Help! My child hates having her hair washed.
Do you have a child who screams blue murder when it's hair washing time? Well you're not alone. It's perfectly normal for babies and toddlers to develop a fear of water and many of them do. Typically, it happens between 18 months and 2 years of age. Children who were previously happy to have their faces and hair washed will suddenly become terrified of water on their faces, making bath time a nightmare. In the toddler years all three of my kids developed this seemingly irrational fear of getting water on their face. Previously calm bath times suddenly became traumatic and the very sound of running water was enough to send my toddler into a screaming tantrum. Hair washing became a near impossible task!
My health visitor reassured me that it was all quite normal and also very common for little ones to develop a fear of water on their face. She suggested a few strategies to try out at bath time and I came up with even more tips through talking to other parents. What I found is that what works for one child, doesn't necessarily work for them all so it took patience and perseverance to find the methods that worked for each of my kids. It was worth it though as the end result was stress free bath times and happy kids! Here, I've put together a list of the strategies that worked for us.
Tips to make hair washing easier for babies and toddlers
Use a mirror, preferably fixed on the wall beside your bath so that you have both hands free. Let your child look at herself in the mirror whilst you wash her hair. This will help alleviate the fear of the unknown. While your child watches, talk her through the hair washing process. "Now mummy is going to wet your hair a little. Now we'll make some soapy bubbles on your hair. Don't you look funny now?"
Sing action songs with your child and incorporate hair and face washing into it. This one really worked for us and helped make hair washing time less scary for my kids as the singing distracted them. They would sing, "This is the way we wash our hair, wash our hair, wash, our hair...etc" whilst I got on with the now much easier task.
Stop using shampoo. Young kids don't really need shampoo to make their hair clean so why use it? It just makes hair washing time even more traumatic, as chances of soap suds getting into your child's eyes is pretty high when she is flailing around in desperation. In fact there's a pretty high chance that a past experience of shampoo in the eyes is why many children develop this fear in the first place. You'll then have an even bigger battle on your hands as your child will associate hair washing time with pain! My daughter had eczema in toddler hood and shampoo would bring her out in a rash. Until then, it never occurred to me not to use shampoo. After a quick bit of research I found out that shampoo isn't necessary for young kids and washing their hair with water is sufficient. Once I stopped using shampoo on my daughter, hair washing got a whole lot quicker and easier. If you have a particularly grubby toddler, then I recommend using a no tears shampoo, which won't sting if it gets into the child's eyes.
Use a bath puppet. Make bath time more fun by using a bath puppet to wash your child's hair. My daughter loved Dora the Explore when she was little and would happily let Dora wash her face and pour water over her head. You'll be surprised how many children willingly let their favourite character wash their hair but won't let mum or dad do the job!
Let your child wash her own hair. My health visitor suggested this one. I used an unbreakable mirror fixed to the wall beside the bath so that my kids could watch themselves as they poured the water over their heads. Although this didn't make my kids any more keen on getting their hair washed it did make them less resistant to the idea as it let them feel they had control over the process.
Wash your child's hair less often. Children don't need their hair washed daily. Once a week is plenty and even less often than that won't do them any harm either. All children grow out of this fear eventually but washing their hair more often won't necessarily make it happen any sooner and will only prolong their anxiety and distress.
How do I wash baby's hair without getting it in her eyes?
If you've tried all of the above methods and none of them have worked for you, then you might want to think of trying a gadget designed to help keep water out of a child's eyes. Some parents aren't keen on the idea of using something like this, thinking it better to let their children overcome their fears by hair washing more often and purposely pouring more water over their faces than necessary. I personally disagree with this as kids tend to outgrow this fear and trying to make them confront it won't necessarily make it happen any sooner. So if you've tried every other method in the book already, it might be worth giving one of these gadgets a go.
Swimming Goggles. A simple pair of goggles can make all the difference to hair washing time. This inexpensive idea is really worth giving a go. The goggles will keep the water and shampoo out of your child's eyes and hopefully make bath time a whole lot less stressful.
Shower Hats and Visors. Shower hats and visors are designed to keep the water completely off your baby's face whilst hair washing. There are loads of different designs to chose from. Reading reviews on them, I've noticed that these hats seem to have varying degrees of success so shop around and read parent reviews before buying.
A handy gadget that could make washing your child's hair easier.
Bath rinser jug. A specially designed jug like the Skip Hop Moby Waterfall Bath Rinser that slowly pours a steady flow of water out could make hair washing time less stressful for your little one. It has a rubber lip that fits against your child's forehead to stop soap getting into the eyes. I haven't personally tried this as it wasn't around a few years back when my kids were toddlers, but a lot of parents swear by it. I'm all for making the lives of us parents easier so this one could be worth giving a go if all else has failed.
A final word
I'm not an expert in child development. The views above are based on my experiences with my own children along with advice given to me by my health visitor. Different methods work for different children so it's worth perservering. Try all of these methods and more!
Do you have any of your own ideas for making hair washing less traumatic? If you would like to share your experiences of what worked for your child, I'd love to hear them and it could help other parents out too. Please share in the comments box below.
Maggie.L (author) from UK on August 29, 2014:
Hi Devika, Many thanks for sharing your experiences of washing your child's hair. Children often feel happier if you let them attempt to wash their hair by themselves. Glad that worked for your son.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on August 29, 2014:
My son hated to have his hair washed when he was about four years old I gave him the Baby shampoo and stood there watching him do it himself since then I had no problems. Thank you for a helpful hub.
Maggie.L (author) from UK on August 10, 2014:
Hi ologsinquito, yes most children seem to go through this phase and thankfully it does eventually pass.
ologsinquito from USA on August 10, 2014:
You're right, it's a phase that will pass. Meanwhile, you offered some very good tips on living through this.
Maggie.L (author) from UK on July 31, 2014:
Hi Martie. Yes, you're right. Most children do seem to hate water being poured over their head, probably because it does usually end up in their eyes too. Thanks for sharing your excellent tip of what worked for your kids.
Martie Coetser from South Africa on July 30, 2014:
Wonderful tips, Maggie! I think most children hate to feel water being poured over their heads and all over their faces. Making them lie on their back in the bath tub in water that only covers half of their body, had made it easier for me to wash my kid's hair.
Maggie.L (author) from UK on July 27, 2014:
MsDora, Bath time can be stressful for little ones if they're afraid of getting water into their eyes. Some parents definitely find that a visor helps their child to worry less about getting their hair washed. Many thanks for reading and commenting.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 25, 2014:
Maggie, these are all great ideas. I can imagine the little one liking the visor and being distracted by it. Thanks for these insights I'm sure parents will find them useful.
Maggie.L (author) from UK on July 24, 2014:
Hi Nell, thanks for stopping by to read and share your experiences with your son. Kids can do funny things when they get a hold of stuff from the bathroom!
Nell Rose from England on July 24, 2014:
I like the idea of a visor for the baby, I remember my son hated getting the shampoo in his eyes, but then we used the baby safe shampoo. I remember a funny thing once, I heard my son go into the bathroom, he was about a year and a half at the time, I ran up the stairs to see what he was doing and he was sat in bed with a dollop of shampoo on his head! made me laugh, and glad it was the safe stuff!
Maggie.L (author) from UK on July 24, 2014:
Thanks MotherNinja. They worked for my kids. Hope that it helps others.
Sarah Cumlin from United Kingdom on July 24, 2014:
Some excellent tips, thank you