Some youngsters readily put their face in the water in delight! Other kids perceive some types of light touch sensations as being slightly uncomfortable to unbearable including brushing teeth, water on the face, applying sunscreen, or sand on the feet.

For these kids, simply doing these activities over and over does not make that   sensitivity go away. Rather helping give your child a sense of control with gradual exposures are the key:

  • Do water play activities in a place where your child has more comfort and control such as your yard
  • Give your child practice in controlled ‘splashes’ with fun activities. Make “bubble monsters” by blowing through a straw into a bowl of water with a bubbling agent. Play with large bubble wands as well as water squirters around the yard.
  • Have your child choose a “dry cloth” to keep nearby so that if her face does get wet that she can wipe it off quickly.
  • Before getting into the pool, do some rigorous physical play that has resistance which will take down the sensitivity in your child’s skin. This may include pushing bike pedals, walking uphill, pushing a wheelbarrow, pulling a bucket, or climbing and jumping.
  • At the poolside, you and your child may wipe your bodies with a warm wet cloth followed by a dry cloth to ‘get your body ready’ for going into the water. This works well before applying sunscreen too.
  • Play with diving pool toys that go under the water and have your child get them with his feet and hands so he is getting gradual exposures to putting his face close to the water without contending with droplets
  • Each take a straw into the water and play with making bubbles using different amounts of force. This will create mini-splashes while still creating distance from your child’s face and she can wipe off her face with cloth at poolside if needed 
  • Use water squirters to spray items around the pool (but not each other)

The goal is to gradually build fun water experiences in which your child has control while building her tolerances for water sensations.

Kiegan Blake is an Occupational Therapist, Behavioral Specialist and Director of Maui Center for Child Development. For more information, please call 808-873-7700 or