Many children love bath time because it gives them the chance to play in water in their own way. When children play in water they are also “doing science” and they can learn a lot about liquids and solids. Bath time is often a relaxed time for parents and children, and part of a daily bedtime routine. That makes it a perfect time for learning and playing with your child.
Getting Ready. Before he gets in the tub, ask your child to recall what items he needs. “What do you need for your bath?” Items may include a washcloth, soap, shampoo, bath toys, and a towel to dry off. As he says each item, match it up with its use. “Yes, you need a wash cloth so we can scrub behind your ears!”
Body Parts. As you wash your baby, gently and slowly massage each of her body parts with a soft, soapy cloth. As you wash each part, make up a song about it, and sing it or say it softly. “Washie, washie baby’s fingers, baby’s fingers, washie, washie.” Repeat for each body part. This is a great way to relax your baby for bedtime.
Water Splash. Show your toddler how to use her hands and feet to move the water. Use words that describe what the water is doing like splash, flow, and roll and words that describe the water like flat, wave, and drops. Then you can make up some silly rhymes like splash- mash, flow- glow, and roll- pole.
Reading Labels. Before you wash your child’s hair, show her the shampoo bottle. Explain that the label gives information about what is in the bottle, the ingredients. It also gives directions on how to use the shampoo. Look at the label together. Notice and describe the pictures and designs. Then read some of the words. If your child shows interest, look for labels on other bath items like soap and toothpaste. Connect the idea of labels to other experiences. Did he see labels on the food at the grocery store?
Drops and Streams. Your child does not need expensive toys to be a water scientist. Give him some clear plastic containers like old shampoo bottles, dish detergent bottles, or hand soap bottles (with caps). As he plays with them in the water, use words that describe his actions like squeeze, squirt, pour, fill, and dump. Connect his actions to the movement of the water. “When you squeeze the bottle hard, a big stream of water comes out. When you squeeze it softly, little drops come out.” Encourage his curiosity. “I wonder why that happens?”
Soapy Letters. You can wash your child’s back and play a fun letter game at the same time. Tell him that you will use your finger to trace a letter on his back. Start with a familiar letter, like the first letter in his name. Trace the letter, very large, on his back. Then ask him to guess what letter you traced. As he gets better at this game, try different letters. If you have more than one child in the tub at the same time, they can trace letters on each other’s backs.
Water Stories. With a few simple objects, your child can use her imagination to create her own story. These objects may be anything in the tub- a rubber duck, a washcloth, and even her own body! Her knee can be a mountain, her hand can be a wave-maker, or her foot can be a rock in the water. You start the story by saying “Once upon a time there was a rubber duck that went mountain climbing.” Encourage your child to make up the next sentence. Take turns making up sentences for as long as you both want. Then make an ending for the story. As your child gets practice, she will create more and more of the story by herself.
Boats Afloat. Talk about what it means to float. “It’s when things stay on top of the water.” Give your child small plastic plates and cups to use as “boats” in the tub. Then play a rhyming game with your child. “A boat will float! What about a coat? Will a coat float?” Take turns thinking of other funny rhymes like “Will a goat float?” When the cup fills with water it will start to sink. “Sink is when things go under the water.” Invite your child to make up a funny rhyme. “Will a drink sink? What about the color pink?” Give your child time to explore float and sink using many different objects.
How’s the Water? As your child becomes more independent at bath time you will want to teach her tub safety rules. At the same time, you can introduce the idea of water temperature. Explain that temperature means how hot or cold the water is. Show her how to turn the water on carefully and test the temperature before she gets in the tub. Introduce words like cool, warm, and tepid. Use comparison words like cooler/colder and warmer/hotter. If she is very interested you can use a thermometer to figure out the most comfortable temperature for her bath!