Rubber ducky bath toy

21 Bathtime Tips For Babysitters

(Plus Bathtime Checklist)

Bath time can be intimidating for babysitters, and with good reason! Keeping a close eye on children during bath time is extra essential since kids can start to drown within seconds. Bathing a child is also a vulnerable situation that could open you up to accusations of misconduct if not handled correctly.

What are our best babysitting bath time tips: Always provide constant supervision during bathtime, get everything within arms-reach beforehand so don't need to move. Ensure the temperature is not too hot or cold, use kid-friendly soaps and shampoos, and try some bathtime activities to make washing fun. Always fully empty the bath when you're done.

In this article, you'll learn how to keep kids safe during their bath, and how to make bath time fun for them. If you've never given a child a bath before, it might be one of the more intimidating tasks you'll face as a babysitter. It's definitely up there with things like changing a diaper for the first time. But after you've finished reading through the tips below, you should be ready to handle giving baths as a babysitter.

Should Babysitters Bathe Children?

Babysitters should confirm with parents before they bathe children 100% of the time. A couple of decades ago it might not have been such a big deal. But now with people of all professions in the news being accused of inappropriate behavior, it's important to have all your bases covered.

Never just assume that a family will want you to give their child a bath as part of your babysitting duties.

Ultimately whether you need to give a child a bath or not while you're babysitting will come down to what the family needs and wants. As well as what you as the babysitter are willing to do! Some babysitters will refuse to give kids they're watching a bath. Either just because they don't feel comfortable with it, or to avoid potential liability.

Generally, if you're a teenage babysitter just watching a child for the occasional date night, you're a lot less likely to need to give kids a bath. Younger children really shouldn't get a bath every single day anyway, as it can dry out their skin and lead to other problems.

However, if you're a regular babysitter who watches children for a family every day, or at least on a regular basis, you're more likely to end up giving kids a bath.

Like a lot of areas of babysitting, bath time really comes down to proper communication with parents to find out what's needed, and what you're both comfortable with.

What other kinds of things should you talk to parents about first? Learn more here - What Should Babysitters Ask Parents? (20 Important Questions)

1. Provide Constant Supervision

By far, the most important part of keeping kids safe during bath time is proper supervision.

Never, ever leave kids alone in the bathtub or shower. It just takes a few seconds for a toddler or baby to slip below the surface and start drowning. Even just getting their faces underwater poses the risk of serious injuries to young children such as secondary drowning if enough water gets inhaled.

When it's time to give a child a bath, make sure there are no distractions. Put your cell phone on silent, and finish up any other tasks you're doing so you can give the bath your undivided attention.

If for some reason you need to leave the bathroom, you'll need to wrap the child in a towel and take them with you. Don't just take them out of the tub but leave them in the bathroom, as they could climb and fall back into the tub while you're gone.

2. Learn Infant CPR

Even if you're paying close attention and know what you're doing, accidents still sometimes happen. So it's a good idea to take a course in infant CPR if you're going to be babysitting younger kids a lot.

Infants are a lot more fragile than full-grown adults, so you definitely can't just transfer over your regular CPR training. Special CPR procedures are designed to help if a baby goes unconscious, stops breathing, or doesn't have a pulse.

3. Keep Bath Time Short (Especially For Toddlers and Infants)

For toddlers or infants, bath time should be short and sweet. If their skin is starting to get wrinkly, they've definitely been in too long!

Try to keep baths for younger kids under 10 or 15 minutes at most. That way kids are less likely to get dry skin.

4. Wash Kids From Head To Toe

Start off by washing the infant or toddler's face with a washcloth. Pay special attention to any folds or creases like the ears, neck, and sides of the nose. These parts of a child's face tend to accumulate the most oil and can get the dirtiest.

Wash their arms and particularly their hands if they've been playing with something messy that day. Then you'll want to wash their genitals and bum.

Particularly if you're dealing with a girl, it's best to leave shampooing their hair until last. That way they aren't sitting in the tub of soapy water, which can irritate their vagina and lead to yeast infections. Once they're all lathered up, you can stand them up and start draining the tub as you give them a final rinse.

5. Try To Keep Them Seated

If you have one available, try to keep toddlers in a bath seat. That will help to keep them comfortable and in place while you're washing them. It's much harder for them to slip down and get their face under the surface of the water that way. Plus it gives their legs a bit of a rest.

If you're dealing with a really stubborn toddler, they might refuse to sit. If that's the case, just make sure you have a non-stick bath mat they can stand on. Simply try to wash them off with a handheld showerhead or a plastic cup while they hold on to the wall, and try to get them as clean as you can.

6. Let Them Bring A Friend

If the child you're trying to bathe is afraid of the tub, try to bring along a playmate or buddy to keep them company.

If the child has an older sibling, you can give them both a bath at the same time to put the younger one more at ease. Plus it's less work than having to give each of them a bath individually.

If they don't have any siblings, bring along a waterproof or washable doll. You can even let toddlers wash their dolls while you're washing them, to help make them feel like they're doing something too. The more creative you can be with keeping kids distracted in the bath, the easier it will be to get them all soaped up and cleaned off for you.

7. Make Bath Time Extra Fun

Whether kids are hesitant about baths or not, you can help to get the job done by enticing them with all kinds of toys. If they're busy playing, they might not even notice you cleaning them.

Take advantage of any bath toys that the family you're babysitting for has. That might include rubber duckies, boats, tiny water squirters, puppets made of washcloths, waterproof books, or more.

If you can't find any bath toys, you can use some ingenuity to make some of your own. Things like funnels, Tupperware containers, plastic measuring cups, empty pop bottles, and other things you can find in the kitchen can be enough to hold a toddler's attention in the bath for a few minutes while you get them all cleaned up for bedtime.

It's a good idea to try and rotate the different bath toys that you use each time you babysit. That way, it'll stay fresh and interesting and be more likely to keep kids distracted while you bathe them.

Check out my list of the best kid-friendly bath activities if you’re looking for more bathtime entertainment ideas.

Are you wondering what other kinds of duties go along with giving baths? Check out my article - Babysitting at Night (Dinner, Baths, Bedtime Routine & Downtime Ideas)

8. Check The Water Temperature Before Putting Kids In The Tub

Never just place a child into bathwater without checking the temperature first.

If you have a thermometer, you can check that the water is between 37 and 38 degrees C (98.6 to 100.4 degrees F.) That's a comfortably warm temperature that won't risk scalding or chilling them. Parents might also have special decals, bath mats, or floaties that change color when water is too hot for children.

Most of the time, you probably won't have access to a thermometer or other specialized tools to check the bath temperature while you're babysitting. In that case, you can check that the water is warm but not too hot by dipping your elbow into the water.

While not making the bathwater too hot is a big concern when you're first putting a child into it, letting the water get too cold can be bad for kids too. You'll want to keep assessing the temperature of the water as you're bathing a child. If the water starts to feel cool, it's time to end the bath.

If you still have a lot of washing up to do and want to make the water warmer again, it's best to take the child out of the bath while you do it. It's dangerous to add hot water into the tub while the child is in it. You risk making the water too warm or having the hot water straight from the tap make contact with their skin before it has a chance to mix with the rest of the water and cool down.

Always start by filling a bath with cold water, and then slowly add hot water to it, before finishing with a bit of cold water. That way the water won't be hot if the child you're babysitting happens to fall into the tub partway through filling it up. And running some cool water at the end will help make sure the tap is physically cool to the touch.

9. You Don't Need To Bathe Kids Every Day!

Infants, toddlers, and younger kids don't need to have a bath every day. The warm water and soaps can really dry their skin out and lead to itching, discomfort, and rashes.

Babies only need a full bath two or three times per week. But you should be cleaning their diaper area, hands, neck, and face daily with a wet cloth or a gentle baby wipe every day.

Some babies will really calm down when they're in the tub, which can be great right before putting them to bed. Others will get really stimulated and full of energy, so you may want to bathe them a couple of hours before bedtime. You'll have to see what's true for the kids you're babysitting.

Older kids between 6 and 11 might be able to get by with only having a bath once or twice a week. But once kids start to hit puberty, they'll want to be having a bath or shower every day or every other day.

10. Avoid Regular Grown-up Soaps and Shampoos

The younger a child is, the more important it is to use child-safe soaps that are made for sensitive skin.

Parents that you babysit for should already have kid-safe bath products available. Just be sure that you don't accidentally use the grown-up ones.

This is especially true of shampoos. You want to be sure you're using a tear-free formula because there's a good chance it's going to get into a child's eyes while you're washing their hair. Babies usually don't have much hair for a while. So in that case, you can just wet it down using a damp washcloth without soap most of the time.

For soaps, you want to avoid anything with added dyes or perfumes in it.

Rub your soap into a washcloth to lather it up and apply it to kids that way, rather than rubbing the soap directly on to their body.

11. Get Everything Ready Ahead of Time

Make things much easier on yourself by gathering up everything you'll need ahead of time, like a towel, soap, a washcloth, a change of clothes, and a diaper.

Having everything within arm's reach means you'll be able to be right next to the child you're bathing at all times, without having to get up to get supplies that you need and leave them vulnerable.

After you've bathed the kids you're babysitting and put them to bed, can you have a bit of a nap yourself? Read my other article to find out - Can Babysitters Sleep On The Job? (6 Tips To Stay Awake)

12. Dry Them Off Really Well

Once bath time is over, wrap kids up in a big towel right away so they don't start to lose too much body heat. If they're shivering, then either the bathwater was too cold or you've taken too long to get them dried off.

Make sure that you dry kids thoroughly, including getting in all the creases, before you get them dressed again. This is especially important for babies before you put a diaper back on, so they don't get a rash.

13. Set The Water Heater Temperature Lower

You probably don't want to start messing around with the water heater in another family's home yourself. But ask parents if they're willing to set the temperature of their water heater a bit lower, like 50 degrees C (120 degrees F). It will help prevent kids from getting scalded if they accidentally hit the hot water faucet and turn it on.

14. Completely Empty The Tub When You're Done

Young kids can drown in as little as 6 centimeters (2 inches) of water. So it's important to empty the bathtub right away after each bath immediately.

Baths, sinks, and even toilets can pose a drowning risk to kids if they fall in! So in addition to fully draining the tub, keep the toilet seat down and close bathroom doors after you leave as well.

15. Use These Bathtime Products To Avoid Injuries

There are various bath products that you can use to avoid kids hurting themselves accidentally while they're in the bath. You can get a bath spout cover made of rubber or silicone to cover the faucet, so kids can't hit their head. They're also usually shaped like cute animals to help keep kids a bit more entertained and engaged in the tub as well.

Putting a nonskid bath mat underneath kids in the tub will also help to prevent them from slipping. Either while they're just sitting in the tub, or when standing to get in and out of the bath.

Learn more about keeping kids safe around water in this article - 26 Kids Water Safety Tips for Babysitters (At the Pool, Beach & Home)

16. How To Deal With Pee and Poop In The Tub

I can still vividly remember as a child, being bathed together with my younger brother, and having him poop in the tub. It was quite a stressful experience for me, but he just sat there smiling! And while bathing my three kids my youngest has pooped in the bath on two occasions and everyone had to quickly evacuate!

It's not uncommon for younger kids to pee or poop in the bath. So don't panic if it happens to you while you're bathing them.

Urine is sterile while it's in the body, so it's okay to keep going with the bath without completely draining and refilling the tub if you want. Although if it bothers you, you can always completely change the water and start over. If kids only have a small pee in the tub, you might not even notice.

If a child poops in the bathtub, that's a different story, and you'll want to drain the tub right away and clean it before anyone gets back in. But as long as none of the water gets in their mouth, nose, ears, or eyes after they've pooped in it, they won't get sick.

Remember: Worst case scenario, you can just drain, clean, and re-fill the tub and wash them off again.

17. How To Deal With Kids That Hate Bath Time

Some kids love bath time and the chance to splash around and play with bubbles. Others might hate it and be difficult to get into the tub.

Even though babies aren't naturally afraid of water, the noise of the running faucet while you fill the tub might scare them, as well as getting water or soap in their eyes.

If you're babysitting a kid and they are making a huge fuss during bath time, don't force them to stay in the tub. Just put them in a towel and use a warm washcloth to wipe down their face and body instead, one body part at a time. Be extra careful when washing their face.

You might be able to coax kids into the tub with a special bathtime-only toy.

Generally, parents will warn you if difficulty with bath time is an ongoing thing, and they might have some extra tips and tricks to share with you as well.

18. How To Bath Older Kids

Once children are old enough to go to school, they might be able to wash their bodies themselves in the bath. But they still need supervision, and will probably need you to help wash their hair for them.

Let kids take on as much bath time responsibility as they feel comfortable with. Parents might have some advice to offer more privacy for older kids, to make both you and the child feel more comfortable while you're helping out with bath time. But it's important not to leave kids completely alone to bathe themselves until they're old enough to pull themselves up if they slip under the surface of the water.

19. Avoid Bubble Baths

When you think of taking a bath as a kid, the first thing you probably think of is a tub full of fluffy white bubbles with a rubber ducky on top.

But especially for younger kids, you actually might want to avoid it. Bubble baths can irritate the urethra, and increases the risk of urinary tract infections, especially for girls.

20. Electricity and Water Don't Mix

Electric appliances like curling irons or hair dryers shouldn't be anywhere near the bathtub. Especially not while they're plugged in.

You might want to have other electronics like an mp3 player and a set of speakers to play some kids songs during the bath to keep kids entertained, but make sure they're firmly positioned on a counter or shelf as far away from the tub as possible, so there's no risk of them falling into the water. Once you start the bath, avoid handling any electronics again until bath time is over and your hands are completely dried off.

21. There's Such A Thing As Too Young For A Bath

Newly born babies can't start taking baths right away. So if you're caring for an infant that's only a week or two old, you'll need to wait.

Until a baby's umbilical stump has fallen off, you should stick to only giving them sponge baths. If it's a male baby who has been circumcised, you'll want to wait until that is fully healed as well.

Once those two conditions are met, you can start giving babies a bath in a baby bathtub. These usually have a built-in sling or a contoured design to prevent babies from slipping down into the water. Using a special tub made for infants is better than using a bath seat in a regular tub, which can come loose or tip over if the suction cups fail to attach to the tub properly.

When you're bathing infants, be sure to remove any sharp objects like razors or glass from the area. As well as things like heavy bottles of soap that could fall into the tub and hurt them.

Don't scrub a baby too hard when bathing them. Just gently wipe them down with a washcloth.

Bath Time Checklist

Here are basic supplies you'll want to have on hand when giving kids a bath. Some of these will only apply if you're washing a baby or infant, so keep the child's age in mind.

  • Kid-friendly (mild and unscented) soap and shampoo.
  • Several towels (soft and fluffy hooded towels for babies.)
  • A clean washcloth.
  • An infant tub.
  • Clean diapers.
  • A set of clean clothes or pajamas.
  • Any lotions, diaper rash creams, or similar skin products that the parents ask you to use.
  • A bathtub spout cover.
  • A bath or baby thermometer (optional).
  • A variety of fun bath toys.
  • A large plastic cup to rinse the shampoo out of their hair Sanitized cotton balls (for cleaning around baby's eyes.)
  • Rubbing alcohol (for cleaning around the umbilical area on newborns.)
  • A comb or soft brush, especially for infants with cradle cap.
  • A non-slip pad or foam tub insert.

Download Our Bathtime Checklist

Babysitting bathtime checklist

We're created a handy bathtime checklist that you can print and keep a copy in your babysitting bag. Refer to it before starting the baths to make sure you get all the necessary items and don't forget any important steps.

Free Download
(babysitting-bathtime-checklist.pdf 21kb)

Also, see our other babysitting checklists.

Conclusion

Bath time comes with some additional hazards to look out for on top of your usual babysitting risks. It's important to always be extra vigilant around water. It only takes a second for a child to slip and go under the surface of the water. And young kids are more sensitive to being burned or scalded by hot water.

Bath time will be a bit different depending on the age of the child you're babysitting. But something they all have in common is that you'll want to make bath time as fun and engaging as possible! Use toys and games to keep kids busy and happy and they might not even pay attention to you washing them. Use special shampoos and soaps that are formulated for kids to keep their skin healthy and avoid tears if the products get in their eyes.

Giving kids a bath might be one of the more intimidating tasks you'll face as a babysitter. But now that you're armed with the tips and information above, you should be able to handle anything that bath time throws at you!

Written & Illustrated by:

 Matthew Taylor

Matthew Taylor

Kidsit Founder, Editor, Illustrator, and father of three beautiful kids in Sydney, Australia.

Published: 21 September 2019

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