Bath Time - Supporting Your Child's Development

School is back and that means the crazy mornings and afternoons have only just begun. Unfortunately, this can often result in very little spare time to engage in our recommended occupational therapy home practice. But if there is one thing we do everyday of the week, that is bath time. It is amazing how easy it can be to include our home practice into everyday activities, without needing to purchase fancy and expensive therapy equipment!

Activity ideas

Washing can be a great opportunity to develop midline crossing, joint flexibility, muscle strengthening and body awareness:

  • Using one hand to wash the opposite side of the body and vice versa. This could include holding the soap, a flannel or sponge.
  • When sitting in the bath, have the child reach forward to wash their legs, feet and toes.
  • Squeezing in the bubble mixture. If a dispenser, using one finger to push down.
  • Tip: Place a mirror on the wall near the bath (if possible). It would need to be at a height that the child could see themselves when sitting in the bath.

Play time can be a great opportunity to develop refined finger movements, hand strength and midline crossing:

  • Play with squeezy or squirty toys.
    • For a challenge, have your child practice squeezing with their thumb and index finger (whilst tucking away the remaining fingers).
    • For more fun, you could line up items or toys to knock down when squirting out water from the toy.
  • Moving toys with one hand to the opposite side of the bath.

Clean up can be a great way to encourage finger strengthening and bilateral coordination:

  • Have the child remove the pug using a refined grasp (i.e. a pincer grasp).
  • Rinsing out the flannel or sponge used during bath time.

Drying can be a great way to develop balance, midline crossing, flexibility and body awareness:

  • Standing on one leg to dry the other leg and foot.
    • Please ensure the child is standing on a safe/dry surface when attempting and they have stand-by adult support. It is recommended that the child complete this task in the bedroom rather than bathroom, as they are needing to be a safe distance away from surrounding objects should they fall. A carpeted surface is highly recommended.
  • Have the child sit on the mat and reach forward to dry their legs, feet and toes.
  • Have the child dry themselves/or be assisted with drying in front of a full-sized mirror.

Term definitions

  • Body awareness: awareness of where one’s body and parts are positioned in space.
  • Midline crossing: the ability to move across the invisible line in the centre of our body using our arms, legs and eyes. Midline crossing ensures that both sides of the brain are communicating and able to work together. This skill is necessary in order for both sides of the body to work together in a coordinated manner (i.e. our arms and legs), for our reading skills to develop, but also for those more higher-level thinking skills to develop.
  • Bilateral skills: the ability to effectively coordinate both sides of the body together. This skill is necessary in order to complete all activities of daily living. For example dressing, eating, writing and playing (just to name a few).
  • Upper limb strength: the overall strength and stability of the muscles and joints of the upper limb. For example, the shoulders, elbows, forearms, wrists, hands and fingers. Strength and stability of these structures is essential in order to hold the hand steady during more fine motor tasks, but also to hold and manipulate items. For example, opening doors, carrying objects, holding cutlery and using pencils (just to name a few).
  • Balance: the ability for one to maintain their stance during both static (still) and dynamic (moving) activities. This is essential in order to engage in a range of self-care or dressing related tasks; but it is also important when attempting to achieve controlled and coordinated motor actions.
  • Flexibility: an appropriate range of motion in each of the body’s joints. This is essential in order to engage in a range of self-care tasks with ease and without pain. For example, reaching down to put on pants, socks and shoes (just to name a few).

Tips!

Each night could include a focus one aspect of the bath time process – that way the child and supporting adult is not becoming overwhelmed trying to include each of these activity ideas.

Through completing these activity ideas in the bath time, this will increase the amount of repetitions you are receiving during the week – but best of all your child will not even realise they are doing “homework” because they are merely having a bath.

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