Photo: polya_olya (Shutterstock)
This weekend I went cabin camping with my 5 year old daughter. We had our own shower, but there was no bath for miles. I knew she wasn’t going to shower so I made sure to have her take a bath before we left the house and I figured we could get through the weekend with baby wipes and all. But one day she was playing in the dirt and getting dirty and when I was wiping my feet before going to bed she said dreamily, “I wish I could take a shower.”
I remembered getting her then three-year-old brother to shower after swimming lessons – by singing the “Hokey Pokey” – and thought, I need to repeat this experiment. Will it work twice? (Spoiler: It has.)
If you need a refresher, the Hokey Pokey goes like this:
You put your right hand in it
You reached out your right hand
You stick your right hand in and shake everything around
You do the Hokey Pokey and turn around
This is what it is all about!
How to actually pull it off
Here we use the children’s natural curiosity. When they see a shower, they may be afraid to stick their face in, but they are curious what it feels like to stick their hand in.
So remember, we’re not forcing anything, we’re just creating an opportunity to be curious. I strongly recommend telling the child beforehand that you will make them feel the shower, but you will not ask them to wet their face. (That’s the scariest part, and faces can still be washed over the sink later.)
That’s the way I do it:
- If the child is not near the shower, turn it on and aim the shower head at the corner of the cabin if possible.
- Adjust the temperature. When it’s perfect, call the child over.
- Put your hand in the water and say something like, “Oh, that’s just right, not too hot”. Let them feel the water with their fingertips.
- Then you sing: “You stick your right hand in, you stick 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 child just puts their toes in the water, do some verses with arms and legs since you have already done hands and feet.
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I then suggest doing “your butt in” next because butts are fun. Any child with a touch of humor will be on board. Then we do belly, maybe shoulders or chest, and graduate to “bring in all of your self”. Since their face is still dry after that, tell them to “stick your hair in” and show that you do so by leaning back in the stream of water (instead of bowing your head forward, which is sometimes their instinct is).
That’s it, you won.
It worked for my grumpy son in the YMCA locker room and for my adventurous daughter in the cabin shower. She giggled and danced the whole time, and as soon as her hair was wet she asked about the shampoo. By the end of the shower, she’d even washed her face (knowing I had a dry towel ready). And then she insisted on taking another shower in the morning because she had had so much fun.