Bath time can be a hassle. After a long day, dragging a fussy kid into a bath can seem impossible. But it doesn't have to be. If you play your cards right, bath time can be the best part of your day — a time when everyone takes a collective breather in a calming transition to bedtime.
Sure, some kids hate the bath. Some kids will scream right from the moment they're first lowered into the tub as a baby and continue well into toddlerhood when they're big enough to make a run for it (naked and trailing water all over the house). But chances are it's not bath time per se that they hate. More often than not, it's something in particular that bothers them: the temperature of the water, the way it feels when water gets in their eyes or bath time boredom because they're not engaged. But no more: Here are some tips and tricks to make bath time great again, including some nifty gear that can make all the difference.
Set the mood
Bright lights and loud noises will attract a higher energy level than you might want for bath time (study after study from places like the Journal of Neuroscience and Harvard, respectively, has shown that lights emitted by electronic devices and such will keep you up), so use dimmer lighting and even ambient sound/music to help set the mood for a more relaxing time in the tub. Use a bath wash that has a calming essential oil such as lavender or chamomile in it, and take your time giving your child a soothing wash. Use a softer tone in your voice to indicate that this time is good for letting go of the day and getting ready for bed. You can even do deep breathing together; three deep breaths does wonders to relieve stress according to a Stanford University study led by biochemistry professor Dr. Mark Krasnow (perhaps more for you than your kid).
Never turn your back on kiddo in the tub, and certainly don’t leave the room for any reason, even if your child is a older. Kids can drown in just a few inches of water according to Dr. Nina Shapiro and a study published in the journal Pediatrics, and you don’t want to take any chances. Line the tub with a mat that has grips on it to minimize slippage, and cover the spout with something fun to both entertain and protect your kid’s head from injury should a slip occur. If you share a bathroom with your kids, be sure to remove all razors and other dangerous items from the tub or bathroom. Take basic babyproofing precautions, such as locks on your cabinets if they contain cleaning products or other potentially toxic items (yes, hair spray counts).
Skip Hop safety whale spout cover, $12.99 at Target
Get the right gear
What bath supplies and accessories you have could make the difference between a happy bath and one filled with tears. Use organic and tear-free bodywash and shampoo, and opt for a soft washcloth. A big, soft, cozy towel with a hood is a good way to get kids excited about leaving the tub, especially in winter. Novel gear that we don’t often think of (like this nifty visor thing that goes on your kid’s head to prevent water from getting in their eyes and face when you rinse the shampoo out) can be a lifesaver.
Poncho, $57 at Kindhood
Bring the best toys
We all know babies and kids have relatively short attention spans. One toy in the tub may not cut it, and no toy at all is just asking for trouble. But you don’t have to get extravagant with your bath toys; there’s no need for fancy motorized scuba divers or elaborate water-friendly letters that you’ll be cleaning up 'til the cows come home. Your kid is likely to be perfectly content with a couple of paper cups. If you want an upgrade, check out something like these cool cups from Skip Hop. They have different-size and -shape holes in the bottom, and water comes out in varying patterns. Our little guy has enjoyed these from infanthood well into toddler life without fail.
Skip Hop zoo-themed stack and pour buckets, $9.99 at Macy's
Sprinkle in some love
Take advantage of that quiet bath time with no other distractions; after all, it's an opportunity to teach your kid something or tell a story. Engage with them. If they’re younger, use the time to learn new words, pointing out the toys and objects in and around the tub. If they’re older, it's a great time to talk about how their day was or what might be bothering them or on their mind that they weren't ready to share at the dinner table with others present. Draw some hearts with these nifty bath crayons (recommended for kids who are old enough to know not to color on non-bath walls with them). And don't forget: Babies and kids alike love singing, so go wild. Whose voice doesn’t sound just a little bit better in the tub?
Munchkin bath crayons, $3.99 at Target
Above all, remember that bath time is one of those special, intimate moments when you can truly bond with your child. Those little-kid days will be over in a flash, so make the most of them while you can.