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My 5-year-old son freaks out about washing of any kind.

He doesn't seem to be worried about going in the pool or bath, but just mention that it's shower/bath time he goes totally ballistic - the temper comes screaming and kicking.
He really hates it when the water touches his face or head.

There isn't an option of a bath as every house has only a shower. I've tried toys, games, singing. I feel I've done it all! I am at the last edge as he is in school now.

  • At 5 years old doesn't he take a shower on his own? Or has he not gotten to that stage yet? And have you treated this as a disobedience issue yet? As in, "Timmy I said take a shower before 6 pm, you didnt do that. Now its no TV before bed.." etc. – user7678 Oct 26 '15 at 11:22
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You might try getting a long shower hose attachment so that he has more control about where the water goes. That way he will be able to wash his body without water getting on his face. After a while he will probably start experimenting with allowing water to touch his face. Everyone is able to be bolder when they feel they are in control of the situation.

He also might be somewhat claustrophobic? I know that showers, especially small or dark ones, make me somewhat uncomfortable and I'm not generally claustrophobic.

Does he use the showers at the pool? If so, you might take that opportunity to wash his hair. If that isn't an option, try the bucket in the sink, or a faucet-hose attachment so he can direct the water to dampen hair and rinse off the soap himself. And use no-tears shampoo, in case his eyes are sensitive.

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From experience, there are 6 main problems that may cause this:

  1. Psychological: fear of inhaling water.

    This can be addressed by showing how to hold breath and breathe out; and only have head under shower for brief (10-20 second) intervals.

  2. Unpleasant feeling of water getting into ears.

    This can be addressed by either using swimmer's gear to plug the ears while showering; or leaning/teaching to carefully hold the water under shower stream in a way that water doesn't enter the ear.

    Also, teach how to easily de-water an ear by turning the head to the side and jumping up/down.

  3. Unpleasant feeling of water or shampoo getting into eyes

    Teach them to close the eyes when under the shower; and to shower by touch if needed. Teach them to squeeze the water out of hair after washing hair so it doesn't drip down into the eyes. Let them have a dry paper towel mid-shower to dry out the eyes (my kid insists on it and it helps calm him down 100% of time).

  4. Unpleasant feeling of water or shampoo getting into mouth/nose

    Pretty much same solution (and similar issue, but physical) as #1. Show how to hold breath and breathe out; and only have head under shower for brief (10-20 second) intervals.

  5. Shower tickles a lot. Sometimes other unpleasant tactile feeling.

    Change the jet settings on the shower head. teach them to pour water on their hand and let it pour from hand to the body. Change distance from shower head to skin. Lessen water pressure (or up it, if it's too gentle and that's what's causing tickling). Change water stream angle/direction.

  6. Shower water temperature is unpleasant

    Adjust the temperature to what they wish (within reason).

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  • My 3 yo grandson abhorred showers until we went to a gym together and he tried the handicapped shower. The shower head was way down low, where he could touch and control it. He willingly tried it and liked it. – Zayde in NY Nov 25 '15 at 13:38
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The only solution I can think of is to get a bucket of water and give him a sponge bath. It may not be the best solution but it is the only one i can think of. Hope it helps.

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  • Who ever down voted this could add a comment to help the poster improve their answer. While I am not the one who did it, they were probably trying to convey that more information or explaining your rationale could help this answer. – user7678 Oct 27 '15 at 13:29
  • I guess it's more of a disagreement downvote. In my opinion it is a valid option, though I'd use it as last resort. – Dariusz Oct 28 '15 at 10:56
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You could try not to shower his head, if he does not like it. My daughter also hates showering her face (as most children, I think), and when showering, we avoid her face, and use any kind of recipient to wash her hair without soaking her face.

If you try to adopt that method, you should promise your child that you will not shower his face when showering, and maybe do not even try to wash his hair the first couple of times.

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