It’s the end of the day. Maybe you have spent the day at home with your little human and you are worn out and ready for bedtime, or rather, freedom. Maybe you are exhausted after working all day, picking your tiny human up from preschool, cooking dinner and handling tantrums. Bath time is a vital step in winding down, but it is often rushed and overlooked as a moment to connect and teach authentic self-esteem.
What do I mean by authentic self-esteem? I mean teaching, and helping instill the pride of developing a skill. Often we (and I am SO guilty of this) prescribe lip service to accomplishments: “Great coloring, your picture looks great”. This is important praise, don’t get me wrong, but eventually it can fall flat and our children can feel that. This is precisely why I love finding ways to encourage developing life skills in often overlooked ways, such as bath time. How can we do this?
Since my child is a toddler (just shy of two) we are just beginning to learn life skills and allowing the independence to problem solve in this effort. I allow her to pump her own body wash (Boulder Baby Company, of course) into the running bath. This allows her to see how many pumps she can use to create frothy foam in the water. It allows her to see cause and effect, the more pumps the more bubbles. Utilizing pumping can be an easy tool to work on counting skills.
We bring an array of bath toys. Mr. Potato head often makes an appearance (her bath potato is one which I have hot glued everything together so they cannot be removed, although any doll would work). This is a natural way for her to wash different body parts on both her and Mr. P, and an opportunity to take ownership of her own body and cleanliness.
I believe we get used to doing everything for our young children because it’s easier. It’s easier and faster for me to wash her. There’s less mess and less chaos. It has been very hard for me to break that pattern and find the lessons she needs to learn self-care, but so rewarding her to feel empowered to care for herself.
Pouring presents more opportunity for learning. We bring several vessels of different sizes. Pouring water from one vessel to another helps develop motor skills. She is able to learn to control her pour, which will carry over to skills outside the bath (pouring milk into her cereal or feeding the dogs). She is able to nurture the skills to determine how much one vessel can hold versus the other. Early math in the bath!
She will often experiment with pouring from different heights, and how that affects the sound of the splash. You can also offer an opportunity to experiment with cold, warm/hot water in the vessels. I encourage her to experiment squeezing a sponge out to fill a cup, or to rinse her body.
For older children, it’s a great time to recount the day. Recall the events of the day in sequence and with specific details. You can use bath crayons to great patterns on the tub walls to work on sequences. Remember to keep it silly, and funny! Humor is a great way to engage little minds.
We have begun using a timer, and this will keep everyone on schedule in an exciting way. When the timer goes off, bath time is over, and you’re not the bad guy, it’s just on to the next step. We also have bath music. I play the same music every time and at a low volume. I always insist my kiddo put her bath supplies in the caddie.
Lastly, I always have her rub her own body lotion on, again, helping her count pumps (ie one pump for one leg, one pump for the other leg, one pump for tummy, etc)
I am certainly not reinventing the wheel, but hopefully offering insight into how important the bath ritual is, beyond just a bedtime routine step. I encourage you to reframe bath time and work in your own teachable moments.
**Photo Credit: The Painted Lady Photography