Ah, the joyous sounds of children’s laughter echoing off tiled walls. It must be bath time! Happy giggles, accompanied by the sound of half the tub’s contents sloshing onto the floor.
As your child gets older, it’s tempting to take a quick break from supervising their aquatic adventures to check on dinner, fold laundry, or take a phone call. When is it really safe to leave children unattended in the bath?
Probably not as soon as you think, says WebMD Guest Expert Tanya Altmann, MD. In WebMD’s online discussion about Healthy Family Routines, Altmann warns parents not to leave children alone in the tub until they are 8 or 9 years old. In just a few minutes, a child can silently drown in only a few inches of water, she says.
Toddlers can be taught to start cleaning themselves, using liquid soap. Teach them to help you rinse shampoo from their hair by closing their eyes and counting to three while you rinse. By 6, Altmann says kids can wash their hair and body without help, but should still have a parent close by for safety.
Several moms agree with Dr. Altmann’s age limits, saying that they too would not feel comfortable leaving their children alone in the bathroom any younger than 8. One mom noted that even at that age, she stayed close by. Because the children’s bathroom is near the kitchen, she reads in the kitchen so she can quickly check on her child.
Another mom notes that her five kids’ bathtub independence varied with each child. The older ones were more ready to bathe alone at a younger age than the younger two.
Atlanta pediatrician Roy Benaroch, MD, noted that he allows his youngest child, age 6, to bathe alone -- with parents nearby, but not in the room. “We encourage her to be independent and do the cleaning herself. No, it's not perfect cleaning, but that's OK with me.” He recommends setting the hot water maximum at 120 to prevent unintentional scalding. Another mother shared his views, saying that her 7-year-old bathes solo with no difficulty. Mom leaves the door open and checks in frequently.
Do you let your young children bathe alone? How young is “too young” in your household?