For folks who don’t have kids, the word bath may conjure serene images of candles, solitude and fancy oils recommended by clean-seeming celebrities. For moms, bathtime can be the stuff of nightmares—a source of screaming conflict and floors so soaked, the living room ceiling buckles. (Is it really that bad if he still has grime under his nails from Monday’s T-ball game…on Thursday?) But because children must actually be cleaned from time to time, here are some toys and techniques to make bath time lots of fun—we swear on Ernie.

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Invest in a Visor

Despite medicine cabinets bursting with no-tears formulas, shampoo in their eyes is still a leading cause of bath-time freak-outs. A visor and a nearby dry washcloth to wipe suds from their faces are your best defense against eye-related insanity.

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Drop in Out-of-the Box Toys

Glow bracelets, shaving cream, colored foam soap, bath crayons—any type of sensory play can add novelty to the nightly routine. 

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Next. Level. Bubbles.

Colored tablets + your favorite bubble bath = awesome rainbow bubbles. (But it’s probably best to wait on this one until they get over that whole “drinking the bathwater” habit.)

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Switch Up the Time

For some families, a soothing bath after dinner is the perfect way to kick off the bedtime ritual. But trying to wash an already bath-averse child who’s also exhausted at the end of a long day? Kid-saster. There’s no law against bathing a toddler in the morning or a kindergartener right after school.

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Start Slowly

If your kid has intense anxiety about getting into the tub, make it a gradual process. Give him a sponge bath for three nights, then a sponge bath in an empty tub for three more, then add just an inch of water, and so on. Give him a sense of control by letting him pick out his wash cloth and bath toys. Within a few weeks, he’ll be calmer—and hopefully, cleaner.

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