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Bath Time as Learning Time - How We Do It

image of bath toys

By far, one of our family's favorite times is bath time. Our kids are just over 1 year and 4 years old, respectively, and are still at that "90% of the time we're best friends" phase, so even if we wanted to keep them apart during bath time, it'd be impossible. Our daughter will literally try to climb into the tub with her clothes on; that girl is tenacious. So, splash time it is! But, I recently realized that we've turned one of the funnest activities for our kids into a learning time, as well. Aside from just getting the kiddos clean, their toys and games have become learning tools. Here are our favorites...

text about bath toys

- Foam Letters and Numbers - The easiest (and least messy) way to get your kiddos learning during bath time is to get a set (or two) of foam letters and numbers. They help kids unknowingly work on letter and number recognition, spelling, early phonemic awareness, and even simple mathematics. I can't count how many times our son will put something on the wall and start sounding out a nonsensical word or ask how to spell something. I'll often put up a simple blending word like "at" and ask him to create other words by adding a letter. Oh, and while our daughter enjoys chewing on these, she also gets a thrill out of watching her brother manipulate - Bath Crayons - Okay, these are admittedly far messier than the foam alternative (tip: Wash them off the wall immediately or else you'll have TONS of scrubbing to do later) but they are by far the most creative option for your budding Picasso or Hemingway. Our son was still pretty apprehensive about drawing (which is weird since he's a creative, verbal little guy) but when we let him use the bath crayons, we end up with huge murals all over the wall. He gets to write his name as BIG as he wants it. He practices other letters. It's the most passionate we see him about his alphabet and words, so while it's too messy to do EVERY bath time, it's a fun treat for those nights that we're swimming in extra time...pun totally intended. - Color-Change Toys - We have one toy that changes color when it's in a different water temperature. So, it goes from a "dirty" brown truck when it's dry (or doused with cold water in the sink) to a "clean" pretty blue when it's warm. Even when I'm looking for some spare time to cook dinner or do laundry, I'll often have our son head to a sink with his stool to play with it. It'll keep him busy for a surprising amount of time. This is actually reaching several parts of his brain (and his sister's when it's used in the bath - they're both enthralled). It's teaching cause and effect as well as scientific processes. Plus, it's admittedly pretty cool. - Cups for Days - Cups are the best. We've got some stacking ones that helped our son learn patterns as well as cause and effect (they have small holes in the bottom so the water drains out slowly). We also have some old measuring cups, a cup with a spout, and several sizes of cups/bowls that they can use to fill and dump to their heart's desire. Oh, and they're also the easiest way we've found to rinse off the kids' hair. #themoreyouknow - Bath Books - Our daughter will use these as much as a chew toy as anything else, but she'll occasionally point aggressively at a squishy page and utter a noise of recognition - "oooOOOOooo!!!" or a growl (which is sometimes pretty accurate if it's an animal) - to which we'll tell her what she's pointing at. As with most books at her age, we'll read a word or two off the page or use it to ask her a question. All very unstructured, but the learning is still happening. - A Variety of Toys - As I mentioned, I kind of accidentally realized that we had provided our kids with educational toys; it wasn't really intentional. While we want our kids to learn and develop with a growing knowledge base in mind, our ultimate goal is a "learn through play" philosophy. (I'm an educator, so I know there's more than enough time for tests and pressure later on.) If our kids aren't having fun working on their letters, they're more than welcome to switch to spraying each other with squeeze toys. However, by providing a variety of types of toys (ones that sift, ones that pour and contain, ones that squirt, ones that stick on the wall, ones they can manipulate), they're able to choose what concept they're learning about, and you don't have to actually "teach" them about it - it's all hands-on, self-directed, and constructive. So, you don't have to actually spend a ton or get a million toys. An old kitchen measuring cup, washcloth, and squirt toy are fine. If you want more, that's fine, too. (We love the Green Toys submarine, in particular; not an ad, we just love it that much.) You don't have to buy a kazillion toys (and pick up the same amount later, ugh) for your kids to have a fun - and, as it happens, educational - bath time experience. And, as always, never underestimate the coolness factor of water slowly spiraling down the drain. So cool! How do your kids spend bath time? What's their favorite bath toy?
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