The importance of establishing a bath-time routine for your toddler

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Ask any parent and they’ll probably tell you that bath time with their toddler is one of the more stressful activities of the day. Parents often struggle to make bath time a fun, safe and manageable experience – and children often resist it all together.

But with these helpful tips from Pam Linke, a social worker for Early Childhood Australia, you can establish a daily bath-time routine for your toddler that’s positive and will help make having a bath a safe and enjoyable task for all involved.

From finding a safe water temperature, to dealing with your toddler’s fear of the drain and the best products to use, Pam’s got all your biggest bath-time concerns covered.

The importance of a bath-time routine for your toddler

A daily ritual can be very powerful in your child’s early life experiences, says Pam. By incorporating bath time into a getting-ready-for-bed routine of finishing off play, cleaning teeth, having a bath, a story and a cuddle before bed, toddlers quickly develop positive associations with bathing. “This kind of evening routine gives them a sense of warmth and security,” says Pam.

How often should you bathe your toddler?

“Bath-time routines depend on the toddler and the family,” says Pam. These days, “many parents and health professionals take a balanced approach” to their toddlers’ washing and bath-time routine. “How often you bathe your children depends on how dirty they get, what you like to do in your family, and whether your children enjoy the bath,” she says.

Preparing your toddler for bath time

Before each bath time, set out all the essentials, including bath-time products, pyjamas, towels and toys. Encouraging your child to help organise these items will teach him or her about responsibility, and the importance of organisation and planning, says Pam. By allowing your child to choose, they will feel more included, and as though they are in control of what is happening, while also developing decision-making and cooperation skills. It also prevents situations such a forgotten towel, which leaves a child cold and wet (and takes the fun out of bath time!).

Products to use at bath time

While children usually enjoy it if you fill up the bath with soap bubbles, Pam says too much of this can dry out their skin. Instead, use a more gentle formula like the Organic Care Kids Bubblebath that’s designed specifically to be used on toddlers. The extra nourishing plant based and natural formula contains provitamin B5 and vitamin E help keep your toddler’s skin soft and hydrated, while the bubbles will ensure they continue to enjoy bath time.

Similarly, it’s just as important to protect their hair and scalp from dryness. Organic Care Baby 2 in 1 Conditioning Shampoo is formulated for sensitive skin, and helps reduce inflammation and irritation. And since most small children don’t like the feeling of water on their face or near their eyes, a 2-in-1 product is ideal as it limits the amount of time necessary to properly wash their hair and scalp.

To keep your toddler’s skin soft and nourished after bath time, apply a moisturiser that’s extra gentle on their skin. Choose a fragrance-free formula like Organic Care Baby Moisturiser – as it’s free from petrochemical cleansers, it won’t harm or irritate their skin, and leaves it feeling soothed, moisturised and protected.

Bath-time learning for toddlers

“Children are constantly learning, and bath time offers lots of opportunities,” says Pam. Most importantly, they’ll learn how to wash themselves and the different parts of their bodies as you name them, she says. Hygiene is an important part of bath time, and showing them the correct way to wash different body parts is crucial to their personal development. “They can learn what their bodies and their friends’ bodies look like if they share a bath, and also about similarities and differences,” says Pam.

Bathing also teaches them about what sinks and what floats and how air bubbles always come to the surface of the water. This will help them understand what is and isn’t safe for bath time, and can help eliminate fears, says Pam.

How to make bath time fun for toddlers

Everyday household objects such as funnels, plastic jugs and bottles can help make bath time fun and interesting for your toddler, says Pam. Singing songs, telling stories and encouraging your toddler to make up their own games will also fuel their imagination.

Toddler bath-time fears

It is not uncommon for toddlers to be afraid of bath time, more specifically, “of going down the drain,” says Pam. To help with this bath phobia, try leaving the water in the bath until the toddler has gotten out of the bath, “though some aren’t always convinced by this,” she says. Another tactic is to have your toddler help fill up the bathtub and let them bathe a toy. When bath time is finished, leave the toy in the water and unplug the drain, then watch together to show that the toy does not get sucked away. Just remind your child that he or she is much larger than the toy.

“It helps to find out – if you can – exactly what it is that your child is afraid of,” says Pam. “Their world is full of new and strange experiences, and their fears are as real to them as ours are to us,” so it’s important to take their fears seriously, and try to manage this as early as possible.

“The main thing to remember is that your toddler’s world is opening up. There are lots of things to be excited about and some to be afraid of. If you can enjoy learning along with them, this will make bath time one of the more enjoyable times for you both,” says Pam.

The importance of bath time safety

Above all, Pam says that ensuring your child is safe during bath time is most important, so never leave a small child unattended in the bath. “Do not leave your toddler in the supervision of an older child while you go to answer the phone or check on dinner,” she says. “Young children can drown very quickly in very little water,” so it’s best to be within an arm’s reach at all times. Finally, always “empty the bath immediately after use,” she says.

To avoid burns, you should always test the water temperature before allowing your toddler in the bath. “Young children can get scalded very quickly in water that is too hot,” so make sure your water temperature is no higher than 37 degrees, says Pam. Place the top of your hand in the running water to be sure it’s not too hot or too cold, as this part of your hand is more sensitive than your palm. “You should also always put the cold water in first, then the hot water, and swirl to ensure there are no hot spots,” she says. “Never run the hot water while your child is in the bath.”

What are your biggest concerns with bath time for your toddler? Were these tips helpful?

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