Nothing in the world smells better than a clean toddler.

How to Give a Toddler a Bath

by Kathryn Walsh

Congratulations! You've survived another day of parenting a toddler, and what a day it's been. By the time you get through dinner, your formerly clean child could be coated in any number of substances, from dirt to jelly to dried milk to something mysterious you'd rather not think about. Bathing him isn't just about scrubbing all of that away. A warm bath, if given at night, can soothe him before bedtime and give you a chance to calm your own frazzled nerves. As a bonus, pictures of him with bubbles on his head make excellent social networking pictures.

1 Take your little Pigpen into the bathroom with you while you start the bath. Plug up the tub and turn the water on, adjusting the temperature control to a warm setting. Help your toddler take off his clothes and diaper -- check it first to be sure nothing to is going to spill out -- while the tub starts filling up.

2 Dunk your wrist under the faucet a few times while the tub fills. The water should feel warm and soothing; adjust the temperature if necessary.

3 Scoop your little guy up and deposit him in the tub once the water is the right temperature and level -- it should hit no higher than his waist when he's sitting down. Toss a few of his bath toys into the water and position yourself on the floor next to him or on the toilet seat. Let him play for a few minutes, but resist the urge to zone out. Watch him like a hawk while he's in the water. Tell him he needs to stay seated while he plays, or his play time will end early. Walking and jumping around in the tub will end badly.

4 Announce that it's time to wash the germs away after he's had play time. Your tot might not be as thrilled about this as you are, so you might want to give a one-minute warning before cutting off his fun time.

5 Start from the top and move down. Ask your toddler to close his eyes while you rub a nickel-sized amount of baby shampoo through his hair; sing a favorite song to keep him entertained if necessary. Ask him to tilt his head back while you fill a cup with water and pour it over his hair. Repeat until all the suds are gone.

6 Get the crumbs, paint and juice mustache off of his face using a wet washcloth. Turn the faucet on so the flow is just above a trickle and soak the cloth before going at his face with it.

7 Pull the plug in the tub so the now-dirty water will start draining away. Soak the washcloth under the faucet again and drizzle some children's body wash over it. Soap his entire body, being especially gentle with his genitals, until he's covered with suds; you'll need to help him stand up to wash his bottom and legs. Keep one hand on him at all times while washing him down. At this point, you can either rinse the washcloth and use it to wipe the soap away, or you can turn on the shower head and let it finish the job.

8 Stretch a soft, dry towel between your hands to prepare for the best part of bathtime -- snuggling with your clean, wet munchkin. Wrap the towel around him and lift him out of the tub and into your lap. Hold onto him for as long as he'll let you; he'll be in high school before you know it, and this scenario definitely won't fly then.

Items you will need

  • Bath toys
  • Children's shampoo
  • Washcloth
  • Children's body wash
  • Towel

Tip

  • Some sensitive tots will be bothered by the sound of rushing water. If yours covers his ears or seems stressed when the bath is running, play with him in the next room for a minute until the water reaches the right level.

Warnings

  • If you've ever slipped and fallen in the shower during a heartfelt rendition of a Madonna song, you know how slick a bathtub can be. To keep your little one safe, you'll need to clean the tub frequently, which surely won't be a problem with all that extra time you have -- just kidding. If you don't already have them in place, affix non-slip appliques to the bottom of the tub to keep your little guy, and yourself, from taking a tumble.
  • Your little guy's flesh is sweet and sensitive in addition to being delicious, and he's sensitive to burns. Before you give your next bath, hunt down your water heater -- it's probably in the basement -- and check the thermostat. MayoClinic.com recommends setting the thermostat at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which prevents the water in your house from getting hot enough to burn your sweet little guy.
  • Never leave the bathroom, even for 30 seconds, while he's in the tub. If the phone or the doorbell rings and you have to answer it, pull him out and take him with you.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images