Bathtime for Kids 101
How to handle tub time for different ages of kids.
Whether the child you're caring for is 2 or 12, there are things to keep in mind come bath time. If you're babysitting or nannying at night, make sure to touch base with the parents about kids' tub time routine beforehand so you know what to expect -- and what to avoid.
The tiniest babies aren't ready for a bath, even one in the sink, until their umbilical-cord stump has fallen off. You can sponge bathe them -- paying extra attention to their underarms, hands, skin folds and bottoms -- daily until then. When they're newborn, just use a damp cloth and plain water. After they loose their cord stump, you can start a new routine.
You only need to give the baby a whole-body bath a couple of times a week. When you're ready, clear glass and sharp objects away from the sink. Remove bottles, razors and other showering implements from the sides of the tub. Fill the sink or tub with enough warm water. Position baby so her body is covered, but her head is above water. Remember, when you use soap, the infant will get slippery! Proceed with caution. If you use a washcloth, stroke the baby gently. Don't rub or scrub. When you take baby from the tub, dry her off and get her diapered and back in clothes quickly.
Babies and Toddlers
Slowly phase bigger babies from the sink or baby tub to the regular bathtub. Place the baby in the water gently, lowering her feet first. Speak to her in slow, low tones to relax her. Once she's in, gently clean her face and hair, making sure to keep suds out of her eyes by carefully cupping your hand over her forehead. Never, ever leave a baby alone in the tub!
"Big Kid" Baths
When the child reaches school age, she might be able to wash her own body, but she'll probably still need help with her hair. Let her take over more and more as she gets more comfortable, but continue to supervise her until she's mature enough to pull herself up if she goes under the water. Make sure to check with parents about protocol if the older child is opposite in gender from you. The parent may have tips or privacy advice that will help both you -- and the child -- feel more comfortable.
The bottom line: Bath time is a great time to bond with kids. With a little preparation, baths can be just as safe -- and enjoyable -- as any other activity.
Tiffany Smith is the senior associate editor here at Care.com. She has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. And as a former babysitter, she knows a lot about fun games to play with kids. Getting them to eat their veggies -- that’s a different story! Follow her on Twitter at @tiffanyiswrite.