Once you get used to bathing your new baby bathtime usually quite quickly becomes an enjoyable ritual.
Splashy fun with some new bath toys and the warm, reassuring hands of mummy or daddy as baby is dried in a big soft towel can make bathtime an important part of the routine of getting ready for bed.
But as your child gets a little older, bathtimes might become more of a struggle again. Suddenly you are confronted by tantrums and refusal to get in the water.
Making bathtime fun again
Here are a few tips:
Bring bathtime forward You would be amazed how a child who has spent two years loving bathtime at 7.30pm suddenly becomes a fractious monster. Getting your toddler into the bath is a struggle. Getting him out is a struggle. Gteting his pyjamas on is a struggle… He's tired!
When toddlers are going through growth spurts or have a change in schedule they need to have tea and bath earlier. Try moving bath time to 6pm and see what happens. Then make sure that post-bath activities stay restlful in the time before bed. Try reading books in his bedroom so he gets the message that it's still nearly sleep time, even if baths are now earlier.
Change the scenery
Has your child had the same bath toys since he was a baby? Most bath toys are not expensive so try finding a couple of new ones – maybe ones which paddle around the bath when you wind them up, or ones where you can pour water from one shape into another. (You could even get some plastic pots from the kitchen for this.) Or put new bath toys on the next birthday wishlist.
Have you tried foam bath bubbles recently? When a child is very young you don't need to use soaps as they can dry out the skin, but once your child is about 18-24 months old, try a good, natural bath oil that creates lovely bubbles, and let your child enjoy the 'snowscape'.
Is bath time fun for you? All that splashing, a wet bathroom, your back aching as you crouch by the bathtub… it's not always fun for you, but if your child sees you regarding bath time as a chore, it takes the fun out it for him. Until your child is much older, it's important for you to stay with him at all times when he is in the bath, so try to make the most of it. Blow some bubbles over his bath, or sing songs like 'Five Little Ducks'. Even if you're not a good singer the acoustics of the bathroom are usually pretty kind to anyone!
Having a bath every night is not essential. However, having a quick dip allows you to concede to his demand but still get him washed. If you ask your child to stand in the bath and have a quick splash all over with a flannel, you can even say 'OK let's see if we can do a 30-second bath' and count down to the time when your child can jump out again and get dry. At least this way your child has made contact with water and you have shared a game together.
New tools If your child hasn't got his own towel, keep a look out for one in the shops, and preferably let him choose it himself. Also, let him get his pyjamas out so he is taking control of this whole event.
If all this fails Getting in with your child might seem awkward but kids absolutely love it. Don't forget to make sure the water is as hot as they have it, not your usual preference, which would be too hot for his thin young skin.
Or think long and hard about a reason why your child might be so upset every bathtime and try to address that first, just doing flannel washes (or possibly showers, for those children who enjoy them) until the desire to splish and splash returns. Don't give him a hard time, but do encourage him to recall happier times in the tub.