How to make toddler bathtime easier (and keep your sanity!)
Like with most things that involve toddlers, bathtime can be unpredictable. One night your little one might be running in happily, ready to be washed and play with their toys, while the next night they’re screaming, and proclaiming bathing to be The Worst Thing Ever. Some evenings might be full of bath bubbles and bliss, while others might be brimming with tears (especially your own), cajoling, begging and rewards.
Your little one will unlikely always understand that baths are essential for cleanliness and health, and they often act as the first or second step to the bedtime routine (bath, supper, brush teeth, read story, cuddle, sleep). The bedtime routine helps to get kids into a pattern of going to sleep at a regular time every night before they’re overtired, therefore preventing those not-so-fun meltdowns.
A sense of routine can also help your toddler feel safe and secure.
I’ve bought toys, rewards charts, little beans that turn into animals when they’re wet and even gotten into the bath with a unicorn hat to try and appease my kids and get them bathing. If you told me that doing 20 burpees and standing on my head would yield a happy toddler eagerly stepping into the bath without fuss, I would do it. Fortunately, there are some tricks for smoother bathing and bath routines.
Here are some of my tried and tested tips:
Know what the resistance is about
Toddlers might have a host of reasons for not wanting to get into the tub. They might just not be in the mood (toddler parents know this one well), they might be too tired and therefore irritable, they could be scared of hot water if they recently had an experience when the water was too hot, or they might dislike water in their faces.
If your toddler dislikes bathtime, try to find out if there’s a logical reason, and how you can address it. For example, you could introduce an earlier bathttime, encourage your little one to feel the water before getting in, or put a cap or special bath visor on their heads so that they feel more protected from water. Goggles might also help to make them feel protected.
A reminder though that the actions of toddlers aren’t always “logical”, and there might not be a deep reason for bathtime resistance.
Make sure there are enough toys
Those little worn-out rubber ducks might not be enough to keep things exciting at bathtime, and if your child is old enough, introduce water-friendly toys in the bath. Buckets, spades, plastic cups and watering cans are fun, and they also make for great tools to rinse off soap and shampoo.
My toddler often has “Barbie parties” in her bath, and it’s so much fun to wash their hair and create new hairstyles.
There are a lot of bath-specific toys on the market too – from crayons and slime to blow bubbles and books.
Bring in some colour
I used to have a whole line of food colourants lined up for my son, and every evening he would choose which colour to pop into the bath. Sometimes he would mix them, and most nights we landed up with grey or black water, which was huge fun for him.
Play music that they love
You can get the bath party started with some music. Get singing and dancing and try to let your toddler have a little splash.
Get in with them
This might not always be practical, but bathing with your kids is great bonding time, and a chance to talk and play without any distractions like chores, work or your phone!
Remember that it’s an opportunity for fun
As parents we often think of bathtime as a “chore”, which might filter to our kids, who think of it as something that must be done to get clean, or else there will be consequences. Rather, it’s an opportunity of learning and fun for them, and a chance for you to unwind at the end of the day (assuming the bath process has gone smoothly).
And remember… sometimes if your child is too tired, or if you don’t feel like bathing them, it’s totally fine to skip one here and there. You’re still doing a great job if your toddler misses a bath – you need to look after yourself too.
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