You’ve been a very necessary participant in your wee one’s bath-time ritual since they first made a splash in your life, so it makes sense that you’re a tad hesitant now that they’re starting to show signs of bathing sans parents.
The thing is, independent tub time is a very big deal, and whether you suspect your child is days or years away from going it alone, here’s expert intel on how to prep for the feat.
In some cases, kids younger than 10 may show signs of being ready to manage their tub time alone. Even if this is the case, be cautious about letting down on your supervision level, says Dr. Sarah Hall, a paediatrician at Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary. “Children can drown in the colloquial one inch of water and in a very short period of time. Drowning remains a major cause of injury-related deaths amongst Canadian children, particularly in toddlers younger than five,” she says. “Close adult supervision while young children are in the
bath is absolutely required.”
Dr. Hall says parents can best prepare young kids to make the move to independent bathing through education. Explain drowning, burns from hot water and slips, and coach them on what to do if they need help. Consider having them keep the door open when they’re in the tub so you can hear if they call (whether there’s a safety issue or they just need a hand). You could also set the temperature and turn the water off before the tub’s full (giving them a good idea of how much water is needed when they bathe).
For some kids it’s not enough to say, “Wash your body.” It’s OK to walk them through the importance of personal hygiene and the steps involved in making sure they’re clean as a whistle. This includes how to shampoo and rinse their hair, as well as where and how to wash (including their face, bits and bobs). As they grow, take a purposeful hands-off approach so they can demonstrate their ability. “When practised consistently, these steps help prepare kids for an easier transition to independent bathing,” says Dr. Hall.
Believe us—you’ll know when your kiddo doesn’t want Mom or Dad hanging out when they’re in the buff. You can start by sitting outside the tub with the curtain closed, then outside the bathroom door and gradually offer them more independence and privacy as they mature and show readiness that they no longer need your undivided attention.
This comes with its own set of risks that children need to be ready to handle—think scalds and falls, plus the challenges that accompany soaping, washing and rinsing. “Once a kid hits their later childhood years, it tends to become the bathing method of choice, but there’s no need to rush the process,” says Dr. Hall. “The important thing is to follow the child’s lead when they express an interest.”
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, Spring/Summer 2018