It is generally assumed that bath time should be a lovely and enjoyable ritual for both you and your toddler. After all, scroll through your social media feed, watch any film or look at a magazine advert and it is always showcased as a special bonding time that will relax you after a hard day’s work and provide that all-important quality time. But, in so many cases the reality is far from the dream that is portrayed – and ask most parents why this supposed calming ritual descends into chaos with an upset, screaming toddler and a frustrated parent and there is one common answer they all have: My toddler hates hair washing.
But thankfully, there is good news. If you are experiencing this bath time nightmare then Dandydill Way has compiled a 7-step guide on how to wash toddlers’ hair who hates it and turn chaos into calm, ensuring bath time is a most joyful experience that leaves you and your toddler serene and happy – and most importantly early looking forward to the next time!
7 Steps to Washing Your Toddlers Hair If They Hate It
1. Preparation is key
Rather than embarking on bath time without warning, try to have a set number of days each week when you have scheduled to wash your toddler’s hair. Note these down on a family calendar. You can even draw a fun picture of this activity and show this to your toddler. This means they will be expecting it to happen and not be caught unawares.
Throughout the day, you can remind them that it will happen. If your child is especially anxious and teary about hair washing, then create a social story or series of simple cartoon drawings that breaks the event down into small steps and explains what happens during each one. It may be an idea to keep this story beside you during the bath and ask your child to explain each drawing so they can understand what is going to happen next.
Consider too investing in props that will help, such as bath visors or goggles, to ensure water stays out of your toddler’s eyes as this can be a fundamental reason why toddlers detest hair washing.
2. Choose your products wisely
In the past, products that boasted tear-free formulas were often brimming with chemical nasties and had a strong, off-putting smell, which were incredibly harsh on sensitive young skin. Thankfully this is no longer the case. Gentle products such as our array of sensitive hair care products for toddlers are both kind to delicate skin and hair, while offering a soap-free, no tears formulation.
The much-loved Dandydill Way shampoo promises to gently cleanse hair and keep scalp healthy. With 97.4% natural and plant derived ingredients, it contains our unique botanical extract of antioxidant rich and skin-friendly wild hawthorn berry, as well as coconut-based cleansing ingredients. This mild, pH-balanced formula is entirely FREE from sulphate, SLES, SLS, PEG, ethyoxylate, MIT, silicone, paraben, alcohol, synthetic fragrance, colouring and essential oils. It also has a 100% natural fragrance.
Sensitive, soothing shampoo that smells lovely can make a big difference when it comes to washing your toddler’s hair without crying. Avoid harsh ingredients that can cause irritation and opt for shampoos derived from natural ingredients – it can certainly help to create a more relaxing environment for both toddler and parent!
3. Start by letting them wash their favourite toy’s hair or better your own
Once your toddler is safely in the bath, why not allow them to wash their favourite toy’s hair? While this is happening, you can make soothing comments such as “Oh it looks as if (Toy’s name) is really enjoying that and doesn’t his/her hair smell lovely and clean”.
Once they are reassured, you can embark on washing their hair. If your toddler is still not convinced, perhaps you could let them wash your hair and reinforce to them by your word and non-verbal body language how much you are enjoying the experience.
Never force your toddler to have their hair washed if they are very upset as this could be a traumatic experience for them and exacerbate the problem, making it even more difficult next time.
4. Don’t rush
Although bath time usually happens at the end of a busy day when both parents and toddlers are tired and perhaps a little fractious, do not be tempted to rush the experience - this might just reinforce your toddler hating having their hair washed. Instead, why not try to incorporate it into a hotly anticipated lovely grooming ritual?
You could kick start the ritual by putting some of our gorgeously-scented sensitive bubble bath into the bath while the water is running and lighting some candles. While the hair washing is happening, perhaps play some calming music. After your toddler is all dry, try finishing off the ritual with a massage before drying their hair.
5. Hold your child firmly
Often, young children can become anxious at the thought of falling backwards into unseen water behind them. So, to mitigate this, place one of your arms around their shoulders and slowly lean them into the bathwater. Then, you can use your free arm to pour water slowly onto their head. Place them back upright when you are shampooing the hair.
It may be an idea to also consider enrolling your child into swimming classes, as they will gain confidence and begin to develop a trust with water.
6. Keep tangles at bay
One dreaded childhood memory can be having your hair brushed when it’s matted and riddled with knots, so you should always ensure you condition your toddler’s hair. You should also use a detangling product to help make the process smoother. Apply this after washing their hair and before combing it.
As with the shampoo, we recommend using a conditioner that is gentle on the hair and the skin. Our sensitive conditioner for children will minimise frizz without weighing down hair or leaving residue to ensure hair is smooth, shiny and easy to comb - and our silicone-free detangling spray is its perfect partner!
7. Praise your toddler
Once you have finished your carefully planned ritual successfully, be sure to praise your toddler and even spend a little time cuddling with them. A cuddle releases endorphins (the feel-good hormone) and will ensure that their lasting memory of bath time is overwhelmingly positive. What’s more, this should ensure that over time they will enjoy having their hair washed without crying and shall look forward to this precious time with you.
Why do toddlers hate having their hair washed?
It is unlikely that a child has no reason for hating having their hair washed, so why not spend some time with your child, discussing the ideas behind their dislike. If you explore their concerns together, you can reassure them, put a plan in place to address their fears and ultimately overcome these challenges to transform the experience into an enjoyed event that you and your child look forward to and enjoy.
For children who are autistic or have a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) diagnosis, they are probably overprocessing sensations at bath time as there is a lot going on. In this case, it is worth speaking to a paediatrician as to how you can manage their issues carefully without causing any trauma.
How often should you wash a toddler’s hair?
It is really only necessary to wash toddlers’ hair once or twice a week. Young children do not need to have their hair washed as often as older children, teens or adults. Unless your child has been outdoors spending time playing in muddy puddles or on sandy beaches, it is very likely they can enjoy bath time without washing their hair. Over-washing their hair, especially with harshly-formulated products, may even negatively impact their delicate hair, removing precious oils from it.
We hope these tips for washing your toddler’s hair without crying have given you some extra reassurance. Remember, depending on your child, you can choose which tip will ensure bath time is a roaring, fun-filled success for them, and a cherished memory for you (especially when your little one smells like bottled sunshine, thanks to our signature scent!). And soon enough, your toddler hating hair wash day will be a distant memory!
Discover more of Dandydill Way’s sensitive hair care and bath care for children on our website. And for more tips on looking after your little one, explore the rest of our guides.
Written by Tania Rodney
Tania Rodney is the founder of Dandydill Way, an award-winning range of sensitive skin care and hair care products for children, toddlers and babies. Tania is an expert in skin care and hair care ingredients and formulas for little ones, with over ten years of experience. Before founding Dandydill Way, Tania gained 25 years of experience as a make-up artist, learning about the ins and outs of the ingredients we put on our skin and in our hair. This inspired her to create products for her own children that were full of amazing, kind ingredients and smelt like sunshine.