The word ‘essentials’ can be scary for any first-time parent. It usually comes with an internal warning - I'm about to be sold a bunch of things that are actually not essential at all!
As I wrote here, that experience of being overwhelmed with ‘stuff’ feels inevitable when you first become a parent, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It's part of the reason we started GRASP (check out our story here).
The purpose of this ‘essentials’ guide to your children’s bath time is not to clutter your home with stuff, but to help you make sensible choices about what you really need. The truth is - especially your first child, less is more.
Why does bath time matter?
This sounds like a trick question. Bath time is of course in part about getting your kids clean and looking after their health and hygiene, but that's not the whole purpose and is arguably less important than we think.
For a start, most of us are over-washing our kids. As adults we have routines that often involve showering or bathing everyday, but this is often excessive even for adults.
Baby skin is incredibly delicate in comparison to adult skin. For new born babies under 1 month, skincare products are a no go. Just some water and a cloth like this is all you need. But even as your baby becomes a toddler and beyond, their skin still needs treating differently and the best thing to do is reduce the amount of baths and skincare products that come into contact with their skin.
If bath times are not necessarily about just washing, you might find yourself bathing your children a lot less than you thought you would. That’s fine. But there are other good reasons for bathing your kids besides washing their skin and scalp.
Bath time can be a moment of connection with focused time and attention away from the other routines of life. You can learn more about how often to bath your children here.
Making bath time more fun and ditching the hair washing now and again is sometimes more of an essential part of bath time than we think.
Baby bath essentials for babies up to 6 months
For new born babies it’s best to keep things to a minimum, they really don’t need much entertainment and skincare should be kept to a minimum.
Best baby bath for new born babies up to 6 months old
We loved the Shnuggle bath from the first time we started using it. It’s got a perfect ridge that makes sitting up easy for babies even from 1 month old. Their latest version with a plug in the bottom means you can also empty the bath easily with it sat in your own bath.
For more recommendations on the best bath tubs for babies, read more here.
Best baby towels
There are plenty of great baby towel brands available with lots of fun colours and styles that will make for cute photos. A great baby towel is an essential part of making bath time peaceful so choosing well counts. Natural fibres like bamboo are best, and choosing a large towel with a hood that allows you to swaddle your baby properly is the way to go.
For all your baby towel needs, check out our list of recommendations to suit every occasion from bath time to swimming.
Best skincare for babies under 6 months
We love Aveeno. Their oat-based formula for baby’s skin makes it super gentle on baby skin and a great natural cleanser when your baby is over 1 month old. Use sparingly and infrequently.
Do you need bubble bath for babies?
In short, no. For little babies, bubble bath is an unnecessary extra and if you can avoid bringing more chemicals into contact with their skin, then it’s best to do that. Skip the bubbles and save them for when your baby is a little older.
Best moisturiser for babies under 6 months
We’ve been fans of Baby Dove and it’s very mild formulas. Their moisturiser lotion is smooth enough to rub into your baby’s skin easily, but it absorbs fast and isn’t greasy so you get a great natural smell and application all done very quickly.
If you're wondering how exactly to go about moisturising your baby, read this step-by-step guide.
Best baby wash cloths?
A simple re-useable wash cloth or flannel is sufficient for washing baby’s skin. You could use our Mushi cloths as well. They’re great for washing in the nooks of necks and armpits during baby’s bath times as well as post-meal time clean up for older children
Bath time essentials for toddlers
As your baby grows into a toddler their skincare needs are slowly adjusting.
As they interact more with the world around them, their skin needs added nourishment and protection. While remaining careful about what you put on their skin, you might be wanting to wash them more to remove dirt and sweat. Great skincare essentials for toddlers should continue to protect and support their skin while it’s still delicate.
Best skincare for toddlers
Childs Farm gave parents who were worried about their baby and toddlers’ eczema and sensitive skin an amazing range of products.
Its reputation precedes it and we have used several their products over the years. Mild formulas, even if your child doesn’t seem to have sensitive skin are still the way to go. They’ve helped push the whole skincare business for kids towards more natural formulas and for that we’re very thankful.
Best shampoo for toddlers
It’s best to go easy on shampoo on toddlers. It can be a source of irritation and skin inflammation even with the most mild formulas so use it sparingly and infrequently. We like Waleda with their signature Calendula formulation for sensitive and delicate cleansing of body and hair.
Best moisturiser for toddlers
Great emollients (moisturisers) for toddlers are best applied just after bath time while their skin is still moist. They work brilliantly to trap in moisture and regular use every day keep skin from drying out a root cause of a lot of skincare rashes that can torment toddlers. Try Aveeno moisturising lotion.
Best sponges and wash cloths for toddlers
As your baby grows there are two things that are vital to bath time. Your child getting clean, and them learning the importance of looking after their own health and hygiene.
Sometimes those can be traded off against each other when we’re just trying to get a quick bath done and make sure they’re washed. But our Pebbl bath time cleansing brush is a great way to help your kids wash effectively while slowly introducing them to looking after their own skin. As a toddler, it might mean just using the Pebbl to effectively wash their skin with soft silicone bristles and a refillable soap chamber that makes it simple and hygienic to wash skin and scalp.
For more recommendations on choosing the right bahttime sponge, read this guide to the best baby sponges.
Bathtime essentials for young children
Once your child is older than 5 years old their skin becomes more robust.
For example at about 5 years old the number of Natural Moisturising Factors is about on par with adults. That means they’re less vulnerable to ‘over-bathing’ and natural skincare will deliver results without drying out their skin too much.
Best cleanser for kids
The best body wash for children’s bath time should be one that’s easy to use, smells great and is minimal fuss. Ideally it allows your little one to start taking the necessary steps to washing themselves.
We love the easy cap opening of the Child’s Farm bottles, but there are great fun bottles and smells from Bloom and Blossom that we highly rate as well. At the more premium end, Waleda continues to offer excellent naturally sensitive solutions to cleaning your kids.
Best moisturiser for kids
This remains the more important, but often neglected part of any skincare routines (even for adults), so something that allows your little ones to get into a routine of moisturising regularly is key.
While it’s maybe stronger and less glamorous than most, E45 is a great option that’s thick and easy to apply for little kids with pump bottles that are easy to operate. If you’re still planning to do most of the work yourself, Dove baby’s own moisturiser is a great, lightly fragrant solution.
For a more complete guide on whether to use lotions or creams and how to apply them, check out this guide on what moisturisers to use on your baby's skin.
Best shampoo for kids
While 2-in-1 body and hair washes might have done the job for babies and toddlers, you might now want to be looking at specific kid’s shampoo and conditioners as separate from body washes.
Aimed at slightly older children and teens, the range from Spots and Stripes will meet your kid’s needs.
Best sponges and wash cloths for kids
As your toddler grows into a child, it’s important they learn to look after their own skin health and hygiene.
Our Pebbl bath time cleansing brush is a great way to help your kids wash effectively while slowly teaching them to looking after their own skin. Fill the brush for them and then let them get washing. With a controlled release of cleanser they’ll be able to wash body and hair easily without wasting product.
The best bath time toys for kids
Bath time is a great place for play and play is key to your baby and young children’s development.
So choosing a few essential bath time toys that help your baby explore and develop is a great step to take.
Not all toys have to involve more plastic though. Try these 3 eco-friendly bath time toys to liven things up without damaging the planet
- Plan Toys wooden boats are great wooden alternatives to your classic plastic boats and animals.
- Quut bath puzzles are beautifully designed innovations for your bath that get your kids involved in the building of their own toys.
- Green Toys’ boats come in a range of styles and shapes and there made from 100% recycled plastic. They also work great as hair washing jugs in our experience
if you're looking for a wider range of sensory toys, check this selection of the best sensory bathtime toys for kids.