There’s no denying it, as a parent to young children bath times can be a mixed bag. Some go swimmingly well, (excuse the pun!), whereas others can leave everyone feeling touched out, stressed out and far from relaxed!
As a children’s mindfulness coach and mum of three, I’ve seen it all. Here are my top 6 tips for a calm and connected bath time with your little one.
#1: MAKE IT FUN!
Bath bombs, bath toys, or even repurposed utensils from the kitchen - whatever it is that sparks joy for your child at bath-time, all help to get those feel-good chemicals flowing in their brains, thus inducing a more stress-free and calm bath time.
Our youngest has super curly hair which gets very knotty and he doesn’t like to wash it for this reason. Despite our Rowdy conditioner bar helping our comb to glide through his hair, he still began to refuse bath times because he didn’t want his hair combed. At one point the prospect of making ‘potions’ with bath bombs was the only thing that would get him in the bath! You’ve got to get creative and bring the ‘out of the tub’ play they love into it.
Bath play needn’t be expensive either - we use a repurposed measuring jug, a few plastic cups and some old calpol syringes from the kitchen and boom! A zero waste play kit fit for any witch/wizard and their ‘potions!’
It’s also worth noting (from a Mum trying to live as sustainable as possible!), that when it comes to plastic in the bathroom not all plastic is bad plastic! We’ve had the same stackable cups that have seen us through all three of our children and are played with every bath time without fail!
#2: MAKE IT MINDFUL
Bath-time is such a wonderful opportunity for a full spectrum of sensory experience. Guide your child into the present moment by encouraging them to use each of their senses in turn (although their sense of taste might have to sit this one out).
Bringing your child to the present in such a way helps to regulate their nervous system, calm the mind and form a deeper awareness of themselves and their surroundings.
👁️ Look - how many different colours can you find? Can you point to something for every colour of the rainbow? If you have any bubbles, can you look closely at the shimmering colours and watch them as the pop?
👃 Smell - What can you smell? Can you name the scent? How does the smell make you feel? Do you like it? As well as our delicious smelling Rowdy Kind bars, we also like using drops of essential oils in the kids bath - especially lavender for its calming properties.
👂 Hear - be as quiet as you can, close your eyes if it helps, and notice what you can hear. How many different sounds can you identify? You might be able to hear bubbles popping, water moving, the tap dripping or the pipes underneath the floorboards. If you really listen, you might even be able to hear things beyond the bathroom. Try experimenting making your own sounds too - how quiet can you make a splash? How loudly can you pour water?
✋Touch - how many different textures can you find in the bath? Can you touch something soft? Smooth? Rough? What does this Rowdy bar feel like on your skin? Can you give yourself a massage with it whilst you wash every part of your body? Don’t let this practice stop at bath-time either - my three have always loved having relaxing massages after their bath.
#3: ENCOURAGE INDEPENDENCE
We all know that children thrive on being given opportunities to do things on their own. This is because the feeling of being in control empowers them and gives them a sense of accomplishment. One of the things I love most about using bars like Rowdy is that they are perfect for little hands. Our little one loves to do his washing all by himself - one less job for us and one more thing he can feel proud of for doing all on his own!
#4: POSITIVITY AND PRAISE
Just like children thrive off being independent, they also thrive off praise. So make sure you tell them how great they’re doing with washing their own hair or how good they are at keeping themselves clean!
Affirmations can also play a powerful role when it comes to cultivating a more positive experience. For those that ‘hate’ the bath - help them feel calmer and more confident with repeating affirmations together. “I am brave”, “I am calm”, “I am happy”… every time we repeat positive affirmations to ourselves new neurological pathways in our brains are created and we begin to feel, think and behave in the way that our positive affirmations are expressing.
#5: GET INVOLVED
I’ll be honest with you now and hold my hands up - with my eldest two I used to see bath-time as a chance to sit on the lid of the toilet, have a cup of tea and catch up with my phone. My eldest two are very close in age so they often happily entertained each other and needed very little input from me.
With our youngest however, without young siblings, we saw bath-time as a lovely opportunity for skin to skin, and both me and my partner would take it in turns to bath with him. The benefits of skin to skin don’t just suddenly end past the newborn stage either; our youngest is now three and we quite often get in the bath with him. Skin to skin helps release hormones like oxytocin in both ours and our children’s brains, helping regulate our heart beats, reduce stress and help us feel relaxed and happy. Bathing together is also a great way of promoting kindness and compassion - we often take it in turns to wash each other’s hair (I may have to go back over mine when he’s finished - but that’s beside the point! ). Letting him wash mine, encourages him to let me wash his - which is a god send when it comes to washing those unruly curly locks of his!
But don’t worry if getting in the bath with your little one is not for you, you can still get involved with their play and experience from the side lines! We’ve found involving ourselves in engaging play has been the best way to make baths fun, keep Nox in the bath longer than 5 minutes, and comb his hair without him getting upset. We often set him little tasks, like filling all his cups with his measuring jug - keeping him occupied for long enough to tackle his knot-nest!
#6: BE A CONSCIOUS CONSUMER
We don’t just love our Rowdy Kind bars because they’re helping us to lower our single-use waste and live more sustainably, no, we also love RK because every product is made with children’s skin in mind. There’s nothing worse than using a product that irritates your child’s skin or leaves them with sore eyes. My middle son has very sensitive skin and suffers with eczema, so finding a product that suits your kids’ needs and will keep their skin happy is also important.
As a general rule, in all aspects of my life I find that connection and communication are key when it comes to having positive experiences. And this ethos couldn’t be truer when it comes to children. A child (just like us adults!) like to feel involved, informed and listened to. With every aspect of bath time, from washing hair to tidying away - I make sure to involve my children as much as possible and talk them through each step as we go. For children that struggle with change and spontaneity (sometimes we might not be aware that this is what is causing stress - as commonly this can be communicated as refusal, anger, or what you may perceive as ‘bad’ behaviour)… just making sure you explain each step before you/they do it, can make a big difference to how they respond.
Thank you for reading my 6 top tips for a positive bath-time! You can find more mindful parenting tips and activities over on my Instagram @rainbeauadventures.