Thursday, 1 November 2012

Hairwashing Fun...An Activity for Sensory Sensitive Toddlers

Today i wanted to share an  activity that i  set up for Ruby to try and help her overcome her sensory fears around hairwashing! I keep hoping she will lose the fear and accept having her hair washed but it just isn't i have been trying to think of ideas to help desensitise her to the event a little. This activity is the first step in my crafty Mummy plan!
Ruby experiences a lot of fear and concern around her head and hair being touched in certain ways. At the moment she becomes traumatised when i try to wash her hair...i have never seen anything like it in a child before. I have seen children dislike having their hair washed but this is different. She is terrified and instead of getting better it is  getting worse. One suggestion our OT (occupational therapist) recently made was to do some hairwashing with the girls' dolls and try and get Ruby involved and hopefully a little less fearful of the act.
I decided to make it an activity separate from their usual bath to start with so that Ruby was more likely to feel at ease and ready to participate. My next action will be to incorporate the doll hairwashing into bathtime.
So a very basic activity but i was really interested to see how Ruby would respond....i knew Tara would love the activity as she is really into role play games at the moment!
So we found a nice shady spot (which is proving difficult now in our messy half landscaped yard!) and i set up the girls old bathtub, some towels and recycled pump bottles filled with a little soapy water. I made sure to have some of the same shampoo bottles that Ruby is used to seeing so she understood their purpose! I then added their 'twin' dolls...the only ones that actually have hair i have now realised!!
At first Ruby was really hesitant when i mentioned washing hair which showed me the extent of her fear....but after watching Tara for awhile she began to join in.....
The different pump bottles added a little extra to the activity and really challenged their fine motor skills! They tried hard to push down and squeeze the 'shampoo' from the bottle so that they could rub it in to  dolly's hair.
There was lots of modelling from me of course and i used a lot of positive language around what we were doing and why dolly needed clean hair.

Then it was time to wash the shampoo off and this is Ruby's most feared part of hairwashing...she was very reluctant to do this part of the activity but would allow me to guide her hand with a cup of water and tell Dolly that it was all ok she had nice clean hair now. She then stopped and gave her dolly  a big cuddle before moving sweet!

We did lots of wiping of eyes and talking about getting all the bubbles out of the hair.....Tara took it all very seriously and stayed with this activity for a long time. Ruby enjoyed working out how to use the pump bottles and i felt she made some steps forward with her sensory fears while participating in this activity.
Next step will be to wash the dolls hair in the bath which will prove a little more confronting i think!

Of course you don't need to have a child with sensory fears to try this activity....toddlers love to role play and feel they are doing important work as they play. It's a great activity for a sunny day but if it is cold in your part of the world right now then perhaps you could make it a fun bath time activity!
If you have a child that is struggling with sensory issues too then perhaps you might find my Pinterest board Support for SPD & Autism helpful....i have been collecting lots of great tips and inspirational articles from across Pinterest on there!

Do you have a child who hates having their hair washed? Have you any tips for overcoming the fear?

I'll let you know how we go...keep your fingers crossed for us!

Warm Wishes....


  1. My daughter really hates having her hair washed too. She mostly hates the water getting anywhere near her face - eyes and ears in particular. It's strange though, some days she'll be totally fine about it, and (more often) completely stressed and crying through the whole ordeal. Luckily she usually gets over her stress as soon as the washing is done, and we go back to playing. Thanks for this play idea, we will give it a go.

  2. I was terrified of getting my hair washed when I was little - just couldn't stand the water in my ears and on my face. This is such a lovely idea to overcome that - role play like this can be so helpful.

  3. My son is the same way. He doesn't want water anywhere near his eyes, which makes swim lessons very interesting. I've given up washing his hair at the gym as I'm afraid someone will think I'm abusing him (think amplified screaming in the showers).

  4. This is the best way to help children who don't like their hair wash, also helps children who need a haircut and are scared. I purchase some dolls from the op shop and let them cut the hair, to demonstrate it doesn't hurt :)

  5. This is a fantastic idea Jode to help Ruby with her hair washing fears, such a great way to help her be in control and see how the process works. I hope things go well when you try it in the bath. Well done Ruby. xx

  6. Hi. Love your blog. I just wanted to tell you that my son, aged 2, doesn't like having his hair washed either. I have a specially shaped jug with a flexible side which means I can rinse his hair without getting water in his face. I also am just rinsing once till he gets more used to it and then I'll go to two rinses etc. He's much happier now that we're doing this. Though he doesn't have much hair and I don't use much shampoo so that helps!

  7. Try Ice Cream Heads scented shampoos and conditioners for Kids. You will love them.


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