Village Wisdom: Encouraging Bathtime

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My 2.5 year old daughter Q and I love our Kindergym session Monday mornings. I’m a self confessed jack-of-all-trades, master of none. Never ask me for advice on infant sleep, but I’ve got a gamut of ideas for bath-time! It’s become a creative outlet for me to to encourage my daughter to bathe, so that at least she’s clean when she’s jumping on the bed resisting bedtime, sleeping on my face and/or waking multiple times overnight!

Here are some overarching things that I’ve found to create a positive bathtime…

  • Offer options: Shower or bath? Solo, or with mum or dad? (with frequent reminders that we don’t all fit, and that no, the dog won’t tolerate joining you in the tub!)
  • Supporting the transition: letting them know bathtime is in 2 minutes, 1 minute – or creating a playful transition for children to follow you blowing bubbles into the bathroom, jump and step this funny way, bring teddy for a bath, or test if something floats or sinks! Some kids music playing in the bathroom helps to invite our musical daughter into the room.
  • Creative license: “what colour bath would you like?” A few drops of food dye has great visual effect and I promise your child’s skin won’t be coloured that way! Even regular crayons can be washed off easily should you invite your child to use your bathtub like their canvas.
  • Create an invitation to play: a blue food dye bath filled with model whales and dolphins, a yellow bath filled with yellow mega-blocks and other yellow bath toys… and bubbles as an option of course!

Bathtime can be a time for us to connect, a time for winding down and independent play, and a time for creative and imaginative play in our house:

  • Time to connect: instead of using that time to catch up on Facebook, being fully present – reading books, giving the gift of your undivided attention: making eye contact, asking questions about their day and talking about their favourite things, and plans for tomorrow. A few times I’ve brought a note-pad and pen and interviewed her to document our conversations, as they are quite lovely and insightful!
  • Time to wind down: the opposite may be just what they need sometimes too, quiet independent sensory play (with a caregiver supervising in an unobtrustive way). A candle-lit bathroom was a lovely calming invitation for last weeks bath with some “Settle Petal’ tunes from Kinderling radio.
  • Time to play!

Make dry toys wet: We use duplo, mega-blocks, stacking towers, stacking cups, model animals, trucks and even soft toys that need a wash. They can all be dried and returned to their ‘homes’ without any damage! The most engaged bathtimes for Q is when her favourite doll Gigi is ready for a clean, and she role plays everything she does at swimming… plus some straight up head holding underwater!

Cash in: Coins and a plastic piggy bank (provided your little one is past putting things in their mouth): this one provides hours of entertainment! Tonight we tested how many coins it took to sink our boat (plastic cup) and made a ‘wishing well’ with a bowl.

Self reflection: a hand held mirror is great science learning looking at reflections under the water, noticing steam and water condensation, and of course for making silly faces and straight up just getting to know their body!

Something new and different: Toy library has some bath-friendly toys like boats or even sand-pit toys, which are a great way to promote play without spending any money, or buying more plastic, or try a toy swap between friends and family! Or build your own boat from construction toy materials and see what designs float or sink.

  • Time to think outside the ‘tub’!

Various vessels: Does today’s bathing ritual need to take place in an actual bathtub? Sometimes we mix things up for novelty such as toddler bathing in the kitchen sink, laundry sink or even hand basin.. and in warmer weather in the paddling pool or eski!

Floating food: Plastic plates and bowls float with dinner or snacks in them. Q’s been known to dip her crackers or toast in the bathwater, then consume – so be sure to use natural cleaners on your tub!

Open-ended objects: I’ve seen washcloths transformed into a blanket for teddy (who’s also getting a bath), a cape, a doggy bone, the possibilities are endless! Why not try a balloon whisk or ladle from the kitchen for something different?

Hope this gives you some random new ideas to try out! At the end of the day if it’s a battle, then we simply do a top & tail with a warm wash cloth instead, and either have a morning shower/bath instead, or just let it slide for 24 hours. Is it worth the battle?

Yours in gentle parenting and may the tub forever be in your favour!