As well as cleaning the grime from the day off their bodies, bath time also offers the perfect opportunity for expanding children’s minds. We’ve outlined a few of the ways playing in water helps a child’s mental and physical development – most of the time they won’t even realise they’re ‘learning’, so bring on the fun!
Pouring water from one vessel to another (not to mention over a sibling or adult’s head) can provide endless entertainment for young children. Because kids are tactile learners, the action of emptying and filling is also a fun, no-pressure way for them to improve their dexterity, hand-eye coordination and discover the process of cause and effect in real time.
Sponges are another good tool for developing their fine motor skills. The action of squeezing the water out is great exercise for young hand and wrist muscles. Children will also enjoy the stimulation they feel as the water trickles down their skin. For older kids, squeezing a sponge starts to teach them about absorption and the properties and movement of water.
Colours and shapes
Bath time is one of few distractions so it can be a wonderful place for you and your family to practice skills in a low-pressure environment. Counting bubbles along with fingers and toes is fun, especially when they’re very little – and with plenty of songs you can sing to go with all these activities keeps the emphasis on the right side of play.
Bright bathing accessories and toys such as pouring cups, foam numbers and letters encourage children to learn colour recognition, and to practice and further develop spelling and counting skills as they grow. Washable crayons can also be great for practising writing numbers or letters on the side of the bath as well as for strengthening a child’s wrist muscles. Drawing actively encourages kids’ creativity – all while learning basic shape and pattern skills along the way.
Bath time is a great opportunity for children to learn to feel comfortable and happy in water. Games such as splashing and blowing bubbles will help them enjoy the sensation of water on their faces and bodies. Floating on their back or submerging are also activities they may have tried in a swimming pool which can be recreated in the bath. Try using verbal cues they might hear in swimming lessons such as ‘Kick, kick, kick,’ or ‘Splash, splash, splash.’
Take your time with these activities as some children will be happier about having their faces in the water than others. You could try using goggles and play a game of looking for toys at the bottom of the bath to improve their confidence. Use plenty of praise to encourage them and don’t push them to do anything if they get upset – with gentle encouragement and an opportunity to develop at their own pace, they’ll get there when they’re ready to.
Turn the bath into a science laboratory for a bit more fun before bed time. Learn about floating and sinking by putting a range of items in the water, for example a bowl, apple, toys and so on – let them see how the water level rises and falls as they themselves get in and out of the bath. Ask older children lots of questions and try getting them to predict what will happen. Ask them to test and explain their ideas as they go, but keep it light – this is learning as fun, after all!
Cups, bowls and jugs can all be used to look at water volume, as well as for testing which can hold more. Children can also learn about weight by seeing which cup or jug is heavier when filled with water. The things that a child learns during bath time may well spark their curiosity and interest when it comes to learning higher-level science at school.
Learning independence when it comes to personal care and hygiene is an important life skill that will help build your child’s confidence and give them a sense of pride. Take it step-by-step and encourage them to start with one aspect of washing first – their face perhaps. Once they’ve mastered that, move on to other body parts. Always try to praise your child for both their attempts and successes.
Just like adults, being able to wind down after a busy day is really important for children’s mental wellbeing. Bath time is the perfect opportunity to relax away from devices and distractions and all the other things that occupy children’s lives today.
While the skills and games we’ve outlined here can be stimulating and lots of fun, it’s important to remember that children’s energy levels and moods change every day. Follow their lead and enjoy the precious time that’s bath time with them the way they want to spend it – because most important of all is that they go to sleep every night feeling happy, safe and relaxed.
Looking for more bath- and bed-time fun? Dive into our ocean-inspired books for bedtime here