The rites of parenthood include watching your children grow, delighting in their every accomplishment, and … overruling their protests when it comes to taking a bath.
Kids just don’t care to take time out of their busy play schedules to get clean. Beyond the obvious hygiene issues this could present, all the arguing can bring on household stress.
The good news is that you might be able to relax your bath time schedule without throwing in the towel on health and cleanliness.
It depends on their age
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says that having kids bathe every day is more of an unofficial cultural standard than something based on medicine. Obviously, if kids go out and splash in the mud, get sweaty playing sports, or have been wearing insect repellent or sunscreen, then get them in the tub. But otherwise, the frequency depends on their age.
For infants and toddlers
- Daily baths aren’t really needed until children start crawling and getting into things. Otherwise, just clean them off when they are dirty. Remember that the bath should be set to a lukewarm temperature, and that 5 to 10 minutes ought to do it. (This is a good time to make sure your hot water heater is set to no higher than 120 degrees.)
- Even if you aren’t doing full-body baths, always keep the diaper area clean, along with the folds under the armpits and the groin area.
- Bathing too often — more than three times per week — could dry out the skin and cause irritation.
For kids ages 6-11
- Baths or showers once or twice a week is usually fine.
- This is the age where you might start to notice more in the way of body odor, so that’s definitely a factor as well.
- It’s important for kids to bathe if they’ve been swimming.
For tweens and teens
- During the puberty years, daily showers or baths are recommended. In addition to all the other changes going on with their bodies, tweens and teens can produce more oil on their skin, and that means more cleaning.
- If there is a day when your teen doesn’t bathe, make sure that they wash their face twice a day to remove oil and dirt. This will help keep any teenage acne from getting worse.
- After showering, deodorant or antiperspirant might be a good idea. Also, make sure they remember to wear clean socks and underwear every day.
Making bath time fun
Now that we’ve covered how often kids should take baths, here are some strategies that hopefully will make it easier to actually get them in the tub:
- For young kids, having a favorite toy handy can help, as well as doing a story time. There are also fun decals that can stick to the tub, along with crayons and paints.
- One word: bubbles. But go easy on the amount and rinse off well to avoid a chemical irritation that can mimic bladder infections.
- Designate some free time when kids can splash and play with the water. Hey, that’s what towels are for, right?
Baths are one of those topics — and parents deal with many — that everybody seems to have an opinion about. But with the right information, you can make the choice that works best for your child.
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin has primary care offices throughout southeast Wisconsin, including an office in Cedarburg. Find a pediatrician near you.
Learn more about Boyd Miller, MD.