So how will you choose the best baby bathtub? Brand? Appealing Design? Foldability? Price?
These things may be important to you but have you thought about what matters most to your baby? Babies LOVE to move and play in the water and that involves many things: splashing for sure but also standing up, playing with toys or other objects, throwing them around and all sorts of other play. All of this isn’t just goofing off either. It really matters. It’s all part of how they learn about themselves, water, what it means to be in water and how to become masters of their own experience.
The problem with this is that baby bathtubs are all designed to keep your baby fixed, in one seated position. In fact if your baby does manage to stand up, these bathtubs actually become dangerous slip and trip hazards. For this reason they all instruct you to keep your baby seated which quite often becomes a difficult point of contention between you and your baby (And do you really need more difficulty or contention?)
I believe that the best solution comes by understanding and trying to optimize around each issue separately: Standing, Falling, Water Play, Bathroom Safety and finally, the Baby’s Bathtub.
Standing up is a normal and important part of development. It combines the baby’s desire to raise themself to their highest possible position along with abilities in strength, coordination and balance – all of which have been developing from their very first few weeks. Standing up is innately human and babies naturally (and forcefully!) reject attempts to prevent them from standing. For these reasons we should find ways to allow standing up whenever the baby desires it.
Should we try to prevent falling? Falling is a natural and necessary part of learning how to balance oneself and is part of how we learn to sit up, stand, walk and run. Without falling, babies can not master any of these things. Watch how babies normally fall when trying to stand. Most of the time they simply fall back onto their bottoms or forward onto their hands. We believe that if we want to support standing we must support safe falling.
Babies thrive on dynamic, repetitive play. Bathtime is highly repetitive since it is a regularly recurring routine (unlike discretionary activities like going to an outdoor pool or beach). Repetition allows babies to retest and reinforce the results of previous experiments. Play is well known to be at the core of infant learning. Playing in dynamic mediums such as water and sand adds other dimensions to regular play.
Lets look at some of the benefits of water play:
- Engages all the senses in an immersive experience that encourages curiosity, attention, focus, self-regulation and independence.
- Develops motor skills such as hand-eye coordination, balance, reach and control
- Introduces physical and dimensional concepts such as volume, weight, quantity, buoyancy, slipperiness, resistance, reflection, refraction and temperature.
- It’s calming and fun!
Consider how a baby experiences a modern bathroom. Almost everything is hard, smooth and slippery when wet. Bathtub walls are too smooth and wide at the top to be easily grasped by a baby’s hand, and the bottoms often have exaggerated curves that can cause a slip if stepped on. To babies who are still acquiring balance, awareness and judgement abilities, this strange and unnatural environment is just dangerous.
Every year in the US over 30,000 babies visit the emergency rooms because of bathroom slips, trips and falls. Most of these are injuries to the head, neck and face. Who knows how many babies get hurt without going to the ER?
The Baby Bathtub
Given the facts above, it’s clear that standing up in the bath is dangerous. But if we don’t let them, then we are stuck in the difficult and frustrating position of trying to prevent what Mother Nature is encouraging. Additionally, how is a baby supposed to learn bath competency unless they are able to move around while bathing? By keeping them seated, are we just delaying accidents until they are older? This is where we believe the baby bathtub can play an important role: Support the three elements (standing, falling and water play) while safely adapting to the dangerous bathroom environment.
How did we get here?
When my boy was one year old, I realized that preventing his standing and playing in the bath or shower was unworkable advice. I set out to address what I saw as the real problem which was that the baby bathtubs themselves aren’t designed to deal with active, moving babies. The walls are too low and the interiors of these products are excessively sloped and/or filled with bumps and wells that are intended to prevent babies from doing what comes naturally to them. This passive restriction leads to frustration, twisting, kicking, rolling and pushing. Once that happens, they are in danger of falling out and hitting hard tile, the tub or a faucet.
I decided to make a kind of “playpen” for the bath of shower. Playpens sometimes get a bad rap but in this case, they make perfect sense.
Below is a picture of my son in the first prototype. I made it using plastic pipe and fittings and a plastic storage bin. It worked pretty darn well. Before this I tried using a laundry basket but that didn’t work – too flimsy, too low and sharp edges around the cutouts. I learned that something made for carrying a few pounds of clothes does not work for an active, energetic, growing human being.
This is what it looks like now:
And there’s still two other stages for babies who are lying down and for those who are learning to sit up.
If you would like the plans to make a similar prototype using plastic pipes or even to just discuss your own ideas for solving the problem, feel free to send me an email.
For more information about The Stand and Play Bathtub visit: https://youbebaby.com/
Please share this article with anyone you know who may be dealing with this problem!