I am so excited to continue my language based routine series with this bath-time post! I know most kids LOVE bath time (which is great as it’s a motivating activity), but it’s also true many kids struggle with baths because they do not like water to be poured on their head (or other sensory related events). The good news: bath-time routines will help with BOTH of these types of kids! How? Having set routines will help a child predict what is coming next- which will increase communication while simultaneously reducing frustration and anxiety (which also means reducing- but of course not eliminating- some behaviors) about the unknown.
If this is your first time seeing my routine series, I highly recommend you read why routines are important and how to implement them, as well as my first article for how to create a language routine in the morning. Once you know the why and the how, it makes it much easier to start adding language to your daily routines- which will expose your child to SO MUCH MORE LANGUAGE by giving lots of repetitions. Also, there will be different tips in each post, so be sure to read them all!
How do we help our children talk? We model language for them. Telling a child “say this, say this” and constantly asking them questions- 1. isn’t a natural function of language, but also 2. teaches a child that talking is hard work, something they “have” to do instead of something they “want” to do, AND takes control away from a child (or encourages them to take control by refusing to talk). Instead, showing a child HOW we want them to talk and modeling what we want them to do puts less expectations on a child and is significantly more natural.
For this post, I will give ideas to model language and increase understanding of basic concepts during bath-time. Remember, in order to make this a routine, it needs to be done in the same order each time so your child knows exactly what will happen and when it will happen.
First things first- Talk about taking a bath: When my son was young, he got a bath every other day after dinner. On bath days, we would talk about the bath during dinner. “After dinner, Kam gets a bath”, “Are you ready for your bath?”, and as it gets closer, “bath time”, and “Let’s go take a bath!”. This let’s him know early on that it is a bath day since it is not a part of our every day routine.
Next, turning on the water and getting undressed. I highly recommend you encourage your child to either undress independently or assist if they are not yet physically capable. Language to model during this time: “Turn on water, hot water, turn on cold water”, “clothes off, take off shirt, pants off, diaper off, oh you are wet/you are poopy” or “sit on potty, potty before bath time”, “water off”. You can also take this opportunity to model body parts and prepositions: “shirt over head, pants off legs”. You can also have your child request bubbles or no bubbles- choices are the best!
Getting into the tub. I LOVE using this time to talk about hot and cold! I know this puts an extra step into your routine, but I would suggest purposely making the bath too hot or too cold- so you can talk about this concept. Even if the bath is NOT too hot or too cold- you can pretend it is! Put your hand in- “oh ouch! Too hot! We need cold water!” or “whoa, burrrr, the water is cold! We need to put in hot water! Turn on, more water” Let your child feel it so they can learn the difference between hot and cold (as in touch it lightly- don’t put your child in a super hot bathtub!). “Get in water, Kam is wet! Splash splash splash!”
Learning in the bath: Bath is a good time to talk about body parts “point to your head, I have an elbow (show or point to yours), show me your toe, mommy’s head, your nose, my arm” etc. If they do not follow the directions, you can just point and say “here’s mommy’s head, and here’s (name’s) head”. You can talk about which things are wet and which things are dry. My son LOVES his foam letters (they have foam animals too!!) and we stick them on the side of the tub “it’s stuck, it fell, oh no!” and we also talk about the colors of his toys. I can model describing his toys, “big boat, pink T, little alligator”, etc.
Playing in the bath: Bath-time should be fun- don’t focus so much on the modeling and eliciting language that you forget to play! Let your child play with their toys and just make verbal observations and comments “oh you’re pouring out the water, oh no!!!!! Don’t splash me! Water in tub, no splashing out, oh no, mommy is wet!” The language you use here will absolutely depend on the toys or items your child is using in the tub. I’ll highlight some of my favorite bath toys below, but I also encourage you to read this great post by Emily at Let’s Play about using non-toys in the bath (talk about exciting!!). 1. Rain Rain Go Away: Turn the faucet on and pretend it’s raining on the toys. Sing Rain Rain Go Away. “Oh no, the boat is wet! It’s raining on the whale!” 2. I LOVE this toy boat by Battat! I love that it has a top and a flap that opens and closes. “put on, open boat, what’s inside? Where’s the fish?” There is just SO much language you could use with this one toy between the boat, the captain, the fish and the nesting water cups! For car lovers, this ferry boat would be a motivating toy! Remember, if you ask a child a question and they do not respond, that’s OK, you can just say the answer for them!
3. This super cute bath toy is great because you can work on language “pour, put in, water comes out!”, fine motor (pouring water), and cognitive skills (learning, experimenting and discovering the environment such as the water goes down, toys that are too big to go through the holes, etc).
4. We have this shark set and my son loves it so much, we bought him an alligator set as well. Big/little is a great concept to learn with this set. We also sing about the sharks to the tune of “5 Little Ducks” and reenact the song with the characters- this works on counting too. This is also a great set for pretend mommy/baby play and prepositions “put on”, “take off”, “on the mommy”, “swim under mommy”.
Whichever toys you already have or might find- just talk about them. What do they do, do they make any sound, can you add sound effects? Be creative! Some of my other favorite bath toys to work on language through play are:
Washing hair: I don’t know about y’all, but this is my son’s least favorite part of bath time. I save it until the end, but for your child the beginning of the bath might be better. “Get shampoo, pour out, wash wash wash, wash your hair, wash your ears, wash your legs”, etc. This is a GREAT time to target body parts! When it’s time to rinse, I’ll say “time to rinse your hair, get ready, one, two, three gooooo! One more time.” We have found that goggles works for my son (it's the water going into his eyes that he hates) - but figuring out ways to make this more tolerable from a sensory standpoint can be huge!
Getting out: “Bath is all done, finished, time to get out!” This is the time that my son pretends that he can’t hear me, so I usually say “Let’s pull the drain, bye bye water!” “Where’s the towel? Here it is! Let’s get out! Up up up! Dry Dry Dry, dry your hair, dry your back”, etc.
To learn some fun ways to model vocabulary with getting dressed, visit my morning routine article! Stay tuned for how to add language to your bedtime routine!
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