At some point, your child will decide that she wants to keep her naked body covered in the presence of others, including you. If you've taken responsibility for bathing your child up until that point, you might be worried that she's too young to be alone in the bathtub. Because 791,200 children were treated in emergency rooms between 1990 and 2007 for injuries related to a bathtub or shower, it's essential to wait until the time is right to allow your child to bathe alone.
Children are fully capable of bathing themselves after the age of 8, according to Vicky R. Bowden and Cindy Smith Greenberg, authors of "Children and Their Families: The Continuum of Care." You might allow a 6- or 7-year old to shower or bathe alone if she's uncomfortable being naked in front of you or if she is mature for her age and can handle the responsibility. Children under the age of 6 should never be left in a bath or shower alone. Babies and toddlers need an adult within arms reach at all times to prevent falls, slips and drowning. Preschool children can help you wash their bodies, but shouldn't be unsupervised while bathing.
Signs of Readiness
Aside from being uncomfortable undressing in front of you, there are other signs to look for to determine if your child is ready to take a bath or a shower alone. If he's able to step in out of the tub carefully and if he stays seating while taking a bath, he's probably responsible enough to give it a try on his own. You'll also want to consider whether your child is capable of getting himself clean. If he's never washed his own hair or scrubbed his own body, you should teach him how to do these things before allowing him to bathe alone.
Rules of Bathing Alone
If you've decided that your child is ready to take a bath or a shower alone, establish a set of rules before allowing her to do so. Remind her that she needs to sit in the bathtub and avoid jumping around in the shower. You might enforce a rule that the bathroom door needs to be propped open an inch or two so you can hear your child and make sure she's doing all right. You might also have a rule that you'll knock before entering, but that you reserve the right to check up on your child if you feel that you need to. Teach your child to leave the faucet alone so she doesn't accidentally turn the water too hot, as well.
Tips and Considerations
Once your child is old enough to bathe or shower alone, install nonslip strips to the bottom of the tub. These will reduce your child's risk of slipping and falling, which can lead to serious injury, according to a 2009 article published in "Pediatrics." When your child first starts taking a bath alone, you might be more comfortable sitting outside the bathroom door so you're close by if your child needs you. If your child is showering alone, you might sit on the toilet to monitor him until he's done. Gradually give your child more responsibility and independence as you get more comfortable with it and and as he needs more privacy. You should also set the maximum temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, or install an anti-scald device so the water cannot accidentally burn your child ifhe should turn it on.
- The Sex-Wise Parent; Janet Rosenzweig
- Children and Their Families: The Continuum of Care; Vicky R. Bowden andCindy Smith Greenberg
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Policy Statement -- Prevention of Drowning
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Injuries Associated With Bathtubs and Showers Among Children in the United States
- Consumer Product Safety Commission: Bathtub Basics: NEVER Leave Baby
- Safe Kids USA: The Safest Setting for Home Hot Water Heaters
- Photo Credit Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images