Here are some fun ideas for bath time during lockdown, making the most of what we've got in our homes and using everyday objects that can be turned into lots of fun at bath time. Although actually these ideas aren’t just restricted to lockdown and I hope you continue to enjoy them as things become easier.
We all experience the world through our senses, but the sensory parts of a baby and young child's brain are still developing. It's one of the many reasons why swimming is such a wonderful activity because it's a sensory stimulation for all the senses. Bath time can be exactly the same, albeit in a smaller environment.
My first suggestion is a really, really simple one, but as a parent I didn't think of it until somebody suggested it to me. With the bath toys you've already got, rotate them. Strip back most of the toys and just put in a few different ones each day. And then the toys, rather than simply becoming familiar toys that are always there, become toys that your child maybe hasn't seen for a few weeks. And maybe their brain has developed a bit more in the time since they saw them, so they might play with them in a slightly different way. So try rotating the toys every few days, with a small selection of four or five bath toys at any one time in the bath.
Secondly, look around your our house for all the things that might be fun, and of course safe, for babies and toddlers to play with in the bath. It might seem really obvious, but a lot of things that you've got in your kitchen are actually for you very boring, but for your child, are going to be super fun to play with. How about a simple wooden spoon? It's just a wooden spoon to us, but when you look at it through a baby's eyes, it can do all sorts of things. Firstly, it has lovely texture. Babies will mouth and explore things with their tongues. And then of course it can be used for drumming, making different sounds in the bath. It could be used for pouring, pouring water on your head for example. Or how about a ladle? Similar, but very different. It’s metal and feels different. It's colder, it's shiny. And the concave or the convex curve of the ladle turns your child’s reflection upside down. Think about containers: how many ladles does it take to fill a container with a ladle versus a wooden spoon? Not everyone will have the same things in their kitchen, but my daughter particularly likes our silicon pastry brushes. Gently drawing the pastry brush over your child’s skin is a nice sensory activity for your little one in the bath.
CDs are pretty much defunct now. But if you have any you no longer want, then try looking at them in the light, they show some beautiful coloured reflections and we liked watching the water run off the CDs and and seeing how much water we could get to balance on one.
Again, these ideas use everyday things I found around my home. If we consider sound; sound changes under the water. So we can play around with this, and it also helps babies practice getting their ears in the water. You can practice listening to a rattle on the surface and then putting an ear in the water and hearing the rattle underwater and how that sounded, and maybe taking the rattle further away.
The next one might be a bit out on a limb, and it won’t be for everybody! In our house we have lots of little bottles of food colouring. I use these to make rainbow layer birthday cake! They're nontoxic, safe, and perfectly edible. Now this can work in several ways depending on how your little one's feeling, but try dripping a little into the bath and you can get some beautiful patterns. And then it takes ages for the colours to disperse. Your child might want to remain really still and wait for the colours to move themselves. Or they may want to swoosh the water as fast as they can to disperse the water as quickly as possible. You could even try different colours in different parts of the bath.
This is a favourite with the sense of touch and temperature: find a squirty bottle, any one will do. Put in a nice warm bath, put some really cold water into the bottle and then play around with dripping it or squirting it depending on what your child wants onto different parts of their body. And this is a lovely sensory activity because it is really sensory, it’s a shock. But as long as it's something that your child wants... It's a really good way to practice consent based games as well, because you would never drip or squirt anywhere onto your child unless they asked me to do so. When we practiced this, My nine year old daughter Seren would say, "Right, I want three drips on my arm." And she would get more and more brave as the game went on. And by the end we'd be pouring whole bottles over her head of cold water. Now my daughter likes cold water. Your little one might not, but the water can just be a little bit cooler.
Next I was thinking of science-inspired play, although really, a lot of play is science inspired. Your child is working out how the world works through just laws and natural movement, etc. And if anyone is interested in this type of thing, we train all our teachers in understanding children and how children learn, how children behave and behavioural psychology. A wonderful woman called Alison Gopnik has done a Ted Talk called, “How Babies Think”, which is available on YouTube. Anyone who's watched “Babies” on Netflix will have seen Alison Gopnik; she's a developmental psychologist who is a at the top of her field in proving all the ways that babies are incredible at learning.
Basically, when children play they perform a series of experiments to work out how the world works. So one of those things is just practicing what will float or sink. Maybe get some different objects and let your child experiment. Pebbles are quite nice sensory items, and also because as soon as they get wet, their colours change.
How about ice cubes? We've had lots of fun with this because obviously when you put them in a warm bath they melt, and that's quite interesting to watch as a little one. And also pushing them around in the bath. If your little one doesn't like things chilly, you might need to top the bath up with a little bit of warmer water once the ice cubes have melted. You can even make coloured ice cubes!
And then my final and favourite suggestion works in or out of the bath, and is brilliant for summertime play. Freeze one of your child's plastic toys in a big block of ice. I got an empty ice cream tub, half filled it with water, waited for that to freeze, put a toy in, then filled it up rest with water, and waited for that to freeze. So then you've got a massive block of ice with a toy in the middle which can provide hours of entertainment. Firstly, it works in the bath because it gradually melts in the bath, but also for chipping away with suitable plastic tools.
Happy bath times!