At the end of a busy day spent growing, learning new skills and getting to grips with walking, a warm bath can be a soothing place for a tired little mind and body to relax; a gentle reminder that it’s not long until bedtime; and an easy way to rinse off your little one after messy fun! But run an afternoon bath and you can transform bathtime into a sense-stimulating adventure, and a time for play in the middle of your day – right when your baby is at his best! It’s a way to add a different element to your little one’s fun and, because it’s just water providing the entertainment, there’s no clearing up to do afterwards. Bonus!
In the tub, you can create a sensory playground for him to experiment and learn what floats and sinks, what’s empty and what’s full, and to develop his fine motor skills while he’s at it. But, most of all, bathtime offers a moment where you and your tot can have some one-on-one time, to bond and have fun.
Chances are you won’t be splashing about in sun-drenched seas right not, but try these games for ten minutes of togetherness, and you can still splash about all summer long!
As long as you’re careful that your toddler doesn't try to eat them, ice cubes make a great addition to a bath. There’s lots of fun to be had finding and chasing the slippery cubes around the bath to catch them before they melt. Or why not freeze one of his bath toys in a small tub of water? Add it to the bath and see how long it takes for the ice to melt. Take care to keep a check on the temperature of the water, though, to make sure it doesn’t grow too cool for you tot.
Jump in and join him!
Your toddler will love it if you get in the bath with him. Wear a swimming costume if it makes you feel more comfortable. All that skin-on-skin contact makes for a rich sensory experience.
Take a toy teapot and cups, and have a pretend tea party for two!
Sing some songs
Try Row, Row, Row Your Boat holding hands and following the actions. A good alternative version for the bath is ‘Row, row, row your boat, gently down the Nile; watch out, give a shout, I see a crocodile! Splash!’ Then splash the water with your hands. Repeat the words and actions so your child quickly becomes accustomed to them.
Sail sponge boats
A packet of new scourer sponges, that you’d normally use to do the washing-up, make brilliant boats for the bath. Your toddler will be very happy to play with these in the bath as they are, but if you like, use scissors to snip two corners from one end to make the shape a little more boat-like. You can also snip a slit in the centre of the pad and insert a lolly stick for a mast. Try using straws to blow the boats about – as your toddler curls his lips around a straw and attempts to blow, he’ll use the muscles he needs to develop for speech.
Stick foam shapes
Bath toys can be expensive, especially when your toddler tires of them after a week. But buy a pack of foam sheets from a craft supplier and you’ll be able to create a never-ending supply of fun bath toys. These foam sheets are easy to cut with a pair of scissors. They float and will stick to the sides of the bath and tiles when wet, so get creative! Cut circles and squares from different coloured sheets to make a sorting game, sticking circles on one side of the bath, and squares on the other. To make a colour-matching game, cut the same shape out of the centre of five different-coloured sheets, and ask your toddler to put them back in. Cut long strips to stick around the bath to make a road. Or just put the sheets as they are into the bath to make islands where you can land other bath toys.
All fall down!
Adapt the song Incy Wincy Spider to whatever bath toy you already have. As you sing, Incy wincy sharky climbing up the spout, make the toy walk up the side of the bath, and balance him on the edge (choose an edge next to a wall if you want to keep the water in the bath!). Then, as you sing, ‘Along came the rain and washed poor sharky out’, get your tot to pour a beaker of water onto the toy, so it slides back into the bath. Expect to have to repeat this game with all the other creatures you have among your bath toys. This game works well with Humpty Dumpty too!
Make it rain
Raid the kitchen for a plastic colander, strainer or sieve. Your tot will enjoy making it ‘rain’ all over his bath toys. Ask him to try to catch the ‘rain’ as you have a go too.
Get all grown-up
There’s nothing a toddler likes more than being in charge, so give him a doll in the bath and show him how to wash its hair. If you hold the doll, he’ll enjoy squirting on the shampoo and creating all manner of crazy hairstyles with the bubbles before rinsing. This game has a practical purpose, too. Many tots hate having their hair washed, and it’s no wonder, simply because they can’t see what’s going on. But when your toddler washes a doll’s hair, he’ll understand the process, and be able to visualise what you’re up to when it’s his turn. Follow the same steps and use the same language as you would when washing his hair, to reinforce the link.
Hunt for treasure
With plenty of bubble bath in the water, pop in some toddler-safe objects that will sink to the bottom of the tub. Promote both yourself and your toddler to the rank of ‘pirate’, then hunt for the ‘treasure’. Show your toddler how to scoop the foam away to create a ‘window’ he can see through. For extra giggles, as you search underwater pretend to ‘find’ your toddler's toes and declare them to be ‘treasure’!
It’s a five-minute job to make a palette of bath finger-paints that won't irritate your baby's skin. In a bowl, mix one tablespoon of baby-safe bath wash with three tablespoons of baby-safe talcum powder. Divide into four compartments of a muffin tin, add a couple of drops of different food colouring to each, and mix. This concoction won’t stain your child or your bath – but test it on your tub before giving to your toddler. When he’s all done making a masterpiece on the sides, the paint will easily rinse off. He’ll love watching the bubbles and water change colour too!
Be a whizz with a whisk
Do you always add bubble bath to the water while the bath is running? For a change, pop a few dollops with a splash of water into a plastic bowl and use an electric whisk to froth it up beforehand. When your baby is in the bath, let him scoop out the foam to float in his bath,
fill plastic pots, or hide bath toys.
Mix it up!
Experiment running baths of different depths of water. Your little one might enjoy splashing more in a shallower-than-normal bath, or discover a new sensation from floating his arms in slightly deeper water. Support him and help him keep his balance, though, as the change in water height will affect his level of stability.
Bang the drums
Take the pans and wooden spoons you normally use as a drum set into the bath with you and let him explore how the sound is different in water.
Have a colour-themed bath – throw only the yellow bath toys in one day, and just the red toys the next. It’s fun to go on a yellow treasure hunt around the house first, too, searching for items of that colour that are safe and suitable to play with in the bath.
Swish like a fish
Holding your baby securely, slowly swish him forwards and backwards in the bath, so he feels the water moving against his skin. Hold him so he can swish his feet and legs in the water too.
Stimulate his senses
Rather than buying the same brand of bubble bath every time, experiment until you find one with a scent you both love to encourage and excite his sense of smell.
Pour a dollop of baby shampoo on to one hand. Pinch the thumb and finger of your other hand into a ring-shape and rub in the shampoo – you should be able to blow a bubble.
Trickle and tickle
Take a few kitchen utensils that are safe to play with and use them to gently pour water on to his skin. Ask him, does the water from the measuring jug feel different to water that comes out of the colander?