Bath time learning activities: why they’re good for children
Many children really enjoy bath time. They love playing with water and seeing what happens when they splash, pour, blow bubbles and so on. The warm water feels good on their skin. And at bath time, you’re always close by and giving children plenty of attention.
This means bath time is a good time to play, encourage learning and build relationships with babies and toddlers.
What you need for bath time learning activities
You just need the tub you normally bath your child in.
It’s also good if your child has a few things to play with. But you don’t need special bath toys – your child will have fun with ordinary plastic cups and containers, soft washcloths and so on.
And your child needs you or another adult to talk and play with. Plenty of talking helps your child learn.
There are four golden rules for bath time safety. 1. Always stay with your child to supervise. 2. Check bath temperature. 3. Have everything you need handy. 4. Let the bath water out as soon as the bath is finished.
How to play and learn at bath time
Try these ideas:
- While you’re bathing your child, name different body parts. For example, ‘Wash your toes. Wash your legs. Wash your tummy. Wash your arms. Wash your face’. Simple rhythm and repetition will help your child learn. You could even sing ‘This is the way we wash our …’. After a while, pause before you name a body part and see whether your child fills in the gap.
- Watch what your child is interested in and use this interest to teach new words and concepts. For example, if your child is pouring water into and out of a cup, say ‘It’s full’ and ‘Now it’s empty’. If your child is experimenting with different toys in the water, say ‘It’s sinking’ and ‘Now it’s floating’.
- Keep chatting about what’s happening when you get your child out of the bath. For example, ‘You’re all wet. Let’s get you dry. Let’s rub your tummy with the towel’.
- Name body parts and actions as you put on your child’s clothes. For example, ‘Arms up. Let’s put this t-shirt over your head. Sit down and I’ll put socks on your feet’. Eventually, your child will learn what’s about to happen and will respond.
It’s a good idea to use the correct names when you’re talking about body parts – for example, penis, scrotum, testicles, vulva, vagina. It’s OK to use pet names too. But using the correct names helps to send the message that talking about these parts of our bodies is healthy and OK. It’s part of early learning about sex, sexuality and bodies.
Adapting bath time learning activities for children at different stages
Babies who can’t sit up on their own can still enjoy bath play. For example, your baby will love to watch you pour water from a plastic cup, or they might like to play with the washcloth.
Toddlers might start to play imaginative games in the bath. For example, your toddler might make you a ‘cup of tea’. Imaginative play is fun and also a good way to develop your child’s vocabulary and talking skills.