how to wash a toddler's hair without tantrum or crying: little boy washing his hair

Does your toddler hate having their hair washed – or hate being in the bath at all? Does your child throw a tantrum or cry when you try to rinse the shampoo from their hair? There are ways to make bath time and washing a toddler’s hair easier – here’s how.

Why does my toddler scream or cry when I try to wash their hair?

There are four main reasons why a child might hate having their hair washed:

  • They don’t like the sensation of the shampoo being massaged into their scalp.
  • They might be afraid of getting water or shampoo on their face or in their eyes when their hair is rinsed.
  • They don’t like having their head or body leaned backwards. Some kids find the sensation – and the fact that they can’t see where they’re going – frightening.
  • They simply hate the bath, whether they’re getting their hair washed or not, and there’s no real reason.

No matter why your child hates having their hair washed, it goes without saying that you should use a specially-formulated no-tear children’s shampoo. If you can find an unscented one, even better. And you only really need to wash their hair once or twice a week at the most.

how to wash your toddler's hair without tantrum or crying: little girl washing her hair in the bath

Making bath time easier: How to wash your toddler’s hair without them throwing a tantrum or crying

If your toddler is afraid of having their hair washed you can try making bath time more fun. For example, you can:

  • put a handheld mirror in the bathroom and let them play with different hair styles while the shampoo is in their hair – they can make a mohawk or horns – or anything, really. This may help them feel calmer during baths.
  • get them to wash a doll or toy’s hair. You can do this to get them comfortable with the idea of hair washing, and it’s a brilliant way to distract them if they wash their toy’s hair while you do theirs.
  • pretend that you’re the ‘hairdresser’ and turn it into a game.

ALSO READ: How to raise your children to have a healthy body image

What to do if your toddler doesn’t like having shampoo rubbed into their hair

If your little one doesn’t like the sensation of having the shampoo rubbed into their scalp (this can be quite common in children with sensory processing disorders), try:

  • pat the shampoo into their hair instead. Or put the shampoo on a facecloth and wipe it over their head – this sensation can be more tolerable for sensitive kids.
  • consider letting them massage the shampoo in themselves, as it gives them a chance to choose the pressure. If you’re letting them do the shampooing, you may need to get involved with the rinsing to make sure it’s done properly.

What to do if your toddler doesn’t like having shampoo rinsed out of their hair or having water in their eyes

If your toddler hates having water or shampoo run over their face, try:

  • give them a dry face cloth to hold over their eyes while you rinse. And if they hate leaning back, get them to lean forwards instead, while covering their eyes with the cloth.
  • experiment with different methods of rinsing shampoo out of your toddler’s hair. If a jug of water doesn’t work from them (or you!), try a handheld shower on a soft setting – if they’re old enough to do it themselves, some children will feel more comfortable if they feel they’re in control of the water. You could event try using a kiddies’ watering can to make the process seem a little more fun.
  • buy a rinse pail – we like this one by Nuby – which has a soft, contoured edge that can be placed directly against your baby’s forehead to help prevent water from running into their eyes as you rinse the shampoo from their hair.

how to wash your toddler's hair without them crying: nuby rinse pail for washing child's hair

  • Need to keep your child’s eyes and ears dry when rinsing their hair? A shampoo cap should do the trick.

how to wash your toddler's hair without them crying: shampoo cap for washing child's hair

  • get your child a colourful pair of swimming goggles. With their eyes properly protected they might not mind – or might even enjoy! – having the water run over their face.
  • If all else fails, use a wet facecloth to ‘wipe’ the shampoo off.

YOU MIGHT LIKE: 7 brilliant ways to deal with toddler tantrums

What to do if your child hates bathing

The trick here is to try loads of different tactics – from distraction to entertaining them – to see what works for you, and them. Consider:

  • sometimes it’s the sound of the water draining that scares kids – wait until they’re out of the bath (or even out of the room) before pulling out the plug.
  • buy a few special toys that are reserved for bath time only.
  • bath crayons or paints can be used to decorate the bath or tiles – a brilliant distraction while you’re trying to wash their hair.
  • try putting them back into their baby bath. A smaller, more familiar space might mean a calmer baby come bath time.
  • get into the bath with them. This will usually calm even the most anxious bathers.
  • if you just can’t get them to be comfortable in the bath, put them in the shower with you and – if you have one – use a handheld shower to rinse them off.

View our articles, competitions and promotions on BabyYumYum for all things parenting. SA's #1 Parenting Portal.