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Keeping the kids clean is just a bonus when it comes to taking advantage of this oft-overlooked parenting trick.
If there’s one trick to taking care of two kids full time for 6 months straight, it’s this: Make it as easy as possible.
The first few weeks of the pandemic I hauled out all the art supplies, made elaborate snacks (that no one but me ate, naturally), and basically exhausted myself trying to provide constant entertainment and nourishment 12 hours a day.
After a particularly messy afternoon of sand play and popsicles, I had to give the kids an early afternoon bath. And I soon realized that I had been seriously underutilizing our tub.
My toddler and preschooler were cheerfully watching bubbles form under the tap and using various cups as toys.
I was free to sit down beside them (with no one on my lap for the first time that day) and even answer a few work emails while they played. After they were both shampooed, scrubbed, and sufficiently soaked, neither kid wanted to get out. And my ultimate parenting hack was born.
Whenever things are about to get messy — like anytime my kids request to eat frozen blueberries — or the tantrums just keep coming, I just turn on the water and fill up the bath.
The kids are happy, I’m happy, and it’s one less thing to squeeze in later.
Here are four key ways the bath makes life easier for me and my two littles.
Who am I kidding? All snacks are messy in our house. Hopefully it’s not just my kids who end up with more on their faces, shirts, and hands than in their tummies?
But, back to my point: When my kids ask for popsicles or yogurt or a similar snack that I know is just going to end up all over their bodies, clothes, and my couch, I enthusiastically direct them to the bathtub and let them snack to their hearts’ content.
They’re excited that they’re eating in the bath, and I’m excited that I don’t have to spend the next hour wiping faces and surfaces.
My kids love painting and I have a huge bin of supplies to support their artistic development.
But as much as I encourage them to use their brushes, their creative juices always flow toward painting with their hands instead.
Obviously. Because, kids.
Moving from the easel or the kitchen table to the bathtub was life-changing.
Inspired by Susie Allison of Busy Toddler, I taped up paper over the tile and let the kids paint however they wished. Cleanup is a breeze and I don’t feel like I’m stifling their process.
On days when my kids are having an especially tough time sharing and using their words — and when I’m on the verge of yelling as a result — I know it’s time for a bath.
I’ll perch myself on the edge of the tub and soak my feet, giving me a nice little zen moment as well.
When I’ve run out of ideas or feel bad about putting on the TV (again) or don’t have the energy to put together (and then clean up) a craft, getting in the bath helps me break up the day.
From the time I convince the kids to get in the tub — bubbles! music! snacks! — to drying off and getting dressed, I get a solid hour of the kids being occupied.
Plus, with the kids already clean, my husband and I don’t have to wrangle them after dinner, meaning more family lounge time before bedtime.
Want to take advantage of this go-to parenting hack? You don’t need much.
But grabbing some plastic cups and kitchen utensils is more than enough to make a midday bath feel unique. Whatever works, right?
Natasha Burton is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Livestrong, Woman’s Day, and many other lifestyle publications. She’s the author of What’s My Type?: 100+ Quizzes to Help You Find Yourself ― and Your Match!, 101 Quizzes for Couples, 101 Quizzes for BFFs, 101 Quizzes for Brides and Grooms, and the co-author of “The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags.” When she’s not writing, she’s fully immersed in #momlife with her toddler and preschooler.