a baby in a bathtub with soap foam.

What Age Should A Child Be Able To Bathe Themselves?

Bath time is a daily activity that should gradually be delegated to children as they grow. 

Of course, when children are tiny, it’s the parents’ responsibility to assist them during baths. 

However, parents start to wonder: When can my children start bathing on their own?

When Can Children Start Bathing on Their Own?

When it comes to babies, bath time is one of the parents’ favourite times of the day. However, as children grow older, both parents must work on encouraging autonomy. If they do, their children will eventually be able to start bathing on their own.

When it comes to just when that time will come, there’s no exact age. Each child is unique and has a different level of maturity and development.

At what age should parents start encouraging their children to bathe alone?

Parents can start teaching their children how to use a sponge between the ages of three and four. 

It’s good to take advantage of this opportunity to teach children to take their first steps towards autonomy. Name the different parts of the body where your child should wash with your supervision.

Children need to be the ones to take the initiative. Then, as parents, we can start removing the toys our children play with during bath time. That way, bathing itself will become a game.

Washing their hair and taking care of final details will require parental supervision for a few more years.

When Can Children Start Bathing on Their Own?

The moment in which children can bathe completely alone will come in time. Between the ages of 7 and 8, most children can wash entirely on their own. 

In the case of some children, parents may still need to intervene to help their children achieve proper hygiene. But, just the same, by age 10, all children can bathe themselves.

The Importance of Bath Time

Bath time involves much more than just keeping clean. 

It’s essential that parents not only teach their little ones to wash up. It’s also about teaching them to be responsible and pick up their things after each bath. 

In other words, children should learn responsibility for tidying up after their bath and putting dirty clothes where they belong.

Many adults complain about the disasters their children leave behind after bath time. That’s why it’s essential to instil good habits from a young age. 

Teach them to put things where they belong and leave everything in order.

Teaching children to be responsible about their use of water is fundamental. But, unfortunately, water is an essential natural resource that is becoming more and more scarce. 

Teaching your children to be careful and not wastewater is a meaningful lesson in taking care of the environment. Between the ages of 7 and 8, most children can bathe entirely on their own.

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Bath Time Safety

Bath time safety is an essential aspect. Many parents worry about safety when their children start bathing on their own. 

Below are a few tips to keep in mind when the time comes for your children to bathe themselves:

Don’t close the bathroom door completely: This way; your children can call you if they need anything. 

Also, we recommend that parents check on their kids every three or four minutes to make sure everything is ok.

Lay a rug down outside the bathtub to add extra safety. This will help avoid slips and falls when your kids are getting out of the tub. 

Furthermore, for your children’s safety and your peace of mind, ask your little ones to call you once they finish, so you can help them get out.

When Can Children Start Bathing on Their Own?

Another helpful element when it comes to shower safety is railings. These allow children to hold onto something sturdy while they scrub.

Preventing hot water burns is fundamental: Regulating water temperature is the first thing you should do. 

Also, be sure to leave any dangerous objects out of reach, such as hair dryers, razors, scissors, etc.

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Bath Time for Toddlers: Basics

Bathing your toddler 2-3 times a week is usually enough to keep them clean.

But you do need to wash toddlers’ faces and genitals every day. And if your toddler gets dirty from playing or enjoys bath time, a bath every day is fine.

A bath at the end of the day can also be part of a relaxing and calming bedtime routine.

Try not to use soap because soap can dry out your toddler’s skin. If needed, use a gentle non-soap cleanser. Use the cleaner at the end of the bath so your toddler doesn’t sit in it for too long.

If your toddler has dry skin, it’s better to give them shorter, lukewarm baths.

Safety at Toddler Bath Time

Even if your toddler can sit up by themselves in the bath, bath safety is still paramount.

Here are some tips to keep your toddler safe at bath time:

  • Never leave the bathroom. Make sure you’re within arm’s reach at all times.
  • Get everything ready in advance – towel, washcloth, cotton wool, clean nappy and clean clothes. This means you can stay with your child for bath time.
  • Fill the bath to the height of your toddler’s belly button when they’re sitting down.
  • Make sure the hot water tap is turned off hard. When the bath is ready, briefly run cold water through the faucet so water in the tap won’t burn anyone.
  • Check the water temperature is between 37°C and 38°C before you put your child in. It should feel comfortably warm but not hot.
  • Let the water out as soon as bath time is over. Remove bath plugs from the bath when they’re not in use.
  • Keep the bathroom door closed when you’re not using the bathroom.
  • If your child is showering with you, place a non-slip mat on the shower floor so your child won’t slip.

It’s essential to stay with your toddler at all times when they’re in the bath. Never leave older children or siblings to supervise. 

They don’t have the skills to see and react to an emergency. As a result, children can drown in a few seconds in very shallow water.

Afraid of the Bath

Some toddlers are afraid of the bath. If this happens, take your child’s fears seriously because they’re genuine to your child. You’ll need to be patient with your child as they learn to enjoy bath time.

To help your child overcome a fear of the bath, you can try:

  • taking a bath together
  • allowing your child to choose toys for the bath
  • letting your child sit or play in the tub without water, then gradually add the water
  • letting your child wear their bathers
  • getting your child to leave the bathroom before you take the plug out – some toddlers are afraid of getting sucked down the plughole.
  • showering with your child
  • letting your child sit in the baby bath in the big tub (if your child still fits).

Myths About Bath Time That Every Parent Should Disregard

Washing a child always seems to be a fairly straightforward task: put the child in warm water, scrub gently with a soapy washcloth, rinse and repeat — in a couple of days. 

But sometimes, the things that appear most simple do so on the back of eons of misconceptions. 

In the case of washing one’s offspring, misconceptions were built on millions of parents scrubbing millions of children, guided by generations-old information about germs and clever marketing tactics. 

Sadly, busting myths of kid cleaning, like how often it should be done and what products to use, doesn’t necessarily make the task any easier. 

Happily, though, it doesn’t make it any more difficult either. In fact, after taking down the six biggest historical bathtime blunders, it all sort of comes out in the wash.

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Myth #1: Daily Baths Are Necessary

Adults are deeply concerned about their stench and the perceived cleanliness connected to body odour. 

Due to this predominantly social construct, many have adopted a policy of washing daily. It’s only natural, then, to unconsciously extend the approach to kids.

But a kid’s body is different from an adult’s, and they don’t need daily baths. That is, they don’t need them until either their activity level or hormonal changes cause them to produce body odour. This means a kid’s bathing needs will change throughout their life.

Infants have minimal bathing needs. Therefore, they shouldn’t be placed in water until their umbilical stump has fallen off (which takes approximately ten days). 

In the meantime, the occasional sponge baths will do in most cases. After the umbilical has dropped off and thoroughly grossed everyone out, then a twice-weekly trip to the infant tub should keep a baby shiny.

When the toddler years begin, parents can transition to a big tub and baths can happen based on their relative griminess. 

A day of mud bathing and lawn running will necessitate a bath. Otherwise, unless they’re smelly, they’re probably good.

While daily baths won’t necessarily harm a kid’s skin, it’s important to note that getting dirty is generally good for a developing immune system. 

So maybe it’s best to take it easy on the baths and stick to hand and face washing when necessary.

Myth #2: You Can’t Use Adult Hygiene Products on a Kid

The idea that kids need kid products is one essentially birthed by crafty marketers. 

It’s not as if children didn’t use soap before “no tears” found their way onto a label. Nope. Kids got soap in their eyes, and they cried like adults with soap in their eyes.

That said, modern personal hygiene products are chemical concoctions that probably aren’t that awesome to slather on anybody, young or old. 

If shopping for bath products like soaps and shampoos suitable for all family members, look for fragrance-free versions that will be much more gentle on the skin.

There’s also no need to buy separate toothpaste.

Just limit the amount of paste on the brush — rice size for kids under three, pea-size for kids over three — and make sure it has fluoride.

Of course, this shouldn’t preclude a parent from buying unique kid products. There’s nothing wrong with them, as long as parents are cool with being hustled.

Myth #3: You Don’t Have to Clean Bath Toys

Bath toys are grosser than most parents realise. Particularly those toys that can be squeaked or squirted. 

That’s because, to work their particular magic, they need to let water inside of them. 

This leads to a warm, damp, dim interior perfect for mould. And mould could ask for no better way to get to a kid than a bath toy destined to be mouthed.

In short, the squirters and squeakers need to be cleaned. 

This can be accomplished by emptying them of excess water, filling them with warm water and vinegar solution, and letting them sit for 10 minutes.

Bath toys can also be modified to keep internal mould from taking hold. A dollop of hot glue will be enough to seal holes and stop the squeaks and squirts. 

Enlarging the hole with a drill bit will allow for better drainage, keep the squirting action and aid in the ability to clean the toy. However, either modification will render rubber ducky voiceless.

Myth #4: a Bath Should Be Abandoned the Second a Kid Pees in the Tub

The nice thing about urine is that it is relatively clean compared to other bodily fluids. 

Also, once it has diluted into a bathtub’s worth of water, the only thing that is getting soiled is a parent’s perception of the bath’s effectiveness.

Still, it’s best to make it a habit for a kid to use the bathroom before hopping in the relaxing warm waters. 

And if they happen to be relaxed so much that they produce a brown floater, it is time to remove them from the tub, dispose of the turd, wash the tub quickly with soap and water, rinse and begin again.

Myth #5: Parents Shouldn’t Bathe With Children

A child is unlikely to be psychologically damaged from seeing their parents naked body even if that body is sharing a tub or a shower. 

The lack of parental privacy can help a child understand a lot about their own body and how it functions.

Of course, for parents who are predisposed to nausea or shame when it comes to their bodies, there’s little that will convince them to relax. 

That said, it’s essential to know that adults have lived lives that have placed nudity in the context of sexuality. 

Kids lack this context. So for them, parts are parts, and their curiosity about the human body is more scientific than lascivious.

However, parents who have opted to bathe with kids should be watchful for signs their kid is feeling embarrassed or seeking privacy, which is a good sign it’s time to stop the practice. 

Parents can also cue from natural transitions and start moving a kid towards solo bathing around Kindergarten.

Myth #6: Toddlers Can Take a Bath Unattended

A toddler may look newly independent with their penchant for exploration and standing up on their own, but there will be years before they can be truly independent when it comes to the bathtub. 

Sadly, just because a kid can wander around the living room independently does not mean they can keep themselves safe, even in the shallowest of waters.

It’s best to keep an eye on the kid until they can bathe themselves independently. 

That age will be different for every child. However, they should be on the road to less supervision by five years old.

Teach Your Child to Bathe Themselves

Children usually enjoy bath time. Bathing your baby relaxes him as you carefully wash all the creases and folds. 

As children grow older, they become ready to assume this self-care task. Teaching them to bathe themselves will come in stages as they become more able to do a good job.

Preschool

Young children will often take the washcloth from Mom or Dad and say, “I do it!” When this happens, you have been put on notice! It’s time to start teaching your child to bathe.

Before beginning, gather the towels, soaps, shampoos and bath toys you will need. After starting, you’re stuck there! Supervision remains extremely important for years to come.

Let your child apply soap to a wet washcloth and start at the face. Next, direct them to do their arms, trunk, legs and bottom. 

Help them get tough to reach places and their back. If they quit early, it is your signal to finish the job.

Shampooing remains Dad and Mom’s job until about age 6 or 7, so finish by shampooing and rinsing well. 

Your child will feel very proud that he has started to bathe himself. Getting him his tearless shampoo, personal towel, and bathrobe will encourage their continued interest.

At about 4 or 5, kids can get to most of the “hard” places by themselves. However, they will need you to check ears, feet and bottoms and do a final rinse.

Along with a tub bath, children need to brush their teeth (you will need to supervise and do the flossing), comb their hair, wash their hands after toileting and when they need it, and take care of their soiled clothes. 

They can hang towels if racks are low enough to reach. They will demonstrate their readiness, and that will be your cue to let them try.

Main Points to Address:

  • Toddlers can do some of the bathings. Help them do the rest.
  • Keep bath time pleasant and relaxing for you both.
  • Never leave a child under six unattended in the bath.
  • Surrender specific tasks as they show a willingness to try them.
  • You will need to check them to make sure they have done a complete job.

Grades K-3rd

Children aged 5-9 can handle most bathing tasks independently but still, need adult supervision and assistance. 

Never leave a child under six alone in the bath. Don’t even turn your back to them. 

They will probably need help with their back, and children this age still need Mom or Dad to clip nails and fasten the hair.

Having their bath basket or tote will help them organise their bathing supplies. 

Giving them their bath soap and other vanity items will show them you believe they can do an excellent job on their own, and they will!

Main Points to Address:

  • Children still need supervision and assistance, but less each year.
  • Never leave a child six or under alone in the bath.
  • Get them a tote or basket for their bath items.

Grades 4-6th

Older children may begin to “un-invite you” by telling you they can do it themselves! 

Many kids become more modest at this stage and need privacy for personal grooming. They may also prefer to take showers rather than baths.

Teach them to have their clean clothes ready and to run the bathwater themselves. 

They can prepare towels and washcloths and put the bath mat down. They should be able to do all bathing tasks independently. 

You may want to buy them a back brush with a long handle and continue to check their hair if it is long or thick for shampoo residue. 

If you don’t find any for a few days running, you may surrender this job too. However, it is still necessary to standby within earshot just in case your child needs you.

Children 10 to 12 may need to add deodorant to their bath basket. In addition, girls may need other personal items in theirs at this age. 

You may still need to check to see if brushing and flossing are being done correctly.

Children this age can clean the tub after using it and hang towels to dry. The bathroom should look the same when they leave as it did before they entered! Your child will take pride in doing this self-care task independently.

Main Points to Address:

  • Older children will start to need more privacy.
  • They will be able to complete most or all bathing tasks.
  • Add personal items as is necessary to bath baskets.
  • Cleaning the tub after use, hanging towels and taking care of soiled clothes are part of bathing. Let them do it!

Conclusion

As you can see, bath time independence doesn’t depend on a child’s age. Instead, it has a lot to do with the skills and habits that parents instil. In the end, maturity and development will determine when the time is right for children to start bathing independently.

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