Little kids love bathing because, while for you it’s a matter of hygiene and scrubbing their dirty feet, for them, bathtime spells fun (and mess)!
Did you know that the bath is the perfect place for learning? Toddlers and preschoolers are able to explore and play in the bath while developing physical and cognitive skills.
While using fun bath toys is great, there are so many ways to make this daily activity more engaging and educational, by using items in your home.
Try these 18 simple ideas for some fun in the bathtub with your toddlers and preschoolers.
Little kids love playing with sponges – they squeeze them, soak them and pretend to “clean” things with them.
They learn about volume and water displacement and build early maths skills.
Instead of just using a sponge for washing, use several sponges of different shapes and sizes for some tub fun.
Offer some containers too so that your kids can soak up the water from the bath and squeeze it into a container.
Another great way to learn about capacity and volume is to play with bottles in the bath.
Throw bottles of all sizes into the bath – preferably plastic, aluminium or stainless steel. Try water bottles, small hotel shampoo bottles, empty sauce bottles, soda bottles, etc.
Kids love to play with water, pouring it from one container to the next as they discover how much water each container holds and how water is displaced from the bath as it fills up a container.
Ask your child questions such as:
- Which bottle do you think holds more water?
- These bottles are the same height but this one is fatter. Do you think they can hold the same amount of water?
- Can you fill it to the top?
- Can you empty half the water out?
These kinds of questions will stimulate thinking and teach your child the vocabulary of volume.
3. Containers and Cups
As a variation of the previous activity, offer your kids cups and containers of different sizes and volumes. Most sets of bath toys include cups as these are the best for moving water around.
Find plastic cups and containers from the kitchen and let your kids play around and experience the concepts of capacity and volume.
4. Watering Cans
Watering cans are lots of fun in the bath.
Use toy watering cans, real watering cans from the garden or toy cups with holes at the bottom that sprinkle the water as you pour it in.
Make a watering can by piercing holes into the base of a plastic bottle.
This teaches children how liquids behave and how water can change its form by breaking up particles and filtering through holes.
They learn that water takes the shape of the container that holds it and will escape if there isn’t solid matter to hold it.
5. Ice Play
A great way to introduce children to early science concepts – such as water changing its form – is by playing with ice blocks.
For a colour mixing activity, add some food colouring in water and make ice blocks with the coloured water. Throw these into the bath and watch your child play with them as they melt and release colour into the water.
Not only will they love the sensory experience of feeling the icy water mix with the warm water, but they’ll be learning all about how water changes form when it is heated or cooled and how substances can dissolve in it.
6. Kitchen Fun
Have a kitchen-themed bath where kids can “cook” and prepare food in the bath. This can become a great pretend play session.
Find any tools and utensils that will be fun to play with. Funnels, whisks, soup ladles, tablespoons, drinking cups and ice trays are good ideas to start with.
Put them in the bath and let your child use his imagination.
7. Straws and Bubbles
Throw some plastic straws into the bathtub and get your kids to blow bubbles under the water with them.
They will learn what happens when you push air into water – how it forms bubbles that surface to the top and release.
Add some bubble bath solution to the water to make some bubbles that will sit on the water.
Fill the bathtub with balls of all sizes and weights. Find some that float and some that sink.
A few examples are:
- Small beach balls
- Plastic squeezing balls
- Tennis balls
- Golf balls
- Plastic outdoor balls
- Bouncing balls
Let your child play with the balls in any way – by throwing them, pushing them in the water, dropping them from a height to make a splash, etc.
Lay some towels on the floor to soak up the water splashes or just embrace the mess and have fun.
Ball activities are good for developing eye-hand coordination.
9. Natural Materials
Playing in nature and in water are two of kids’ favourite activities. Why not join them together by bringing the garden into the bath and see if it sparks your child’s imagination and creativity?
Add anything you can find to the bath – pine cones, leaves, twigs, little stones, flowers, pieces of bark, etc.
See which items float and which sink.
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10. Tea Party
Throw a tea party in the bath!
All you need is a kids’ tea set (here is a fun one) and maybe some play plates and baking items to make some cake and cookies, and you’ll be set for your tea party.
Your child will be making you cups of tea too so it’s vital that you stay and join in the fun.
11. Lego or Duplo
Have a tub of Lego or Duplo that your child loves playing with? Throw the whole lot into the bath to change things up a bit.
Your child will love doing this familiar activity in a new environment.
There are many educational benefits of Lego for young kids. Why not add this to your collection of bathtub fun ideas?
Let your kids be creative in the bath with these cool bath crayons.
Kids are often getting into trouble for drawing on walls, doors and other places they shouldn’t, so give them permission to draw on just this one household surface.
Bath crayons are easy to wash off the bath with a sponge or cloth. Let your kids be responsible for their mess by teaching them to clean the walls when they’re done.
13. Finger Painting
Feeling brave? This bathtub sensory activity will leave more than a little mess but will be a hit and is so educational.
On a warm day, sit your child in the bath with some finger paint and let the magic happen.
Then, try these finger painting ideas as well.
14. Running Water
Every now and again, let your kids play with running water so they can experience that too. Start off with a shallow bath so they don’t waste too much water.
They can use the water from the dripping or running tap to fill their cups and containers or, better yet, switch on the showerhead and let them hold it and control where the water goes.
Keep extra towels handy as it will look like there were penguins in your bathroom!
15. Role Play
Have some role-play fun by introducing a theme like farm animals, vehicles or dragons and adding some toys to play with.
Here are more role-play ideas you can introduce in and out of the bathroom.
16. Fine Motor Fun
Practise those fine motor skills by throwing some small utensils and items into the bath.
Ideas include eye-droppers, straws, medicine spoons, syringes and tweezers.
Here are some more fine motor activities.
17. Bubble Bath
Just for fun, instead of the usual amount of bubbles, put loads of bubble bath into your child’s bath and let it form a big, foamy bath.
Your child will love this and will be occupied for a long time, moving bubbles around, sticking them to her chin to make a beard or filling containers with them.
18. Floating and Sinking
Have a floating and sinking challenge in the bath.
Gather household items or bath toys and one by one, ask your child to predict if they will float or sink. Then, throw the items in and see the results.
If you are bathing two kids, let them challenge each other. Discuss why some items float and others sink.
I hope you’ll enjoy trying these bath time fun ideas. Here are more water play ideas to try outdoors or in the bath.
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