Bath time can elicit all sorts of feelings for a parent and they don’t all match the Johnson’s baby advertisements. Often this can be a period of stress. By understanding your child’s dominant sense, being organized ahead of time and following all the usual safety advice, such as checking the bath water temperature, using a built-in or attached safety holder, and never leaving the baby unattended, even for a moment, you will be able to transform your bath time into a fun and bonding experience.
Mess is inevitable with a tactile toddler and this is no exception when it comes to bathing. Expect lots of splashing by your tactile baby or toddler as they will enthusiastically kick their legs, push against the bottom of the bath and with their usual physical exuberance, explore the floaty, wet world around them. You will need to hold on extra tight to your baby or watch your toddler carefully, as these children wriggle around a lot. It’s essential you take extra care when it comes to safety. When tactile children get older they will enjoy having an array of bath toys, but in usual tactile fashion they will prefer toys that they can pour into such as cups, funnels, spoons and everyday items rather than store-bought bath toys.
Visual babies will need to see their caregiver to feel safe, so it’s best to place your baby in the bath facing you, to prevent her wriggling as she turns to find you. They will be fascinated with the water, a substance they can see through, and also with bubbles and brightly colored bath toys. When they get older they will love the array of specialty bath toys especially the bath crayons they can use to draw on the bathtub walls. They can be fussy about the cleanness of the bath and can even refuse to get in if they see a hair floating or they feel the bubbles are not to their liking, so be aware of their tendencies. Once you have a formula that works, stick to it.
The auditory child will use the bathroom as their personal concert hall so expect to hear a great cacophony of sound as they bang, tap, splash, squeal, oohh and begin practicing their vocalizations. Although this is noisy, it is a great opportunity to encourage their words, so talk away and listen as they babble back to you trying to copy your sounds and words. Sometimes auditory toddlers can be sensitive to sound, especially to the echo and amplification of sound in a bathroom. If this is the case with your auditory baby, deaden the sound by using thick bath mats and towels in your decor.
Taste and smell children are sensitive to smell and feel, so overly perfumed or chlorinated bath water will cause anxiety to these sensitive children. If your city water is hard or has a lot of chemicals, especially if you have a newborn, use a water filter attachment to your faucet. Use hypoallergenic bath soap, oil and powder and try to keep perfume to a minimum. Taste and smell children find even the simplest transitions difficult so try to keep the whole bath experience serene. Be calm and use the bath time as a bonding experience.
Aim to have bath time at a quiet time of day. Often we make the mistake of insisting bath time must be before bed, but often that is the busiest time of day and a stressed parent often leads to a stressed child. Make bath time an activity to strengthen your relationship and build a closer bond.
Priscilla Dunstan is a behavioral researcher and creator of the Dunstan Baby Language and author of “Child Sense” and “Calm the Crying.” She works in New York as a behavioral consultant. Learn more about Dunstan at calmthecrying.com.
© 2013, Priscilla Dunstan
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