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Making bath time fun time for your baby or toddler

Bath time can be a nice way to ease into bedtime – a wee window of calm where you can play and chat together. At least, that's the plan. But sometimes the thought of getting them into the bath let alone getting them clean is enough to want to skip the whole thing altogether. Here are some tips from mums and dads on everything from getting them into the bath, to getting them washed.

Tips for getting them into the bathroom and ready for bath time

Tip #1: Countdown to bath time

Let them know that bath time is on its way. Now's the time for them to be putting toys away or choosing their pjs. If you're struggling to get them to tidy we've got some fun games to get them helping around the house

Your child’s development: Toddlers like routine – and it's good for them too. Having the same things happen before bedtime each night makes them feel safe and secure.

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Tip #2: Is ducky ready for a bath?

Just before bath time, use an empty box and pretend it's a bath (relax, no water needed). Can you both bath ducky in the box? Are there any toys ducky likes to play with in the bath? Use a towel to help get ducky dry and ready for bed. Now it's your little one's turn.

Your child’s development: By including your child's toys in your play, you can show them how fun the bath is. Your child's imagination gets better every day, and playing games like this helps them get more confident and creative. Why not keep the game going as the night goes on? What book would ducky like you to read tonight? Can you read it to your toddler in a "Quack" voice?

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Tip #3: What’s the time Mr Wolf?

Can't get your toddler into the bathroom? Then why not pretend that they are the big, bad wolf! What time is it? Time to chase you all the way into the bathroom!

Your child’s development: This little trick also helps them learn about time.

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Games to play in the bath

Tip #1: Empty shampoo bottles

Young children love emptying and filling bottles and tubs. You could help them count to 10 before the bottle fills with water. Or pour water from the bottle into another bottle or a bucket. Or pretend it's a waterfall to soak little toes.

Your child’s development: Your child is learning loads of things as they do this – shapes, counting, volume, actions and consequences, and how what they do affects the world around them. They like to do it again and again, as they learn to see what happens next.

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Tip #2: Bubble and Seek

If your child enjoys a bubble bath, try hiding a rubber duck in the bubbles. Ask them where it's gone and if they can find it, or you can make it reappear in a different place.

Your child’s development: Your baby is learning that even when they can't see something, it is still there. Playing "hiding games" as your child grows up can help with separation anxiety – they learn that even if you go away for a little while, you aren't far away.

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Tip #3: Bubble pie

Toddler being bathed

Toddler being bathed

Get your wee one to pretend they're making something tasty for dinner. Can they cook up a delicious pie out of bubbles? What goes into it? How about some imaginary carrots and potatoes?

Your child’s development: Kids love copying you – it's how they learn. By adding in some imagination and letting them role-play with you, they learn loads of new things – like new words and how and when to say things.

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Tip #4: Sing songs while you wash them

Sing songs while you wash them. If your toddler's not a fan of being washed, why not try singing a song together - maybe one with lots of actions or something perfect for bath time like Row Row Row Your Boat. Get them to show you the moves while you give them a good scrub.

Your child’s development: Singing songs with your toddler (and baby!) helps make you and them happy. Doing the actions helps their coordination, fine motor skills, and ability to concentrate. Get singing!

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Tip #5: Stories and suds

Make bath time more fun by telling stories and singing songs - get your little one to join in by signing and telling stories back to you. This will help your wee one learn and make connections.

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Tip #6: Peek-a-boo

Peek-a-boo. Use a washcloth to hide your wee one's toes, hands or tummy. Say "Where are your feet?" then uncover them and say “There they are!”. Ask them if they can find their toes or their knees.

Your child’s development: This should help them learn the names of their body, and with their hand-eye coordination.

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Tip #7: Dry your eyes

Your little one will like to try and do things without your help. You could put them in charge of looking after a dry facecloth, that they can reach for themselves, so they can dry their face whenever they need to.

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Washing their hair tips

Tip #1: Where are the stars?

Getting your toddler to look to the ceiling can help when you wash their hair. Ask them where all the stars are. When their head is tilted back, pour the water on the back of their heads. This stops it runnings into their eyes. You can ask them questions to keep their heads back for longer, like 'What can you see up in space?' 'Can you see a spaceship?'

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Tip #2: Backwards crawl

Holding onto your child, take them swimming on their backs in the bath. Move them up and down, and while the back of their head is in the water, wash their hair!

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Tip #4: A game for getting shampoo on their hair

happy toddler with suds in hair

happy toddler with suds in hair

With a toy mirror, let your child see all the different hairstyles you can make with shampoo. Can they be a punk rocker with a spikey hairdo, or are they super slick with it all pushed backwards?

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Getting them dry and dressed

Tip #1: Staying still with ‘This Little Piggy’

This Little Piggy can help sort out little wrigglers. Your little one will be focusing so hard on the countdown to the tickle that you can get them dried without them even noticing. If they don't want to lie down for this, get them to sit on your knee (and sneak in a cuddle). 

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Tip #2: Play Simon Says

photo of baby in a towel

photo of baby in a towel

Easy word games are great to play together while you're getting them dry. Playing Simon Says allows them to be in charge over what they want you to do (which they will love!). If your child is too young to understand the rules of Simon Says, see if you can get them to copy the actions you make.

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Tip #3: Soap face

Using some baby lotion, why not let them put a tiny amount on your face and rub it in for you while you sneakily dry them.

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Tip #4: Pretend to be robots

Can you and your child pretend to be robots? Put on your best robot voice as you get them dressed. Maybe you could also robot walk out of the bathroom and into the bedroom?

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This article was created as part of

Play Talk Read

Last updated: 21 Feb, 2020