Washing Kids' Hair

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Any tips on how to shampoo my 16-mo-old's hair?

June 2006

HI There, My 16 month daughter used to love taking baths but have always hated getting her face wet. There is no way I can think of shampooing her hair without wetting her face. Now, she is just so fed up and upset that she refuses to take a bath. Any advice on how to shampoo my daughters hair without wetting the front of her face? Or any advice for shampooing her hair hassel free?
daughter boycotting bathtime

I don't know how much hair your daughter has -- mine doesn't have very much, so this procedure works fine for her. We wet a wash cloth, put her baby soap/shampoo on it, rub it in and then rub on her hair. Her hair gets sudsy but not overwhelmingly so. Then we keep rinsing the wash cloth in the bath water and rubbing it over her hair, to the point that all the shampoo is gone. Water doesn't get in her eyes/face much because there just isn't much water involved (we make sure to wring out the washcloth somewhat before putting it on her hair). Note that we still mostly get in the bath with her, and we only bathe her twice a week or so. If we were doing it every day maybe it would drive her crazy, but she really doesn't seem to mind. good luck

My daughter is terrified of water on her face. I bought a visor & now she loves getting her hair washed. She even helps out now by holding her head back when I rinse her hair out. So get a visor, slip it on & wash, then to rinse the hair use a cup & just pour it over your child's hair. Before you take the visor off get a towel ready because some water will drip down, but if you put the towel over your baby's forehead as you take the visor off then you will catch the water. I bought my visor at Target. Shelly

my husband used to get into the bath with my son, have him lie back so that he was looking up at the ceiling and resting his head on his stomach. Then he would carefully pour water on his head making sure that the water didn't go into his eyes. Then he would sit him up to shampoo him and lie him back again to rinse his hair out. He would have a little, dry cloth ready to dry his eyes right after the rinse.

I didn't have the energy to get into the tub so I just had him float on his back with my hand resting under his head. His head would get soaked in the tub. Then I would sit him up to shampoo and lie him back again to rinse it out. I also had a little cloth ready to dry his eyes. He is now a little fish in the water and it doesn't bother him to have his hair shampooed. I just give him a cloth to cover his eyes and pour the water directly over his head while he counts the number of pours. He is three. cheers

Our daughter is 4yrs old now and hair washing has always been an issue. I used to lie her on her back on the counter next to our little washbasin with her hair hanging over the basin and a rolled up towel under her neck and this worked well for a while. We would always wash quickly. I even resorted to using a washcloth with water and shampooing while she was standing, before we actually lathered and rinsed over the basin. She now has grown and this doesn't work too well, so I fill a little plastic bath with water, place it on the floor with a couple of rolled up towels under her neck and this works well...a little hard on your back but I try to be as quick as possible. I rinse carefully and all the water runs off the back of her head so it doesn't wet her face. Also you have to be careful about spilling. I know this sounds quite funny/drastic but it has worked for her and she is much happier when we put her in the bath after washing and towel drying her hair. She has beautiful long brown hair. We don't wash it every day. Another idea we used is getting a portable shower-head type attachment (found at the drug store) to use on the faucet and again if she tilted her head backwards in the bath, you can use the shower like stream very close to her head and avoid wetting her eyes/face. Good Luck! anon

Hi - I have had similar problem with my 3 1/2 year old son. We finally made it kind of a game. When it was time for washing hair, I would tell him to look up ''at the moon'' and close his eyes. Then carefully get his hair wet, lather and rinse. I always must have the washcloth ready for the common water drips on the face too of course. It has gotten much easier as time goes on. Hang in there - it will get better. My son even ''holds his breath'' and puts his face in the water now ( for about 2 seconds). Good luck! Jill

put the shampoo on a wash cloth and wash her hair with that. rinse out the washcloth or use a fresh one and go over with that to rinse it out. no more tears

It's pretty typical of toddlers to dislike their faces getting wet. That being said, here are two approaches we use successfully with our son. We have bath toys (A.L.I.X.) that if you squeeze under water, can fill up with water, so when you lift them out, you can squirt the water out of them. There are various packages, we have the sports one (baseball, basketball, soccer ball, baseball mit, football) and another one with various balls. We use those to squirt water on his hair and it doesn't get into his eyes or on his face. The stream of water is narrow and very controllable. The fact that it is a bath toy means he is instinctively not afraid of it. The other way we do it is to take a small child's wash cloth and get it wet, squeeze out the water, and then just wipe it through his hair, being sure to use our hands to brush his bangs away from his forehead. This way the water doesn't drip but if it might, you can quickly wipe it away with the wash cloth. Don't use adult wash cloths, they are too big and won't work. The little packets you get at target, etc will do just fine. anon

One Step Ahead (www.http://www.onestepahead.com) sells visors....they work great! anon

I get in the bath with my son. I have him facing away from me, sitting between my legs. Then I lean him back so the back of his head is on my belly. I pour the water over his head but it avoids his face since he's leaning back. Tip for the future: in case your daughter continues to hate this, pay attention and decide whether it's better to get it over with because she hates the anticipation, or better to save it till the end so she's not miserable the entire time. My son prefers getting the shampoo over with. Been there

My daughter got swimming goggles on her birthday and now wears those when I wash her hair. She loves it, because she doesn't get any soap in her eyes. JOJ

I think my son was about your dd's age when these two things started working for us: I have him tilt his head up and look at the ceiling, which makes all the water run off the back of his head instead of into his face, and he holds a dry washcloth over his eyes while I rinse. The washcloth is more a placebo, but it makes him feel like he's in control. These things started to work as soon as he was old enough to follow directions, probably around 16-18 months. Good luck! It does get better. JP

I take a bath with my daughter on the nights (1-2 times per week) that we wash her hair. We have a little (safety) mirror in the tub so we can laugh at how fun it is to have ''bubbles'' in her hair. She still cries but it's such a treat to take a bath with mommy that we make it through. That way too she can lie down in my lap or cuddle me when we are rinsing. She likes to hold a washcloth over her face during the rinsing as well. We also ''wash'' her doll's hair too, ie. dollie's turn, your child's turn. adelina

My daughter also doesn't like to get her face wet. Until recently she would press a dry washcloth over her eyes so she would feel safe that no water or shampoo would get in her eyes. Recently she has let me support her head with one hand as she lays back in the water. I use a cup or bowl with the other hand to rinse her hair out. Hope this helps! Nicole

When my 2 year-old started getting really sensitive about getting water on her face during the hair wash, I taped a picture of a character she really loves onto the ceiling. When we are ready to rinse, I tell her to look at the picture and I ask her questions about it. She knows I'm rinsing her hair, but it doesn't get on her face, so she's fine. It would be a little different with your daughter since she's younger, but you get the idea. Anything that gets her to look upward while you rinse her hair...good luck! Holly

Thanks to advice given to me by a four-year-old, I used to hold a folded wash cloth over my son's forehead/eyes. Then I would pour the water on his head from a small cup. The wash cloth absorbed most of the water. It worked wonders. N.C.

My wife and I have a 21-month old that gets a bath and shampoo almost every day. My wife and I have different methods of minimizing water on her face. First of all, we use a Johnson & Johnson pump shampoo (the shampoo comes out foamy so that you don't have to initially wet the hair to shampoo it. We reuse the foaming bottle by mixing 1 part baby shampoo with 3 to 4 parts water). When rinsing out the shampoo, my wife uses 2 face towels, one held around her forehead to keep the water from running down our daughter's face and the other to dunk in the bath water and rinse the hair out. She tells our daughter ''close your eyes, honey, were rinsing..o.k. all done...we're going to wipe face and wipe eyes''. I use a one towel method with one hand minimizing the water going down her face and the other dunking the towel to rinse out the hair. I first rinse the side and back of the head, then when I get to the top, I put my hands over our daughter's eyes and say ''o.k. close your eyes, close your eyes'' and rinse out the final suds. Immediately after, I tell her ''here comes the towel, here comes the towel, here it comes'' and wipe her face. Alternatively, I try to get my daughter's attention with a toy or something to look up, and while she looks up, I rinse out the last bit. She didn't like it at first, but we think consistency is important making sure we keep doing the same thing no matter what. Most baths are 30 minutes of fun but every so often they are are 2 minute screaming sessions. Hope this helps. Garrett Garrett gleemking

How often do you wash your kids' hair?

June 2005

Our preschooler has a bath every night but I don't think it's necessary to shampoo every night. My husband says daily. I say about every three days or so, plus the night before any special occassion is plenty or, heck, if it's dirty one day after it's been washed then to wash it. I will dump water on the head (without shampooing), however, in the nightly bath to clear out sandbox dust and such. The issue, by the way, is our child screams, cries, and yells during the shampooing, making bathtime a lot less fun then it could be. What's the point in causing all this annoyance for both me and our child? p.s. - I am the one who does the bathing yet even then my husband specifically comes in and ''reminds'' me. After the bath, as our son usually likes to run around naked until we wrangle him in for PJs and bedtime, he asks our son: ''Did mommy wash your hair?'' I shout out: ''Yes, didn't you hear us?!!'' (we have a small house which is why I can ''eavesdrop'' on their chats.) I really would like to know what other people do. anon

Goodness!! It's the little things that can really drive you crazy, hunh? If you really need some heavy duty back-up, check with your doctor's advice nurse about this. But I don't think a nightly shampoo is necessary for a child--and probably not for an adult, either. In fact, too much soap- -or shampoo--might even be a little harsh on a child's delicate skin. And it must push some buttons for you to have your husband sort of checking up on you with your child. What's that about? My son hates shampoos, too. He screams and cries too. It's a battle none of us like. But his hair can go for days without getting a shampoo and still look great. Anyway, we do have a policy: shampoo at least once a week, twice if we can manage it. Unless there's sand or obvious dirt that needs to be washed away in which case we just go ahead and wash. Once in a while, we do a water-only wash, and now that my son is learning to swim, he likes to show off that he can put his head under water. That helps so much with the fear of shampoo. We also have him hold a towel over his eyes to help him feel he has some control over the part that scares him: soap in the eyes! I hope you find some way to ease the tension in you house at bath time. Carolyn

You are correct on this one. Children's scalps simply don't produce as much oil as adult scalps, therefore not attracting as much dirt. If they choose to do headstands in the mud one day, or take a gymnastics class where their head comes in direct contact with maybe-not-so-sanitary-surfaces, like gym mats, then a shampoo is in order. Other than that, twice a week is fine. My mom did it that way, and our pediatrician agreed that twice weekly is perfect; otherwise you could be drying out the scalp unnecessarily (not to mention the whole battle-in-the-bathtub issue)! Mommy of 3 in Berkeley

It's not neccesary to wash your son's hair daily. Washing hair that frequently can even cause extreme dryness of scalp and hair. O-town Mom

We do the same as you--nightly bath, hair every three days or so or more when necessary. If your husband wants their hair washed more often, why doesn't he do it himself rather than telling you how to do it?? My husband would get an earful if he tried that with me! -mom of two reasonably clean kids

Your husband is quite fastidious about cleanliness. Does he know that heads washed TOO MUCH are more vulnerable to lice? In older days, it was once a week. Seems most people do it every other bath, or, like you said, when it's really dirty or there's an occasion the next day. If your hubby persists, it seems he should take over the task. It's only fair. Yo dad, loosen up please

We wash our 2 year olds hair once or twice a week. Mostly we do it either when there's food in it or when it just starts to get a strong ''hair'' smell. We tried a bath visor ( got a 2 pack at Rockridge Kids for about $8) and it has made a big difference. She doesn't cry as much and we can rinse faster since the visor is keeping most of the water out of her face. It's still a 2 person job, though. JM

I wash my kid's hair probably about 3 times a week. Their ages are 2 and 5, they both have thick hair, get sweaty easily, and are prone to excess sebum on their scalp (yuck!). And they both scream when I use shampoo, though they don't mind water and a bit of combing. Different hair, scalp health, degrees of dirt warrant different needs. Check with your hairdresser and pediatrician. I believe the general advice is NOT daily. I found one article here: http://www.hairfantastique.com/haircare.html Clean Enough

NOBODY *needs* to have their hair washed every day, so, no, your son doesn't need to have his washed every day, either. Have you tried discussing with your husband *why* he thinks daily shampooing is a must? Does he have concerns about sanitization? (toddlers don't need to be sanitized), or is it something else? If it were my husband, I'd try having a conversation with him about what his concern is really about -- it might be something more to do with *him* than with what your son needs--it's good to try to uncover this kind of thing (in a non-accusatory, non-judgemental way) rather than subject your child to nightly trauma (little kids find shampooing scary! It's okay, they grow out of it eventually, especially if they're allowed a little leeway). So, maybe just try a little dialoging with your husband about this. Don't shampoo everyday, either.

tell your husband if he wants something done a certain way he can do it himself. if you do it, you'll do it your way. by the way, I wash my sons hair about 2 or 3 times a week. daily would dry it to a frizz anon

I've washed my kids' hair a couple of times a week, at the most, for years, except when they've been to the beach, or the pool, but even then, I didn't always insist if I didn't have the energy for the fight. I don't keep track, but sometimes I suspect as much as a week goes by before I manage to wrestle my middle child's head into the water. raissa

We wash our three-year-old's hair once a week. He's stopped screaming since we started this ritual where he selects a washcloth to be held over his eyes during the washing. Clean enough

Not that I think you should follow my example but I wash my 2yo daughters s hair very infrequently....every three weeks sometimes even longer I'm sure. My son hated his hair being washed at that age and went perhaps months. It's true that cradle cap built up but besides that it looked ok. Yes, I feel guilty about it but hated the fights...sounds like a bit of a power struggle with you and your husband...maybe he should take over bath time for a while. mother of dirty haired kids

I NEVER bathed or hair-washed my babies, toddlers or preschoolers daily - only when visibly dirty, before a ''special event'', or a couple of times a week (even less if they were in a bath-hating phase). At that age, they don't really get smelly, too much bathing dries out their skin, and nobody seemed to notice (or at least they never said anything!). anon.

We wash our preschooler's hair every day, but we developed a routine so he did not cry. First, we washed his hair with baby foam and later we switched to a tear free shampoo. Then we tell him that we are going to rinse his hair, so he needs to close his eyes and keep them closed all the time until we say that it's over. We use a container to spill water on his head and we count to ten. He learns the numbers and he knows that when we get to ten, it's over. When it's done, we dry his eyes and face with a towel and he plays five more minutes in the bathtub before he goes out. Hope it helps! Cristina

I wash my 3-year-old daughter's hair once a week with shampoo on the weekend and it seems fine. My daughter loves her bath time and does not enjoy having her hair washed too much. It sounds completely reasonable to me to wash your son's hair with only water ( i believe in not using too much shampoo) when it has sand, etc. and use shampoo less often. likes to keep bath time enjoyable

My daughter only gets a bath 2-4 times a week, which I'm sure some people think is gross, but she doesn't get that dirty (no sandbox, for example). For cryin' out loud, tell your husband that he can do the bath every other day or something. Even if we bathed my daughter every day, I would never consider washing her hair every day unless it was filthy. Little kids' skin shouldn't be exposed to so much soap and detergents. Rinsing it with water seems fine. And if your husband is the one who thinks it's so important, he should deal with the screaming. By the way, my husband & I have two different techniques for bathing/washing hair. I have taught her to look UP so I can rinse water on her hair that doesn't get into her eyes, and I always keep a dry washcloth nearby to wipe her eyes immediately. She responds well to this. My husband makes a game out of pouring the water mercilessly over her head and warning her to close her eyes (''rainstorm coming, oh no!''). She responds fairl! y well to that also. She also resp janet

I'm sure you'll get similar responses, but have your husband do the bath a few times and see if he changes his mind! As someone who also felt like it was absolute torture to wash my kids hair (lots of screaming and ''ow, you're hurting me!''), I think that 2-3 x week is just fine. His hair is fine, and it's about the most I could muster up the energy to fight the battle. Otherwise he enjoyed the bath so much, I hated to make it a stressful event every day. My son has just started washing his hair on his own, at 6 1/2, and he still hates it, but he knows he only has to do it twice a week and doesn't complain too much. Also, the more you wash your hair, the more oil it produces, so the more you ''need'' to wash. I myself broke the daily hairwash habit many years ago, and my hair is much happier for it. Tara

We bathe our preschooler about twice weekly, and wash his hair then. If he's dirty, or has sand in his hair, we'll do it more often. His skin is fair and sensitive, and he doesn't smell bad, so I see absolutely no point in doing it more often. By the way, my son hates to have his hair washed too. We now have an elaborate ritual constructed around this, to make it easier for everyone: 2 glasses of water to wet the hair (''the little part''), with him tipping his head very far back to keep it out of his eyes, then I soap it, and let him play for 10 minutes or so. He then gets a 2-minute warning that rinsing (''the big part'') is coming. He then gets a dry washcloth to hold tightly over his face while I rinse. He gets to insist on his warnings, and his dry washcloth, and that HE holds the washcloth. Makes him feel a little more in control, results in less yelling.... Karen

Tell your husband that I, a member of the BPNetwork, am telling him to chill out, and that he doesn't know what he's talking about. : ) For goodness sake, why would a child need hair washed every day? Poor little scalp! My husband and I had the same argument, but I cited my hairdresser, who says nobody, adults or children, really needs their hair washed more than once or twice a week. Basically we compromised in that whenever he's the one giving the bath, he washes the hair, but I almost never do, so it works out to about twice a week--perfect, in my opinion. In any case I think it's absurd of him to monitor you like that--what makes him the expert? citizen for less hairwashing

We wash our pre-schooler's hair about once a week. If your husband wants his hair washed more, why doesn't he do it? That's what I would do if I wanted our girl's hair washed more often (I'm the dad, by the way). Why can't he do it??

Our 2 year old hates hair washing and we do it once a week. It dosen't seem or smell dirty. I used to do that passive agressive thing that your husband does of asking my son if daddy washed his hair (by way of suggestion or checking up)...then I realized what a yucky thing that is to do. Now I figure that dad gives the bath so he is in charge of when to wash the hair! If I am so hell bent to wash that hair, I could give the bath myself and deal with the upset. However, having seen the results of less frequent washing, I think there is absolutely no need for daily washing! Good luck! My kid hates hair washing, too!

Your instinct about not washing your child's hair more than every 3 days is correct. Washing more frequently can actually be really drying to a child's young delicate scalp. I've even heard this from health practitioners when I've asked about my child's eczema, which she sometimes gets on her scalp. All of them recommended only washing hair every three days. I will condition my daughter's hair every day, but wash only every 3rd day. Her hair never gets greasy, and her scalp doesn't get dry, but the conditioner helps prevent tangles. Stick to your instincts on this one, and let your husband know that washing too much can be very irritating to the skin. Really, children can get clean with warm water and nothing else. Good luck! Gal

His hair probably needs to be washed much less often than you'd think. I wash my 4-year-old's hair about twice a month, if that. No one has ever said his hair looks unwashed and he has never had any problems with the minimal washing. He has thick straight hair. He had cradle cap when he was a baby and I just got into the habit of not washing his hair very often. Now if the dad were asking me if I'd washed his bottom, maybe that's justified, but he needs to chill on the hair thing. Ginger

First of all, I can't imagine that a preschooler's hair needs to be washed that often. I know that we average about once a week in our house and, while it does look better the first few days after we wash it, I don't think his hair or scalp are any less healthy! Second of all, I have found that it is a bad precedent to have one parent ask the child about whether the other has done something or not: your husband should ask you himself. If you are both dead-set on washing his hair often, you could figure out a plan together to make the hair-washing less traumatic for your son and share equally in implimenting it.

We wash our 3 1/2 year olds hair about every other day or every third day. Unless it is particularly dirty. She too, doesn't much like to have it shampooed and we feel that it probably isn't good to wash it each day. I don't wash my hair every day, and my hairstylist says it is bad to for any person, child or adult. Your scalp produces natural oils that are healthy and if you wash those off each day, your scalp ends up overproducing the oils.... hence you end up with oily hair. I have seen it with many friends. So I think you are correct to only wash when needed. Even though you are probably using baby shampoo, it can still be drying. Julie

Every day? Is he insane? We wash our 5 year old's hair once a week. Unless your child's scalp is unusually oily or sweaty, I can't imagine needing to wash hair every day, particularly if it's a traumatic event. It seems like your husband has watched too many shampoo commercials. nelly

Help! Washing 2-year-old's hair with no screaming

Oct 2004

Help! does anone have advice on how to wash my 2 year old's hair without her throwing a fit with gutteral screams as though I am torturing her? Has anyone used those visors I have seen that keep the soap out of the childs face? Her problem is with getting her hair wet- the lean back and dunk method. she won't get in the shower either. She'll go underwater at the pool though. Strange.

the visor never worked for either of my children. what worked was 1.rinsing with a bucket, over the sink when another adult is available is easiest. washcloth for child to hold over their eyes. 2. rinsing with a bucket, in the tub. have them lean back/ look up at something and count the number of times (need 2-4 rinses) Mine both still screamed often till they were closer to 3 years old but got more used to it and often didn't balk at the sink plan. anon

Make it a game. Encourage her to feel comfortable putting her head under water by challenging her and praising her, give her cups to play with in the water and show her how to pour water on herself (it may help if you are in the bath with her and demonstrate), pour water on different parts of her body, let her do the same with you, and move towards the head. When you are ready to shampoo her hair, let her do it herself as well. Put some shampoo in your hand and some on her hand. Challenge her to put it on her hair and wash it.

And maybe enlist your husband on this. My husband LOVES to teach my daughter everything, so he was happy to teach her how to wash her hair as well :) anon

I've tried it all! Shower goggles, shower visors, asking my daughter to close her eyes or lean back. For my daughter, it's not the water, it's the bubbles from the shampoo.

The visors have been only marginally helpful. We started too late with these various things--she's already figured out that she doesn't like hair rinsing. Our best approach has been to wash hair less often and when we do, we try to rinse with a hand- held shower head. I tell her we're pretending to be at the beauty shop and she thinks that's funny. I've even laid her on my lap with her head hanging over the tub and had my husband shower the suds off her head. It seems to work because it's clear to her that no water will make it near her eyes from that angle. Good luck. Lori

My son has issues with lieing back during hair washing. It sounds similar to what you are describing. We wash his hair in the sink which isn't perfect but works better than the tub. His back is supported by the counter and my husband holds his head while I wash. It requires the time of two people but it's much better than the screaming :). We, also, only wash his hair once a week. Hope this helps! Kristin

First of all, you probably don't need to wash her hair as often as you think you do. My 3.5 year-old has had maybe 10 shampoos in his life! Main reason is because he hates water on his head. Until he was about two he also hated baths (we didn't have a bathtub for the first two years so we had to hold him in the shower and wash him with one hand while he screamed the whole time - talk about a pain!) Until very recently I would just use a wet washcloth to wipe his head off if his hair really looked dirty. He doesn't mind that. His hair is short but it's thick. The washcloth really only gets the top layer, but it's enough. So one thing you could try is a haircut that's easy to maintain without a lot of washing.

When he reached his third birthday he started to be more reasonable about what he'd let me do in the bathtub. Between 2 and 3 I put some effort into making sure the bathtub time was fun. For my kid, this was more important than getting him super clean! So, to phase out the washcloth method, I started with whatever he was comfortable with, and gradually increased the amount of hair I was washing every time, to build up his trust that it wouldn't hurt. At first I was only shampooing the hair at the back of his neck. Not to get his hair clean, but just to get him used to it. As I was washing his shoulders, I'd say ''OK, look up at the ceiling for a minute while I wash your neck''. Then I'd shampoo just along the hairline at the back of his neck. Every time he had a bath I would do a bit more, and he would look up at the ceiling for longer each time. I can shampoo his whole head now, but I make sure he's looking up, and have a dry washcloth handy in case any water drips. I have a hand sprayer for the bathtub which makes this easier, but you could also use a squeeze bottle to rinse, or even just a wet washcloth.

The other thing I do is tell him that it's only for 15 seconds, and then I count up to 15 (slowly!) while I'm washing and rinsing his hair, and make sure that I end right at 15. The counting gives him a ''light at the end of the tunnel'' and helps a lot. Good luck! Ginger

We wash our 21 mo old son in the sink because our tub is awkwardly placed. Thus we've never tried the lean back and dunk method for washing his hair. We put a folded washcloth across his forehead and pour water down his hair and back, which he likes. Then we shampoo him up and use the washcloth again when rinsing out his hair, moving the washcloth back along his head after each pour of water to keep soap out of his eyes. Hope that helps. Rachel

We take a plastic cup into the bath and pour the water over my daughter's head to wash it. She doesn't love it, but will tolerate this process. Janet

Our toddler used to freak out when we'd rinse his hair, too - even with ''no tears'' shampoo. He would not go for the lean- back-and-dunk method, either. Somehow we came up with putting a wet washcloth over his face (at least his eyes and forehead), and that works just fine. I think he likes how the washcloth feels on his face. We do it as quickly as possible and he's usually distracted by tub toys, but the washcloth works for us! Kate

If the lean back and dunk method of getting hair wet isn't working, try something different. Save an old shampoo bottle and put very dilute shampoo in it. Squirt it directly on her dry head and wash. Use a visor for rinsing. sunsolsal

My daughter did the same thing. She will get her hair wet in the pool but screams to get her hair washed. What I found that worked was to buy one of those rubber sun visor things. They sale them at all baby stores. At first she didn't like that either, but after a couple of times she noticed that the water & soap doesn't get on her face anymore, so now she's okay with it. But be aware, you baby will reject to the sun visor the first couple times of use, but that will blow right over. Shell

We found swim goggles worked best, they really don't let in any water or shampoo, and can give lots of fun diving underwater in the bath. You can normally buy toddler-size swim goggles at ToysRUs or order on amazon. Now my son is older, he only washes his hair with water (no soap/shampoo), we keep it short and it looks fine.

PS Goggles are also a good solution for chopping onions. anon

2.5 year old loves baths, hates hair washing

My 2 1/2 year old loves to take baths but recently has started protesting (loudly) when I wash his hair. He especially hates it when I rub the shampoo on his head (he can rub it a little himself but doesn't do a good enought job). Does anyone have any good ideas about how to make hairwashing at this age more fun or at least less difficult? Thanks much.

re: two year old and hair washing. From my experience, just let him wash his own hair even if he doesn't do a good enough job. He will improve with time and gentle prompting.

I don't know if there is such a thing, but how about brightly colored shampoo? I have seen non-toxic/non-staining water dye, so you might want to try looking for something like that. It might make it more fun.

I used to turn the child into strange animals using the soapy hair. Give them a mirror and tell them, Let's make you into a unicorn, while you are moving the hair into a point on their forehead. Then I fluff it around their faces and tell them to roar like a lion. (A little bit of rubbing its necessary to get it from one animal to the next!) You can make little cat ears, or floppy puppy ears, or a mohawk, etc. Not too many animals -- they have to wait until next time for more.

The main thing at age 2 is distraction. If they're not focused on what you're doing to their hair they won't care. 2 things that helped us: 1. We bought one of those cabbage patch dolls that are OK in water so my daughter could wash the doll's hair while I washed hers and 2. singing silly/funny songs. I usually made something up. The more bothered she was by the washing the more absurd and silly I'd make the song. And of course, they do outgrow it.

Your posting reminded me of a book that my children enjoyed when they were the stage where they disliked bathing: 'Angelo the Naughty One.' You can probably find it at a library. Angelo is always disappearing when bath time comes around, but cleans up for his sister's wedding.

My daughter hated getting her hair washed because inevitably the shampoo water would run into her eyes (she moved around a lot), so, from an early age I coaxed her into lying down in the tub on her back (flat with her head in the water) and I would support her head with one hand while I carefully poured water to rinse. She really enjoyed the funny noises underwater and a few years later I noticed that in her swim class she was teh only kid who was really relaxed the first time the teacher tried to get the kids to float on their backs! She still screams when her dad washes her hair because he doesn't use this technique, but I never hear a peep out of her!

17-month-old panics when he gets water on his head

Does anyone have any experience with a toddler who is terrified with water--my seventeen-month-old completely panics in the tub when we wash his hair and have to rinse. He's okay in the bath generally speaking, he is disturbed mostly by water on his head. He starts to hyperventilate and scurries toward the edge of the tub trying desperately to get out, screaming all done! He was also a baby who hated baths very early on. We've also tried swimming classes that were a disaster. I suspect his main objection is water on his head. Does anyone have any experience with this or tips for me!? Thank you! Tara

My 18 month old son developed a fear of getting his hair washed a couple months ago. He was very afraid of being laid backwards in my arms in the tub and cried and resisted in everyway, twisting out of my arms, which was in itself very dangerous in the slippery tub. I tried a washcloth over his eyes, I tried distracting him. Didn't work. After awhile, I tried getting him to look up (while sitting in tub), and I'd pour the water on his head, getting it to drain completely backwards and not on his face. This worked a couple times, although I had to be VERY quick and he still resisted somewhat.

The last two times I've washed his hair, I have held him laying down across my lap as I sit on the edge of the tub, his head toward the faucet. I run the water, and with my hand I wet his hair. After soaping it up, I use a very large plastic glass to pour water on his head, being careful to not get any water in his eyes/face nor his ears. He still doesn't like it, but when I distract him by saying (in a very calm matter-of-fact normal voice), Curt, where are your eyes? where is your nose? Where's your belly button? he plays the familiar game, and I get my business done. By the time I'm done asking where a few body parts are, I'm done getting the soap out of his hair. Of course, when we are done, I praise him: Ok, all done! Let's dry your hair! Curt, what a good job you did. I know that's kind of scarey for you, but it all worked out-- it wasn't so bad, was it? Good job, sweetheart.

Be careful to avoid getting water in the ears/eyes/face. Make sure to dry the ears carefully with a Q-tip; water in the ears can be very irritating. Another thing: If possible, running the sink faucet would be better than the tub faucet, as the tub makes a lot of scarey noise. Of course, you could also, just prior to wash time, line up 2 or 3 tall plastic glasses full of warm water to wet and rinse the hair, so no faucet at all is running as you lay her across your lap, head over the tub. This might really help minimize your daughter's fear. I think distracting the child with a familiar game can help a lot also, if she plays along. Maybe a song? Good luck. Peg

This is to Tara and her 17-month old who is afraid to have his hair washed. I too, faced a similar situation with my 16-month old. The tub seems to be a big scary place when it comes to washing hair. I tried using a visor and also attaching a hose/sprayer to the tub faucet but my daughter just continued to cry and beg to get out. What worked for us was to lay a towel down on our kitchen counter (I roll up one end to support her neck) and wash and rinse her hair at the sink. She lays on her back with her neck resting on the side edge of the sink. My faucet head pulls out so I am able to control where the water is going. Throughout the entire process I talk to her in a soothing voice, smile A LOT and also distract her by asking her things like Where is the light? Where is your nose?, etc. She was quite nervous at first but we've been at it for several months now with no tears. Hope this helps! Carol

My son also is terrified of having his hair washed. We went down to washing his hair only every couple of weeks, but last week did something that seemed to work much better for him: one of us was in the tub with him holding a little towel ready to wipe his face if any water splashed on him while the other washed the hair, and he meanwhile did some big time feet kicking in the water. It felt like a miracle, but he spontaneously said he enjoyed himself. I think the key was the towel at the ready. Inbal

Toddler Hair-washing Tips: While we all have our favorite bath/hair washing stories - here are a few that worked great for both my sons in their toddler/early kid years:

Give your child their own dry or damp wash cloth to hold over their eyes or just in their hand, so they can control the drips near their eyes. During rinsing, just let them hold it over their eyes, while you say look up at he sky - so they keep their head back for the front rinse. Another is when you have a tub or shower spritzer - type hose. This allows even more control over the rinse. Have fun!

I have found that both variety and persistence help with toddler hairwashing. My 3 y.o. still insists, almost every time she enters the bath, that she doesn't want her hair washed, but ends up getting so wet that I do it anyway because I might as well! I have taught her to hold a wrung-out, folded lengthwise washcloth to her forehead and look up at me/the light /a real or imaginary bug on the wall etc., so that as I pour cupfuls of water on her hair, the water drains away from her face and ears. It took a long time for her to keep holding it (and hold it in the right place!), but now she's got it. I also give her choices about how to get her hair wet and rinsed -- the washcloth full of water, the shower nozzle, cups, toys, etc. A current favorite is a toy watering can and she becomes the little flower!

It takes two of us to wash 3-year-old's hair


We are having terrible struggles lately with washing our three-year-old daughter's hair. I have read the website and didn't find anything that addresses our issue. She has always hated to have water on her face - hates getting splashed when she is in a pool or water play area at a park. Washing her hair has usually been challenging, but now it's nearly impossible and we've run out of ideas. The problem now is that she simply turns the water off in the bath or shower when we try to wash her hair. Hence, it now takes two of us to wash it, with one of us having to hold her arms so she doesn't turn off the water. We hate doing this! Nothing we have tried has worked - those things include using a visor, having her hold a washcloth over her eyes and keep her head back (that worked for a short while), distracting her verbally by talking about anything other than hair washing. She screams and cries as we wash her hair with one of us holding her arms and it's just a horrible situation for everyone, particularly her. Anything that anyone can advise regarding turning this into a more pleasant experience for everyone would be gratefully appreciated. Thanks.

Have you tried washing her hair in the kitchen sink?? I don't know how old I was when my mom started it but my sister and I both had long hair and my mom used to push a chair up to the sink. We would stand on the chair, facing the sink, and tip our head into the sink. She would use the spray nosle to wet our hair and rinse it. We also could hold a cloth over our eyes or just keep them closed. Try it a change of scenery during hair washing may just work. melinda

My son has not enjoyed hair washing either, si we have done a couple things. First, we have cut down attempts at washing his hair to once a week at most. His hair may get oily, but it doesn't smell or look dirty. Just cutting back seemed to help him enjoy bathtime again and be OK with very fast no/low shampoo washes. When he resists washing, we respect that and suggest a wet washcloth rub. Cornstarch brushed in when his hair is dry has also worked well as a way to absor the oil and he laughs when we do that! Jen

I'm not sure if this idea will be too complicated, but here it is: our three year old hated having her hair washed until she came with me to my haircutter at about age 2 3/4 and saw me have my hair colored, washed and cut. She loved the whole process, and saw the way I lay down with my head back to have my hair washed. When we pass hair places on the street we stop and look in. Now in the tub she holds a towel over her face and I say, put your head back like at the salon. She still cries when the water gets in her face, but it's a lot better. Sometimes I get in with her and hold her backwards so she can put her head back supported which works very well. We also make funny hair styles with the soapy hair. hope this helps! andrea

Ah yes. The battle over washing hair. My daughter, at almost five, still barely tolerates it, and back when she was in her terrible threes, had to be held down to have her hair washed as she screamed and kicked and refused. We hardly washed her hair at all because of this, but three weeks is a long time to go without a hair washing. Now we wash it once a week, and she accepts it as a necessary evil. Here's what we did when she was younger: First, we kept her hair short, in a cute little bob that didn't take a lot of care to look neat-ish. Also it took but a minute to wash and rinse. Later on we found some de-tangling product for children that helps with the post-bath brush out. Secondly, we stayed firm with her. She could kick and flail and cry, but she was going to have her hair washed. Why? Because it's basic hygeine and it doesn't, in fact, hurt. There are many ways to keep the water out of your eyes, we constantly explained; you just have to pick one and cooperate. Once your hair is washed, you are free to play in the bath until you're pruny and it's time to get out, we told her. Half an hour of fun in exchange for two minutes of dubious discomfort. Such a deal. Yes, she still put up a fight every week for months and months. But eventually she understood that once a week, her hair was going to be washed, no matter how she acted. Her complaints have since faded into harmless grumbling. --- Julie

My 6 year old son still hates having his hair washed and does not like water in his face or ears. We've given up pretty much on the idea of shampoo.If we can just get his hair wet and massage his scalp a bit I'm satisfied. In the bathtub we taught him to lean back on his elbows and put his head back. That way I can get his hair wet and I have to absolutely promise I will not get a single drop in his ears or on his face. In the shower the back of his head gets wet and maybe i can splash some water onto the top of his head before he realizes what I'm doing. On rare occasions he will get his head wet in the tub and play with shampoo and make funny hairdo's. His hair is pretty thin and not long, so I feel like it stays relatively clean. If your daughter has longer hair it could be more difficult. 3 is a hard age to reason with. I bet you've tried bribes...I hope this is helpful. Good luck. June

Though my daughter is now 27yrs. old, I remember well the battles with hair washing time. We cured them by washing her hair in the kitchen sink! I spread out a big soft bath towel gave her a book to look at and let her lie down on the counter with her head right at the end so her hair hung in the sink. There is NO way to get water or soap in her eyes and she will realize this. I taught a little gravity and slope lesson at the same time. If she is too terrified don't even wash it the first time just let her get a feel for it. Good Luck to You Beloveds! Karen

It is a battle. Two tricks. The first is to use the least amount of shampoo, because then you can get it all over with sooner.

The second is to put a picture or something funny on the ceiling above the tub. Then your child can look at it as you rinse. This gets him or her used to the routine of tipping back away from the waves of soap. Good luck. lynn

Hair washing: I didn't see this advice posted. We use a pair of kids swim goggles to help with hair washing. I bought them for $1.74 at Target! David