Switching from baths to showers

As kids grow older, they may be ready to make the switch from baths to showering on their own. Here's how to help them transition.

Photo by Christian Adams/Getty Images

The time for sleep-away camp is approaching, causing anxiety for many parents, as they will no longer have control over their child’s cleaning routine. Despite spending some time away from home, many school-age kids may find the process of showering on their own intimidating. Here are some tips to help get your child to transition from baths to showers:

There is no magic number
Developmental paediatrician Janine Flanagan warns that water temperature and slips are still safety concerns. “Bath time requires constant supervision at least up until – well, there’s no age per se,” she admits. “A child in Grade 3 might be able to run her own bath water, but you’re not going to let a kid in Grade 1 do that.” In fact, there’s no magic number for kids to start showering. The family routine – and how much children still enjoy their bath toys – will factor into when they are ready. It could be as late as nine or 10.

Every child is different
Paediatrician Sanjeev Luthra says a child’s readiness depends on his or her exposure to independent hygiene. Whether or not they have been showering with their parents already may also play a role. He recommends parents start with supervised showers, turning on the water for their kids and making sure they are cleaning themselves properly. “Set all that up and complete independence comes a little bit later,” he says.

Teach them to love water
Some kids may have a heightened sensitivity to water in general and showering in particular. While hygiene for prepubescent children is mostly about washing off surface dirt and establishing routines, Flanagan warns against just letting it go. There’s no hard and fast rule about how often kids need to bathe, but they do need to learn to feel comfortable around water. “Baths in summer are more frequent than winter because kids are outside more,” says Flanagan. “On average every three to four days makes sense, unless they get really dirty during their activities before then.”

Take your time
Of course, a certain amount of bath avoidance is a normal part of childhood. Luthra says this can also mean parents might be rushing into independent showering and should consider more supervision, or even returning to baths. “Become a little more involved for a while.” Ultimately, if your child isn’t loving the shower yet, you don’t need to push it. Let them play in the bath and they’ll get there eventually. 

A version of this article appeared in print in our May 2012 issue with the headline “Shower time” (p. 86).

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