Benefits of bath time for young children
Bath time can be a parent’s favourite time of the day. The safety aspect means that parents have to stay with their young child and play occurs naturally and is uninterrupted – real quality time.
There is a wide range of bath toys available but there is nothing to stop parents from improvising with empty yoghurt pots and squeezy bottles. The important thing is to get some toys in the bath that will help a child play and learn and increase the enjoyment of this special time for both parents and children.
The range of bath-time toys has increased dramatically in recent years and products such as stackable bath cups are great for helping the child build confidence in water (using the pot as a shower / trying to fill the cup up by splashing) as well as enabling them to explore colours, size and volume, and improve motor skills through stacking. The simplicity of the cups enables them to be used in imaginative role play as cups or bowls, seats, hats – etc. This also means that they are suitable for a range of ages as children will use them in ways that are appropriate to their age and developmental stage.
Bath time is increasingly becoming a popular activity for dads. Many dads look forward to the end of their working day when they can get home and play fun games with their little ones in the bath. This works well as it also gives the mother some time away from the constant demands of a young child and children benefit from having happy, relaxed parents. Research has shown that fathers tend to play more roughly with their children than mothers do and bath time provides a great opportunity for a bit of splashing and noisy play which the fathers especially enjoy. Providing the child is receiving constant attention, they can be encouraged to splash around and put their face in the water to ‘swim’ or blow bubbles, all of which increases confidence and will help them learn to swim when the time comes.
Due to the 1-1 interaction and lack of distractions (never leave a child alone in the bath to answer the phone/door etc), bath time is also a good time to introduce habits that can be transferred into everyday life – e.g. tidying up. The confined space and limited number of toys makes this a good time to help children learn to tidy up after themselves. Toys such as a bath bucket or net help make this a fun activity. Once children understand the principle of tidying up (so someone else can have a bath), they are more likely to comply with requests to do it, and making it fun will also increase their willingness and enjoyment of the job.
Parents should enjoy bath time almost as much as the children do and a good bath time can lead to a smooth bedtime as the children are already nice and warm and relaxed. This can make all the difference to behaviour the following day as a good night’s sleep will make for a more reasonable and well behaved child, with more energy and a healthy appetite. Whilst lots of factors contribute to children’s development, the value of a fun, relaxing bath time should not be underestimated.
Safety is a major concern when children are in the bath, both for the risk of drowning and the risk of scalding with hot water. There are many safety products available for bath time, including a fence which keeps children away from the tap end of the bath.
However, instead of spending money buying all the safety equipment, parents invest their time in playing with their children to help them enjoy bath time and understand the risks involved (“don’t touch the taps, they’re hot”). It is also wise to turn the temperature on the boiler down to hand-hot – this saves money, the environment, and is the best way to make sure that if the baby touches the hot tap it will be unpleasantly hot but not dangerously so, thus minimising the risk of scalding.
A full size bath gives a very young baby the opportunity to kick and stretch out in a way that is not possible in a baby bath. There are a range of bath ramps or sponge mats which help keep the baby’s head out of water whilst allowing him/her to kick and wave to their heart’s content. These are great and a lot smaller and easier to store than a baby bath. A folded up towel makes a good substitute and helps solve travel problems when space is short. The odd splash of water to the face is good for improving water confidence and parents should, as long as they are there to keep an eye on everything, not be afraid of letting their child enjoy the bath fully.