Ages 3-6

  Curator Betsy B.

Curator Betsy B.

Why I Created This Guide

From some kids it’s their favorite part of the day.  For others, a terrible punishment to be avoided at any and all costs.  However you slice it, bathtime is something all kids go through, some with glee and some with great smatterings of fear and loathing.  It’s the rare parent who hasn’t had a long day and thought to themselves, “I’ll give them a bath tomorrow.  What’s one day?”  When that feeling hits you, why not pull out some of the books and activities in this bath kit?  Or, if a bath is inevitable, take some tips on making it the best part of any kid’s day.

Helping Kids Understand Why You Need to Take a Bath

Why do kids need to take a bath in the first place?  It’s an excellent question and it certainly cannot hurt to have some answers at your disposal.  Here are some discussion questions that you can use with your kids along with some possible answers.

Why do we take baths? 

To keep clean!  Taking baths can certainly be about having a lot of fun in the water, but the important thing is to keep dirt and germs off of your body.  Bathing keeps us from smelling, keeps us healthy, and makes us look good.   

Why is it important to take a bath daily/regularly?

Sometimes a person gets dirty without looking it.  Even if you’re not covered in mud or spaghetti sauce, your body still can get dirty by being covered in sweat or germs.  Taking a regular bath gets rid of all that dirt (whether or not you can see it) and takes care of invisible nasties.

Why do we use soap, water, bath sponge, etc.?

Each part of the bath has a job to do!  First, the water is there to wash away the dirt once you’ve scrubbed it off your skin.  Bath sponges or hand towels scrub a dub the dirty parts of your body and leave you feeling fresh and clean.  As for soap, just washing with water isn’t enough.  You need soap and lots of it to make sure you’re doing a thorough job.

Can we have fun after we take a bath (after cleaning our body)? 

Once you’re all clean, absolutely!  Just make sure you’ve done all your cleaning first.  You don’t want to get in the tub and forget to clean yourself!  That would be silly.

Source - First School

Books Discussing This Theme


On My Way to the Bath by Sarah Maizes

Ages 3-6

For any parent who has ever had a kid particularly skilled in delaying bathtime, your child may have met their match in Livvy.  It’s not that she isn’t heading towards the bath.  It’s just that her wild imagination has a way of delaying her along the way.  When she finally gets in, though, she has a such a good time that you suspect her mother’s going to have a devil of a time getting her out again.

King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood, ill. Don Wood

Ages 4-7

Not only is this a Caldecott Honor book but it’s a hoot to boot.  In a court of dandies and stuffed shirts, King Bidgood’s wild refusal to exit his tub leads to increasingly ridiculous situations.  It takes the cunning of a kid to get the corpulent ruler out of his favorite tub.  The rhyming text perfectly matches Wood’s hilarious art.

Treasure Bath by Dan Andreasen

Ages 2-6

Bathtime, playtime, anytime!  When a young boy’s “help” with creating a chocolate cake necessitates a trip to the bath, he immediately launches into different storylines.  Everything from treasure hunts to helpful scrubbing octopi help him become clean.  And the slice of dessert he enjoys at the end is literally the icing on the cake.

Kay Thompson’s Eloise Takes a Bawth by Kay Thompson, ill. Hilary Knight

Ages 4-8

Every bath is improved by a little good old-fashioned mayhem.  After all, how do you even know you’ve bathed unless you’ve flooded someone’s ballroom?  The queen of all things chaotic turns a simple bath into something a little more epic.  

Soap Soap Soap! by Elizabeth Dulemba

Ages 3-6

When Hugo’s mamá sends him to the store to pick up some soap, his adventures get him more than a little filthy.  Little surprise that when he gets home the soap has a very specific purpose. The sprinkling of Spanish words in the story will definitely have your kids crying out for their own jabón, jabón, jabón!


Big Smelly Bear by Britta Teckentrup

Ages 4-7

Do you have a big smelly bear of your own?  Perhaps they’ll enjoy this story about this terminally grubby ursine hero.  Normally Bear’s stench doesn’t bother him too terribly, but then one day he gets a horrid itch he can’t reach.  Worse still, no one will help him because he’s just too dirty.  A bath tale of kid-friendly extremes.

The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems

Ages 3-7

Everyone’s favorite acrimonious fowl is back and BOY does he stink!  But if you think getting The Pigeon into a bath is easy then you have another thing coming.  No one equivocates like this guy and he’s prepared to pull out every trick in the book to keep himself from getting into that tubby tub. An ideal book for those kids who wish to do to The Pigeon that which is done to themselves.

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, ill. Margaret Bloy Graham

Perhaps the most classic bathtime story there is.  Harry the dog loathes and abhors baths.  Yet when he takes an outing into town and his filth renders him unrecognizable to his family, that’s when he begins to see the merits of a good old-fashioned scrubbing.  As adorable and entrancing today as it was when it first was published back in 1956. 




How to Wash a Wooly Mammoth by Michelle Robinson

Ages 3-7

Sometimes it’s easier for a kid to watch someone else go through the bathing process.  Particularly when that someone is a long extinct pachyderm.  In this book the step-by-step process it takes to wash a hairy prehistoric friend bears shocking similarities to what it takes to wash a small child.

Bubba and Beau, Best Friends by Kathi Appelt, ill. Arthur Howard

Ages 2-6

Probably the cutest bath book out there, due in large part to its heroes, a baby and a puppy.  These two are inseparable but when their beloved blankie is tossed in the wash only their own bath will set things right again.  Hand this to the young readers that may find the laundering of their favorite blankets just as upsetting as their own bathtime.


Bath Books for the Tub

Reading books about the bath is one thing.  Bringing books into the bath with you is another entirely.  What once was forbidden is now not only possible but fun too.  Sandra Boynton is the perfect author for this format too.  Short, sweet, and to the point, expect these books to be requested time and time again.

  • Barnyard Bath by Sandra Boynton (Ages 2-4)
  • Bath Time! by Sandra Boynton (Ages 2-4)

Apps and Games for Exploring This Theme

 Pepi Bath

Pepi Bath

Pepi Bath

Ages 3-5

For hygiene-impaired kids (or those just learning what hygiene even is) Pepi Bath comes to the rescue!  After choosing either a boy or a girl, kids are invited to help their particularly filthy avatars bathe, wash their hands, and even operate the washing machine for their soiled outerwear.  Not only is it a fun app but a funny one as well!


Bathtime Helper (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood)

Who says there’s only one way to use the bath?  Kids with little brothers and sisters may find the transition from only child to older sibling a tough one.  In this game, kids are shown how much fun it can be to help wash the new baby.

Suggested Media

Do you know what bathrooms are particularly wonderful for?  Singing!  As anyone who has ever performed and aria in a shower will attest, nothing quite compares to the tiled acoustics of a bathroom’s walls.  So when faced with a grubby kiddo who’d rather not step into a soapy tub, think about singing some bathtime related songs for the occasion.  Don’t know any?  No worries.  These tunes certainly fit the bill:

You Can Never Go Down the Drain

There are as many ways to fear the bath as there are to enjoy it.  Fred Rogers gave one of those fears a voice, and it remains one of his best loved songs to this day.

Rubber Ducky

People forget that when this song came out in 1970 it became a massive worldwide hit, coming in at #16 on the Top 100 charts.  Heck, it was even nominated for a Grammy.  Play it for your own kid and don’t be surprised if they start requesting it at their next bathtime.

Splish Splash I Was Taking a Bath (Bobby Darin) on Sesame Street

A rock and roll bathtime song?  Ernie wasn’t the only one to get such a song on the charts.  Mercifully absent of innuendo, it’s just a good old-fashioned fun, danceable song.

How to Help With Bathtime!

Ages 3-6

They may not be old enough to take baths by themselves yet, but that’s no reason young children can’t start getting involved with the process.  Bath time is an idea time to teach them to love getting clean and to help them learn some responsibility.  Here are some tips for helping your little guys get more involved.

  • Put in the bubbles.Even the youngest of children get a kick out of helping put the bubble bath in the tub.

  • Learn the body parts and clean them one by one.Have a kid who’s bored by bathtime? Make a game out of it!  A little Simon Says and you’ll not only be reinforcing different body parts (“Simon says clean your knee.  Simon says clean your neck”) but also giving them the tools they need when they start bathing on their own someday.

  • Who wants to take a mini shower?Have a removable showerhead you can take off the wall?  It’s going to be a long time before your kids are ready to shower by themselves, but if you use the showerhead to wash the soap out of their hair early on they’ll find the process much less intimidating when they attempt it at an older age.

  • Pull out the plug.I warn you, though. Once they get the hang of it you may have a hard time keeping that puppy in for future baths!

  • Clean up!Have lots of fun and funky bath toys for your kiddos to play with? Cleaning them up when the water’s gone shouldn’t have to be your job. Start early and make it clear that when it comes to playing with toys, they’re the ones responsible.


Ages 6-8

It’s a question every parent must face eventually, but that there’s no standard answer for. Mainly, when are my kids old enough to bathe on their own?  Many feel that it depends on the child but that generally it’s between the ages of 6-8.   Here are some of the finer points of kids and baths.

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

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

  • 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 own tearless shampoo, personal towel and bathrobe will encourage their continued interest.

  • Never leave a child under 6 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 hair.

  • Having their own bath basket or tote will help them organize their bathing supplies. Giving them their own bath soap and other vanity items will show them you believe they can do a good job on their own, and they will!

Source: Popsugar

Source: Teach Kids How

Fun in the Tub Activities

Want to make bath time more fun? There are a number of ways to do this.  First off, there are some very fun products you may or may not have heard about that can turn any bath experience into a chance for some artistic expression.  Then come the games.

Bath Painting Toys

Whether it’s a fine set of bath crayons or bath paints, playing in the bath is a lot different from when you were a kid. There are also a lot of different ways to make use of them.  For example, see what happens when you mix together different colors.  Do red and blue make purple?  Do yellow and blue make green?  What color do you get when you put all the colors together at the same time?  Special Tip: For those parents still trying to teach their children how to spit when brushing their teeth, bath paints can be a real boon.  Create a target on the wall next to the bathtub, then have the kids take sips from a cup and then try to hit the target.  

 Source: Kids Activities Blog

Source: Kids Activities Blog

Bath Drops

Ever wondered what it’s like to bathe in colored water?  Wonder no longer! Kids can change the color of their bath at will, and come out clean and shiny at the end. With each color they choose, make a game out of the experience.  Did your child choose green today?  Try together to name all the green objects you can think of.  Now try to think of green animals that swim in the water.  And what will happen if you drop the red bath color and the yellow bath drops in together?  

Bath Games

What better time can there be to teach a little science?  Check out this fun and original bath games that can turn any time in the tubby into instant fun:


Bring a variety of everyday items into the bath with your child. Try sponges, balls, favorite plastic toys, plastic building blocks, toy boats, and plastic dinosaurs. Have your child hold the item and ask, "Do you think it will sink or float?" Try holding two items and guessing which of the two will float and which will sink. (Small children tend to think very heavy objects sink and light objects float.) Then, test to see!

Try floating a washcloth on the surface of the water and placing objects on top of it. Will it sink? Will it float? How many items can your child place inside a plastic bowl before it sinks?



Before putting your child in the bath, mark the waterline with a bath crayon (available at toy stores). Show your child how the water line goes up when you put him or her into the bath. Mark that line, too. If you are bathing with your child, make one mark for your child and one for you. Explain how heavier things displace more water than lighter things. (More water has to move out of the way for heavier things than for lighter things.)



Add a few drops of food color to ice-cube trays, add water, and freeze. While your child plays in the tub, she can drop in an ice cube and watch as the water changes color. Talk about how the dark ice cube turns the water a light color, and then try dropping two different colored ice cubes into the water and guessing what color it will make.



Bring a selection of plastic measuring cups and spoons into the bath with your child. Kids enjoy pouring water from one cup to the next and using smaller cups to fill larger ones. How many 1/4-cup containers will fill up a cup? How many tablespoons fill a cup? Suggest pretending to bake something in the tub--it will help your child explore the basics of measuring and is an unexpected bath-time game.



Take a clean plastic cup (yogurt cups work well) and poke a small hole in the bottom. Try several cups with holes of different sizes. Show kids how to push the cup into the water to make water spout up into the cup through the hole. When they pull the cup out of the water, kids will enjoy watching the water drain out. Now turn the cup upside down and try pushing it into the water. Place your hand over the cup to feel the air escaping. Try pushing a cup into the water that has no hole in it.

Source: Nick Jr

About Betsy B.

Betsy is currently New York Public Library’s Youth Materials Collections Specialist. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, reviewed for Kirkus and The New York Times and has also written the picture book Giant Dance Party, illustrated by Brandon Dorman.  In 2014, Candlewick will publish Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature which she co-wrote with Jules Danielson and Peter Sieruta.  You can follow Betsy on Twitter @FuseEight or at her blog A Fuse #8 Production hosted by School Library Journal.