Bath time is the perfect opportunity for parents and children to really get to know each other and spend quality time together.
How you view “bath time” is up to you. Many parents choose to treat it as a chore and dread the evenings – as do their children. In many homes, bath time is about as boring as brushing teeth. You, however, can choose to turn bath time into something special, which both you and your child will look forward to every day. For a child, bath time should be a transition between the noisy, busy world of day and the peaceful, cosy world of bed. With very little effort on your part you can make it a magic time for both of you.
How do you inject some magic into bath time? Firstly, by prioritizing it. Fix a time for baths that works around meals, cooking, welcoming home your spouse, making evening telephone calls and relaxing – and establish that time for both you and your child. If the phone rings, leave the answer machine to pick it up. Try to do a quick tidy-up with your child before bath time, so that you aren’t faced with a horrible mess afterwards – that way it becomes a transition between day and evening for you too. Make sure that you set aside enough time so that you aren’t rushing and nagging your child to hurry.
Now, to make bath time fun! Here are some suggestions for adding magic.
Have an assortment of bubble baths suitable for your child. As long as you don’t choose anything too harsh, you don’t have to stick to children’s products, which can have very unnatural scents and colors. Include basic baby bubble bath and some therapeutic bath salts for energetic, sporty days. Display your different bottles and make a show of choosing which bubbles you will use each night. Perhaps if your child has been helpful tidying up, they can choose?
Two drops of lavender or chamomile essential oil (no more!) added to the bath and stirred in well will soothe and calm a fractious child after a long day. For variation, and to be sure that the oil disperses well, you can also add the drops to a cup of milk before adding to the bath. We sometimes use an unscented mild bubble bath with the essential oil.
Candle light for special occasions
This is obviously only suitable for well-supervised bath times – but kids really do love the atmosphere of a candle lit bath. We would suggest that candles are lit only when the children are in the bath, and are extinguished before they climb out to be completely safe.
Warm towels and pajamas
Especially pampering in the winter months, children love to get out of the bath into a warmed towel and pyjamas! Little touches make all the difference.
In our household, every Friday night bath time was poetry night. We chose Friday night because we often had other children round to play on a Friday afternoon and that meant that our kids were often over-tired and irritable when it came to bath time. We found suitable poetry in the library and on the internet, stored any printed pages in plastic file folders to keep them splash proof, and tried to introduce an interesting variety of poems to the kids. In reality, we read the same favorite poems over and over again!
Rotate bath toys ruthlessly so that there is always something interesting to play with! Every so often you can raid the kitchen for suitable implements too – children love playing with sieves, whisks, measuring cups and jugs. Our kids would play endlessly with a plastic funnel, plastic bottles (some with holes punched in them) and a couple of plastic jugs. If you don’t want to use your own kitchen equipment, you can find these things very cheaply at garage sales and dollar stores. A plastic colander doubles as an excellent storage basket.
Fun foam toys
You can buy fun foam shapes in buckets, or you can buy the foam at the craft store and cut your own shapes. Perhaps you could change your shapes to match holidays and seasons – flowers for spring and summer, Christmas trees at Christmas, bunnies and eggs at Easter? There are many possible learning activities too: cut pieces to teach colours, shapes, numbers or the alphabet, and practice matching, grouping, sorting, ordering and so on.
Shaving foam sculpture
Squirt a few large blobs of shaving foam onto the side of bath or into your child’s hands (warn him to keep it away from his eyes) and let his imagination take over!
Music and story tapes
Bath time is a good opportunity to introduce music of all kinds or to listen to a special story on tape or CD.
For a special treat, bring some bubble blowing mixture into the bathroom. Make sure that it doesn’t get into anyone’s eyes!
A few drops of food coloring will transform the bath into something exotic! Try orange or green at Halloween, red or green at Christmas, red for Valentine’s Day and so on. Keep the bottle well out of children’s reach!
A friend used bath time once a week as “language night”, teaching her kids French by listening to French tapes and singing French songs. She decorated the room with small colorful posters, made by cutting up old exercise books or printing pages off the net and laminating them, which she stuck around the bath with sticky-tack. Any bath toys used that night were objects that could be named in French (plastic vegetables from her child’s shop, plastic boy and girl dolls, and so on).
Finally, remember that in a few short years the whole ritual of bath time will be long gone and your children will be old enough to shower or bath on their own – resisting any attempt from you to interfere! Have you noticed how eagerly a grandmother runs her grandchild’s bath and splashes and plays for much longer than necessary? If you asked her she would tell you to make the most of bath time while you can. Whatever you do now to make bath times magic will be repaid a thousand times in memories for you and your children in the future!