Scrub-a-Dub: Guide to Bath Time Routines for Little Ones

Rubber Duck

When we mention “bath time,” how do you respond? With a smile? An eye roll? A flutter of anxiety?

Depending upon your child’s age and stage, the feelings toward bathing your little one can vary. Some kids love to play in the tub; others view bath time as the least fun, and therefore worst, part of the day.

No matter how you view bath time in your house, we can all agree on one thing: every bath time that is safe is a success. In fact, January is National Bath Safety Month, and it reminds us to take a step back from this daily routine and find ways to improve its safety.

Unsupervised or overly active bath times can sometimes result in injuries, from small bruises to cracked teeth to head injuries. The last thing anyone needs is to end the day with a stressful, scary experience.

In the tips below, we offer suggestions on how to make bath time a little easier, calmer, and better for your home. As always, if you have questions specifically about your child’s health or behavior, please contact us for a personalized consultation.

Setting a Bath Time Schedule

Bath time differs for many families, considering how many kids you have, their ages, and their temperaments. Beginning with newborn sponge baths and up to the point where your child begins to shower or bathe without help, there are a lot of changes that come with it.

First, newborn babies can have sponge baths to stay clean. It isn’t until the remaining umbilical cord has fallen off (typically ten days to two weeks old) that the baby will take baths in a baby bath, plastic tub, or sink. Even at this point, baths will only need to happen every two to three days or after accidents where extra cleaning is needed!

Skin conditions should also be taken into account when planning baths. If your baby has sensitive skin or conditions like eczema, baths could either irritate or help the issue. We can help you decide what would be best and offer some medications or creams that can improve the condition.

As your child grows, baths can range from once per day to every other day. For toddlers, a routine is important so you may want to make bath time a daily occurrence; if you would rather not, you can always clean your toddler’s face and bottom to stay fresh and cleansed.

For pre-teens and teenagers, bathing or showering daily is needed. Because of the many changes your child’s body is undergoing through puberty – including the increase of sweat, body hair, body odor, and oils in the skin – regular washing is necessary. These changes, combined with increased levels of activities in sports and other extracurricular activities, make hygiene more important than ever.

Often, bath time depends on your child’s skin, activity level, if there is anything visibly dirty or smelly about them – as the parent, you know what is best!

How to Make Bath Time Easier

If you are one of the parents who finds bath time less than pleasant, we are here for you. Baths can be challenging for many parents, who find that they are interrupting fun playtime to start the bedtime “winding down” process.

This can be met with a bit of resistance and tantrums from younger children. For teens, when told they need to shower, they may act annoyed with you or even ignore you.

Our first recommendation is to look at outside factors. Is your timing right? Are you scheduling baths when your child is particularly grumpy or tired? Are bath times not routine, so your child is thrown off when it happens?

Here are a few of our tips to make bath time easier with kids:

  1. As is true for most parenting rules, a routine is key. Establishing set times, or days, for baths sets an expectation and keeps kids from being frustrated.
  2. Especially in the winter months, some kids can be sensitive to the cold – getting undressed to be met with cold tiles or lukewarm bath water can make matter worse. Keep things snuggly with fluffy towels, robes, and even slippers to make the transition from warm to cold a bit easier.
  3. Keep bath time fun with bath toys, and rotate out the collection of toys to prevent your child from becoming bored. For older kids, purchase a blue-tooth, waterproof speaker (cheap versions available on Amazon), making it easy to play music while showering.
  4. For younger kids, make bath time more fun by bringing activities that he or she enjoys to the tub. Sing songs, read stories, invest in bath crayons or paints, and more. Fun in the tub can be as easy as filling up and emptying out cups, or setting a small toy ship to sail!
  5. Buy fun, tear-free shampoos that smell good, or add fun bubbles to the bath to make it more exciting.
  6. If all else fails, set a timer and remind your child they need to be in the tub and washed by the time the timer goes off. This gives them some perception of how long the bath will last and makes its end seem closer.
  7. Have a nice towel and a change of clothes at the ready as soon as your child exits the tub. Getting dried off and moving straight into pajamas helps signal that bedtime is nearing, and it is time to move into the next part of your routine.
  8. Your mood during bath time can be easily sensed by your child. Keep the mood light and, even when it feels difficult, keep a smile and easy-going demeanor. The more it can feel like fun, the more your child will loosen up and enjoy it.

For older kids, try and understand why showering or hygiene is not happening. Sometimes, rejecting basic hygiene can be a sign of an emotional disorder. Depression and anxiety can manifest in lack of shower, cleanliness, and organization. Talk to your pediatrician if you are worried about your teen’s behavior or mood.

How to Encourage Calm Baths for Children

On the other end of the spectrum, some children love bath time and view it as an opportunity to play. With fun bath toys come wild imaginations, playing games as your child would in a playroom.

This excitement can lead to standing, splashing, and sometimes slipping. Here are a few ways to calm down bath time:

  1. If you have more than one child, try bathing them separately. This can keep playtime to a minimum and make things less rambunctious. If it is easier to bathe them together, find toys and games that encourage less rambunctious play.
  2. Certain aromas, like lavender-scented soaps and shampoos, can encourage a sleepy-time, drowsy feeling.
  3. Dim the lights a bit to create a calmer environment for bath time.
  4. Develop bath time rituals that focus less on play, and more on conversation. Ideas include asking your child what they learned during the day, singing and listening to soft music, and more.

As always, look at external factors that may be making bath time feel too rowdy. Timing is usually a big issue. Consider your the time surrounding bath time – meals (including diet and what is being served); mood and tiredness level; and routine, considering why your child gets so revved up for the bath. Experiment with all of these external conditions and see if the behavior starts to shift.

Materials for a Safer Bath Time

Make bath time safe by investing in some important tools that can make a big difference:

  • A bath mat, both inside and outside of the tub. Use a plastic, anti-slip bath mat to keep bath time steady. Also, having a thick bath mat outside the bath keeps the mat from slipping around and allows your child to get out of the tub without trouble.
  • A bath spout cover keeps the faucet soft, reducing the number of injuries or accidents hitting the spout.
  • Many small children cannot tolerate bathwater that is as warm as adults enjoy. There are bath thermometers on the market, or simply use another thermometer you have. Bath temperatures should be around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with slight variations above or below for your child’s comfort.
  • If there is excessive splashing during your bath times, you can invest in a bath splash guard. Or just keep towels on the floor to reduce slipping.

If your child is especially wiggly during bath times, look for extra tools that can help protect heads, eyes, bottoms, and teeth from getting hurt in the bathing process.

What to Do During a Bath Injury

For smaller injuries – such as slipping and bruising a leg, arm, or bottom – your child may be scared more than anything. Remove the child from the bath, snuggle him or her up, and get into warm clothes. If you think the fall will leave a bruise, apply the area with a little ice pack to help alleviate the pain and the appropriate amount of Tylenol.

If there is a cut, clean and dress the wound if it is small enough. If the cut is larger and seems to require stitches, go to the emergency room.

If the injury results in the loss of a tooth, use a cotton ball to either clean the area or try to keep the tooth in place. Baby teeth will likely need to be pulled. For a child who cracks or loses a permanent tooth, take the tooth, place it into a small container with milk, and call your dentist. The loss of or chipping of a permanent tooth can result in more complex dental work.

If your child falls hard and hits his or her head, proceed with caution. If your child is unresponsive, call an ambulance or head to the emergency room immediately. If your child seems a little dazed, a concussion is possible. Keep an eye on him or her through the night and try to keep him or her awake and alert. If you have worries, go to the emergency room.

Finding that little injuries are happening regularly? Talk to your pediatrician, and we can guide you towards some behavior adjustments or other safety measures that will help your family.

Have questions? Let us know.

As a regular part of your week, bath time should bring more pleasure than pain. By following our tips, we hope that your bath plans become easier and safer in the year ahead! If you have questions about how to make bath time easier for your family, let us know. At Pediatrics East, we are your partners in helping you raise a happy, healthy, and safe child. We are always here to discuss major concerns or behavior issues that interrupt your daily routines. If you have questions, call our office at 901-757-3535 to make an appointment with your pediatrician.  

Posted by Tim Flatt at 09:43