Sure, your primary objective during bath time is washing off the applesauce, chocolate pudding, or mud caked on your little one’s body. But you can make bath time enjoyable and even educational for your baby by taking just a little extra time.
“Bath time is more than just cleaning this little body and getting it done with,” says Kathleen Alfano, Ph.D., Former Director of Child Research at Fisher-Price. “It should be a fun, interesting, and interactive experience.”
To start with, make sure the circumstances are right. “Check the water temperature, make sure the lighting isn’t too bright or too dark, choose a time of day when your baby isn’t tired or hungry,” advises Dr. Alfano. “And be extra gentle of how you wash around the face and eyes, since many children are a bit fearful of that. The most important thing at this age is to make sure the baby is comfortable in the water, and then take that everyday experience and make it playful."
All ready? Here are some tips for bath time fun at different ages:
Older Babies (who can sit up).
- I used to make up silly songs to soothe my baby during bath time and to let him know what I was doing. “Here’s the slippery soap,” or “Feel how nice and warm the water is,” are cute songs for you and baby.
- I would also point out body parts as I washed them. “Now we’re going to wash your face,” or “Look how we’re getting your toes nice and clean.” Playing peek-a-boo with the washcloth was another fun way to pass the time. “Where did you toes go? Here they are!"
- "Take out a mirror and show baby the soap on her head," says Dr. Alfano.
- My kid loves bath toys: things that can float, get filled with water, be squirted, be pushed around in the tub. “There are lots of simple, age-appropriate baby toys that are made for the water,” says Dr. Alfano.
Beth Weinhouse is an award-winning journalist who specializes in writing about parenting issues and women's health. She's been an editor at Ladies' Home Journal and Parenting magazines, and her work has appeared in dozens of consumer magazines and websites.
- “Children this age start to become little scientists,” says Dr. Alfano. “There’s a lot of learning that can go on in the tub: What makes things sink, what makes them float? Toddlers might notice, for example, that their toy boat floats in the water, but when they put a wet washcloth on top of it, it sinks. Use cups with sifters on the bottom that make a rain shower when you hold them up.”
- “Let them clean their own fingernails with a little animal nail brush,” suggests Dr. Alfano. “Sometimes toddlers don’t like mommy doing something, but they’ll be fine with it if they learn to do it themselves.”