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 happening…..so 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 on…..so 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!
A Little About Me
Jodie Clarke is an early childhood professional supporting educators who want and need to stay passionate about the work they do! She has 30 years hands-on experience in the early childhood and human services sectors across many different roles.
Jodie is mum to 3 in Australia and has already helped thousands of educators with their work through her popular blog posts, activity ideas, online training and e-books.