a hurry!

    One thing did bother me about the OP’s hack– she said she sometimes leaves her son in the tub while she’s putting on make-up, doing her hair, etc. I just don’t know how safe it is to have a toddler in the tub when you’re the least bit distracted. Even if you’re in the bathroom with him/her, a lot can happen when your back is turned, you’re using your hair dryer, or your attention is drawn elsewhere even for a minute.

  16. Eric says

    A rolled up washcloth that he gets to hold firmly over his eyes does the trick for my 3yr old (who used to dread water poured on his head).

    Now he readily accepts it. I say time to wash your hair and he grabs the washcloth and says, go!

  17. says

    My husband and I started showering with our babies pretty much straight away. The intent wasn’t so much to clean ourselves as it was to get them used to showers. When they could sit up we put toys and a thin towel on the floor of the shower to stop the slipping and subsequent head banging, plus it gave them a little puddle to splash in. Always we left washing them as the last thing we did.
    I don’t see anything wrong with the original poster running a bath for her kid and letting him play if she’s in the room, which I’m sure is what she meant.

  18. Grace says

    I bought a clear shower curtain, and my son likes to play with his toys on the bathroom floor – we have a special group of toys just for the bathroom. Being able to keep an eye on him through the curtain makes a huge difference, and he likes being able to see me.

  19. S says

    I see that a lot of posters here are very comfortable with nudity but my family really is not. We still have shared some showers and baths with the parent wearing a bathing suit. No, it’s not as easy as bathing naked, but a LOT better than no bath.

  20. Laura says

    Just had to add – my husband showered with our daughter until we finally had a bathtub installed – he started wearing a a swimsuit because she started thinking he had a handle, lol.

  21. Lisa says

    We have a 3 1/2 yr old son and a 1 1/2 yr old daughter. My husband always bathed/showered with our son. It was their thing/evening time together. So when along came our daughter they brought and still bring her into the bath with them. I can’t image them saying no to her as she tries to get in with her clothes. We don’t have a large tub and my husband is 6’2. It doesn’t seem to bother any of them, they all fit. I often bring both or either of my kids into the shower with me. I first fill the bottom of the tub with warm water, they sit and I stand to shower, wash my hair and then will rinse them off afterwards. Age appropriate – not sure but in the mean time family bathing time is fun and no one seems to have any hang ups about being naked in front of one another!

  22. zgma says

    We don’t have a problem with nudity either here. My 5-year-old son loves to shower with me – in fact, I can’t remember the last time I had a shower alone because every time he hears me turn the shower on, he’s there taking his clothes off. My 1-year-old son hangs out at one end of the shower, peering around the curtain. For now he doesn’t try to get in. My only problem with the joint showers is that my son refuses to let me soap or shampoo him in the shower, so we have to do baths as well so that he can actually get soaped.

    Re: the hair-washing… we used to have a terrible time with this, and our solutions have changed with the different phases. For a while, promising to make funny shapes out of his soapy hair, and then handing him a mirror, worked well. There were a few storylines and songs involving characters that loved to get their hair washed as well. At about 3, he started needing a dry washcloth over his eyes. Now he will lean back to get his hair wet, but he still needs the dry washcloth, and he refuses shampoo, so we use bar soap instead. My 1-year-old only sort of objects to hair washing, so I just keep it quick with him.

  23. Tami says

    I used the same idea with our now 3 1/2 Year son until he was 3 years. Now 1 Year old daughter has taken over for the past 6 months. I just LOVE the efficiency that having the baby tub in the shower has had for me! And, when it has come to washing-the-hair part… I just count aloud 1,2,3. My son understood that once I finished counting those 3 little numbers, shampoo would be gone = dreaded session finished (at least for that shower session. And, I think THAT IS what kids really want to know… session IS GOING to END… and quickly).

  24. marci says

    i can’t *wait* to shower or bathe with my baby. only two more weeks until his ileostomy is reversed! until then, since his ostomy poops continuously – no. but i’ll have to come up with something since he’s outgrowing his infant bathtub. does anyone else have a developmentally delayed baby? how did you bathe him/her? i don’t trust him sitting in a real bathtub – he’s just not good enough at sitting yet.

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