Let’s face it, the way some brands make out bath time as a peaceful, relaxing wind-down time for you and your baby is mostly nonsense.
If you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle giving the bath, it can be rough. First there’s just the uncomfortableness of the crouching, kneeling, bending, and lifting that goes on over the bathtub. Then there’s the reality of just being tired! It’s usually the end of the day, you’re a bit stressed out trying to get everything done before bed and if you’ve got multiple kids, you’re trying to juggle everything they all need at once.
It’s often far from the dreamy picture presented on the bottle of bubble bath. It can become another chore in the list of routines, another struggle to get through, and frequently just more hassle. In our house, it’s the part of the routine that often just drops out because after everything else that needs doing, it’s a step too far.
If that’s a similar story in your home when it comes to bath time, and that makes you feel guilty… don’t. Just wash your kids less. You don't need to feel bad about leaving it out of the routine. Eating and sleeping are daily needs that you can’t change. But bath time is not the same. We wrote here about why you can be worry less about how often you bath your kids.
None of that is to say that bath time can’t be special. It’s often the practice of actually washing body and hair that’s a pain, but there's more to it. Spending time chatting, playing and just giving your kids undivided attention in the bath is the good bit, and long term, it's probably what has the bigger impact on your kids' development.
But even when you get yourself together to sort it, sometimes it's the kids that decide they don’t want to do baths. It happens to most. At some point in time, many kids develop a sudden and irrational aversion to the water and the whole event becomes a battle. Even if you scale back how often you wash your kids' skin and hair, there are still times when you’ll need to bath them and at that point it can be far from fun!
So what to do? Whether you’re struggling to put the laugh back in b-augh (this only works for southerners) or its your kids who are battling sudden aquaphobia, here’s some tips for making it all more fun again so you can find a place for bath time in your routine that’s a bit more enjoyable for everyone.
1.Make bath time more comfortable
Nothing makes you snap faster than your kids asking you to do something when you’re under some kind of physical stress (try doing an exercise routine in your living room with little kids in and out and test the length of your patience!) It doesn’t take much physical discomfort to sap the enjoyment out of bath time. Kneeling on hard tiled floors for an extended amount of time is a mission in itself. Add to that bending and lifting your kids in and out of the bath and you’ll quickly be cursing your case of ‘parent knee’ or ‘parent back’!
A little preparation goes a long way. Getting comfy first is always a good idea. Use a stool (the type your kids might use to get on the loo or reach the taps in the sink) to help them climb in and out of the bath and save yourself some lifting.
A stool or a kneeling pad is also great for you to use while your kids enjoy the bath. No one likes to feel old, so a knee pad isn’t going to be your first choice but find something (even a folded towel) to avoid spending a long time in an uncomfortable position!
Finally, encourage greater independence in your kids. Yes, very little babies do need a lot of hands-on help (and they won’t be stepping out of the bath themselves any time soon) but as they sit up, use their hands, and learn to pull themselves up and walk, there’s more they can do than we often give them space to practice. A tool like the GRASP bath time brush is designed to give kids independence - and while it can make bath time more fun for them, it’s also a great way to step back and let them get on with the washing.
2. Make bath time drier
Like achy backs and knees, nothing quite takes the fun out of bath time than ending up soaking wet (as the one giving the bath of course!), or with a soaking wet house. While sometimes that means limiting the amount of water being splashed out of the bath, its often a case of just being prepared.
That doesn’t mean wearing a poncho for bath times, but it could mean just giving them some more space as they get older. Again, it comes down to allowing kids some more independence to wash themselves and play independently. It doesn’t mean you need to leave the room, but it could mean standing out of the way and doing something else until you really need to get involved with rinsing hair or getting them out of the bath. That way you can stay a little dryer.
The other challenge is getting your kids dry when they’re getting out of the bath. Choosing a big, hooded kids' towel is a great idea. While they’re great at drying and keeping your little one warm, selfishly the hood also keeps the towel in place so you’re not left carrying a slippery eel about. Make sure it's large enough to also cover their feet as well so these can be dried before they traipse wet footprints around all your floors and carpets!
3. Make bath time more varied
No two bath times needs to be the same. In fact, making bath time different from regular times of play and making each bath a little bit different from the last can keep kids more engaged.
It’s tempting to do everything the same each time - partly just to make sure you remember stuff, and partly because that’s what kids tell us they want: the exact same experience they had the previous time.
But introducing a little bit of chaos - things that make the time novel or unique - and helping your kids adjust is a great way for them to build resilience and stay interested over a longer period.
If you’re used to always giving a long bath with plenty of play time, try a short bath with no toys – just wash and done. Try a play bath only with no washing (kids need washing less than we think we do – read more on that here) or try not washing their hair (we all know that’s the part no one looks forward to!).
It’s also worth keeping some toys exclusively for bath times so there’s something specific for the kids to enjoy. Keep regular toys out of the bath and bath toys out of regular play time to make that bath time special.
If you’re able to, also try switching in and out different toys rather than always having the full range. Keep things varied and look out for toy swaps to introduce new fun into the routine.
4. Routines are good, breaking them can be better
Even the greatest routines can become a boring chore when it’s always the same. While there are ways to change what happens in the bath as above, varying routines is also a great way to keep things fresh.
While that doesn’t mean throwing bedtimes out the window, or just totally neglecting to wash your kids, it can mean changing times and the way you do things to make the time special again.
One simple tip is to switch up when you do baths. Don’t be afraid to do impromptu baths when the kids are tired, unwell, or just need a bit of one-to-one time and space. Popping a bath into the late afternoon pre-dinner or first thing in the morning rather than the standard ‘just before bed’, can give your kid the time they need with you, when they need it.
If your kids are struggling with regular bath times, changing the times is a way to re-engage them in a routine. Kids benefit hugely from routines, but sometimes the best way to get them back engaged is to make a new one. Build up the start of a new routine or an impromptu change as being special in the way you talk about it, and you might find they fall back in love with bath time again.