Bath time is always a learning opportunity
Most children enjoy taking baths once they are big enough to sit up and splash. Although you may be tired and rushing to get them bathed, into pajamas, and into bed, bathing your young child is the perfect time to connect with them emotionally and give them your undivided attention.
In a world of distractions and technology, pediatricians and psychologists agree that children learn language best during face to face conversations with an adult.
In addition to learning words, the bath is the perfect place to let children sort and identify objects and use their imagination. It is perfectly fine to let a bath linger for an extra ten or fifteen minutes while you talk with your child and help them learn colors, shapes, and an endless supply of vocabulary.
Here are three ways to make bath time a learning experience:
- Talk with your child as you bath them
- Talk with them while sorting and counting toys
- Nurture your child’s creativity and imagination at bath time.
Talk with your child as you bath them.
Children learn language best through conversation.
Just saying “give me a foot” or “shut your eyes so I can rinse your hair” is not a conversation. A conversation is about asking questions and extending answers.
- Ask how the water feels- is it hot, cold, or warm?
- What color is the washcloth?
- Does it feel rough or smooth?
A bathtub is a great place for washable crayons or tub markers to practice spelling words for school-age children, too. Every minute you are with a child should be a time to talk and learn new words, including bath time.
Talk with them while sorting and counting toys
Most parents bathe young children with small plastic toys. Whether it is a rubber duck or a superhero, sometimes it is hard to see the child for all the floating toys. Those toys become manipulatives for sorting, counting, and identifying shapes.
By 18 months, children will be lining the dinosaurs or blocks up on the side of the tub. Talking with them while they sort and count them is a great interactive experience. Making patterns of red things, green things, blue things, and yellow things help the youngest children learn their colors quickly.
Toys can be sorted by shape, by size, by color, and by type. I have seen a garden tub transformed into a galaxy far, far away with the white soldiers and the black soldiers sorted and arranged around the sides.
Did you know sorting and categorizing is critical for developing mathematical reasoning?
- Comparing amounts using words like “more” or “less” is just as important as being able to count.
- Do you have more red blocks or green blocks?
- How many green blocks fit in this cup?
Without realizing it, the concepts of number and volume can be taught with conversations during bath time.
Nurture your child’s creativity and imagination at bath time.
Let their Barbie’s talk and the plastic boats be pirate ships on a great adventure. Listening to your child tell you a story about the characters in the tub is a golden opportunity for them to truly be appreciated for their creative storytelling.
You may be bathing the next great novelist if you encourage their storytelling as you rinse their hair. Letting them draw (with washable tub markers) on the tile tub walls or using foam seasonal shapes that stick to the walls can help children tell their stories.
Telling a story helps them learn how to sequence, define the beginning and the end, and articulate feelings and actions.
If you focus more on what your child is learning and less on your routine schedule, the more relaxed and ready for bed you both will be.