This weekend I took my 5-year-old daughter cabin camping. We had our own shower, but there was no bathtub anywhere for miles around. She was clear with me that she would not take a shower, so I made sure that she had a bath before we left home and I figured we could survive the weekend with baby wipes and such. But one day she played in dirt and got filthy, and as I was wiping off her feet before bed she said, dreamily, “I wish I could take a shower.”
I remembered how I had gotten her then-3-year-old brother to start taking showers after his swimming lessons — by singing the “Hokey Pokey” — and I thought: I have to replicate this experiment. Will it work twice? (Spoiler: It did.)
If you need a refresher, the Hokey Pokey goes like so:
You put your right hand in
You put your right hand out
You put your right hand in, and you shake it all about
You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around
That’s what it’s all about!
How to actually pull it off
We’re taking advantage of kids’ natural curiosity here. When they see a shower, they might be scared to put their face in it, but they’re curious about what it would feel like to stick their hand in.
So remember, we’re not forcing anything, we’re just creating an opportunity to be curious. I highly recommend telling the kid beforehand that you’re going to let them feel the shower but you will not require them to get their face wet. (That’s the scariest part, and faces can always be washed over the sink later.)
I do it like this:
- With the child nowhere near the shower, turn it on, and point the shower head toward the corner of the stall, if possible.
- Adjust the temperature. When it’s perfect, call the child over.
- Stick your hand in the water and say something like “Oh, that’s just right, not too hot.” Have them feel the water with their fingertips.
- Then you sing: “You put your right hand in, you put your right hand out…”
- Repeat with the other hand.
- Next, one foot and then the other.
Here we have reached the tricky part. If the kid is only putting their toes in the water, do some verses with arms and legs since you have already done hands and feet.
I then suggest doing “put your butt in” next, because butts are funny. Any kid with a crumb of a sense of humour will be on board. Then we do belly, maybe shoulders or chest, and graduate to “put your whole self in.” After that, since their face is still dry, tell them to “put your hair in,” and indicate that you do this by leaning back into the stream of water (rather than bowing their head forward, which is sometimes their instinct).
That’s it, you’ve won.
It worked for my grumpy son in the YMCA locker room, and for my adventurous daughter in the cabin shower stall. She was giggling and dancing the whole time, and as soon as her hair was wet she asked for the shampoo. By the end of the shower, she had even washed her face (knowing that I had a dry towel on standby). And then she insisted on showering again in the morning, because she had had so much fun.