0 – 5: Tub Talk

Language develops rapidly between the ages of 1 and 3. Most children show an interest in language long before they speak. Bathtime can be a fun and relaxing opportunity to reinforce language development. Here are some ideas on how to make bathtime fun and educational:

Hide the toy. Once your child is in the tub, hide a toy behind your back. Describe it and ask your child to guess what it is. Hold a ball behind your back and say, “I have something that is red and round. What is it?” or “I have something that is yellow and swims in the water, what is it?” You can play this even if your child doesn’t talk yet. Ask the question, pause a second, and then show him the object and name it. This will help him label familiar objects. Play a similar game as you put away toys after bathtime. Ask your child, “Can you hand me a red toy? A round toy? A toy that floats?” and so on.

Compare shapes. Provide toys of different shapes, such as a round ball, a square plastic block and an oval plastic egg. Talk about shapes as your child sorts the objects. Add more shapes or use a shape-sorter toy if desired.

Compare sizes. Provide three balls of different sizes, such as a plastic ping pong ball or golf ball, a medium-size rubber ball and a large beach ball. Help your child identify the balls by small, medium and large. Repeat the activity with three boats, cups, or other objects.

Same or different? Provide several plastic Easter eggs of different colors. Hold up two eggs of the same color and ask, “Are they the same or different?” Hold up two eggs of different colors and ask the same question. Repeat this several times. You also can put two halves of different colors together and ask, “Are the two halves the same or different?” Help your child sort them by color. Name the colors.

Compare textures. Find objects of various textures, such as a rough washcloth, a smooth ball and squishy sponge. Help him feel the difference between rough, smooth and spongy. Do the same with objects that are hard, such as a soap dish, or soft, such as a fabric book or soft toy.

Name body parts. As you wash your child, name the body parts. Say, “Now we are going to wash your hands. Now we are going to wash your elbow. Now we are going to wash your shoulders.” This helps your child identify body parts.

Sink or float? Ask your child to predict if an object will sink or float. “Will this boat float? What will happen if the boat becomes filled with water? Will this egg float? What will happen if it becomes filled with water? Will this washcloth float? How about the soap?”

Spatial relationships. Discuss objects in relationship to each another, such as, “The boat is on top of the water” or “You are in the water.” Use words such as under, over, above, beneath, beside, next to and so on to help your child gain skills in describing objects in relationship to each other.

Opposites. Discuss dirty/clean, hot/cold and full/empty during the bathtime. You can say, “Your legs are clean, but your hands are dirty.” Or, “The bath tub was empty, but now it’s full of water” to help your child develop an understanding of opposites.

Counting. Practice counting by having your child help you count all the red toys, the round toys and the toys that float. This also will help your child learn to classify objects.

Following directions. Give your child simple instructions, such as “Please hand me the soap” or “Please wash your face with the washcloth” to provide practice in following directions. You can give your child two- and three-part instructions, such as “Please wash your face with the washcloth and then lay the washcloth on the edge of the tub” once he is able to follow one-step instructions well.

Bathtime is a fun, relaxing time. With some planning, it also can become a wonderful learning time for your child.

Katrina Cassel, M.Ed., lives with her husband, five of their children, and an assortment of pets in the Florida panhandle.