This is the story of how we taught our toddler to shower, out of necessity, in the middle of a renovation!
When our son was about 18 months old, we renovated one of our bathrooms and removed the only tub we had in the house. We had plans to eventually add a bathtub to our kids bathroom, but that wasn’t for quite some time, which left us with only one option for bathing our toddler: the shower.
We also happen to have a kid that isn’t the biggest fan of water, so we knew it would be quite a process getting him used to having a powerful fountain of water pouring on his head. And thus began our journey to teaching our toddler to shower. We took it slowly, baby step by baby step, but had great success!
Now, if you happen to have a kid who loves the water, maybe you don’t need any fancy steps! But if you find yourself in a bath-less home (or honestly, even if you have a bath, there’s benefits to showering!!) and you have a kiddo who is more timid with the water, I wanted to share how we made the transition from bathtub to shower with as few tears and negotiations as possible!
At what age can a toddler shower?
We taught our son to shower around 18 months out of necessity, as we no longer were going to have a bath tub and he no longer fit in the sink. I believe you could teach them younger, but ideally they need to be quite steady on their feet so that will vary by child.
Of course, no child that young will be able to actually bathe themselves on their own. This is simply about teaching a child to be comfortable being bathed in the shower, not teaching them how to bathe themselves. You can take steps towards that later, which I’ll talk about below.
Everything I say in this post should be done while supervised by a parent/adult.
Can Toddlers Shower Alone?
The short answer: No, you should always supervise your young child while bathing.
For the first year or so, one of us would shower with our son. Honestly, that’s the best/worst part about it. Best because you kill two birds with one stone… everyone’s clean all at once! Worst because if you look forward to a shower as a moment of quiet from the craziness of toddlerhood, well, you no longer have that. We alternated as a result!
As our son approached age three, we started to let him shower by himself but with one of us, of course, still in the bathroom watching him and helping actually bathe him. We simply no longer showered right along with him.
Regardless of any of the above, make sure your shower has traction on the floor to prevent slipping, whether that’s through appropriate grout lines, a bath mat or any other safety measure!
Our Toddler Shower Transition Timeline
If you’ve read a potty training book or any other parenting book, I’ll give you the same advice they do: Every kid is different. Your timeline will be different as a result! Each step is about the kiddo getting comfortable! When you feel they are comfortable or comfortable enough, move on to the next step!
Create A Fake “Tub” In Your Shower
First, you’ll simply be creating a bath tub in your shower. This is to get them used to being in the shower and was definitely the key to our success.
(If you have a tub/shower combo and are simply wanting them to shower instead of bathe, you can skip to the next step!)
We did this by using a plastic storage container, but you could also use a plastic drink tub or anything else that could be filled with enough water for a (small) bath. Place the storage tub in the shower and fill it with water. Let your child watch the container fill with water so they continue to get used to the shower stream, which can be scary to a kid! Let them throw in some favorite (water-safe) toys.
Then turn the water off and pop them in the container and give them a bath, just like you would in a tub or sink. Don’t turn the shower on at all while they’re in there right now. If you have a narrow stall shower like we did, it won’t be super pleasant or comfortable for you but you only need to do this a couple times, until they’re used to it.
Turn On The Shower Head During the “Bath”
Next, we wanted to get our son used to the sound/pressure of the shower head, without having to actually be under it. So, we simply pointed the shower head towards the wall and turned it on for a few minutes while he was in the container “bath.” If you have a removable shower head, this is a great time to utilize that and bring the shower to them so it’s not as intimidating!
The goal with this step is to work up to having it on the whole time they are bathing. Keep working your way up until they are comfortable enough that they’ll step into the container “bath” while the shower head is running (still pointed at the wall). Yes, this is somewhat wasteful to have a bath and shower going but it is temporary, and a really helpful step.
Turning the Shower Head
After he was super comfortable with the shower head being on, we practiced pivoting the shower head so that he was standing in the water stream while we were washing the soap off of him. Since he is in a container, we didn’t point the shower head at him the whole time, of course, because he didn’t have as much control/ability to move in and out of the way of the water like he could in a normal shower. We mostly just wanted to get him used to being under the water for short spurts while still having the familiarity of the bath.
Remove the “Bath” Container
The final big step was taking away the storage container. We took all the toys he had in there and tossed them on the floor of the shower, so he still had something fun to play with and distract himself. We kept the shower head at kind of a halfway point between facing the wall and facing downward like it normally would be, so he had some space to move without being overwhelmed by the water pressure.
If your kiddo is like ours, they probably won’t want to put their head under the water, so I recommend keeping some sort of cup or container that you can use for hair washing at first.
Again, this was a gradual process! First he spent his showers mostly playing next to/partially in the water, and we’d rinse off any extra soap with the container mentioned above. Then he started being comfortable rinsing his body off on his own. And more recently he’s comfortable putting his head under the water and rinsing his hair.
Teaching Toddlers To Shower or Bathe Themselves
As I mentioned, for the first year or so of him using the shower, one of us would shower with him. We took that time to start teaching him how to actually wash himself. Again, baby steps, and don’t expect perfection (I hear that doesn’t happen for quite some time! 😉 but every little bit counts!
Now we’re able to let him shower alone (with one of us in the room) and simply help scrub him up and wash off any soap he missed!
Photos by Jeff Mindell
We’re now at the point where we have a bath again, and our son still prefers showering to baths most days! This method worked wonders for us for getting him from uncomfortable to comfortable to loving the shower! We prefer it too often, because he can splash the water around all he wants and not soak the entire bathroom. 😉
Hope this is helpful to any who are working on teaching your toddler to shower, whether it’s out of necessity or simply to save a little time!
For sources for the shower/bathroom pictured above, you can find the source list in the reveal post here!
at home with ashley says
I love the bath container idea! All those little steps take so long but you get there eventually
Yep, a marathon not a sprint! Seems to be a theme in parenting, haha!
I’m not a parent so this is something I never would’ve thought about! It makes sense now that I’ve read it though! Gonna share to a friend whose child is approaching 18 months!
Thank you for sharing it, Mia! Hope it helps them!
Yes!!!! I don’t have kids but I voted for this blog post because it seemed the most unique and interesting (maybe bc I don’t have kids!!). I think this is so SMART! Now you don’t have to worry about traveling and having an accommodation that doesn’t have a bath. Maybe a little challenging to do, but I’m sure very worthwhile.
Once I had a guest in my home with a toddler ~18 months, and I said, “Oh, I’m so sorry – I don’t have sippy cups.” She said that’s fine – we taught him how to drink from a normal glass. And sure enough she held the glass for him and he drank from it! I thought it was so brilliant.
Yes!! Love that your friends did that with cups/glasses! We did the same with Arlo and it’s been super helpful!