Wading pools, wonderful summer activity

A wading pool or a plastic bath outside can be a wonderful activity for children who are too little to be playing in a pool or the beachside, or for times when we are unable to have the luxury of the beach, pool or lake nearby. Treat it in a similar way to bathing your infant but with the emphasis being on having fun rather than getting clean. No need for soap, allow your little one to play.

Auditory babies will love splashing in time to your singing, singing along in their own way, of oohhh’s and ahh’s or banging on the sides of the bath with a play toy. They will love listening to the sound of the water as it falls from measuring cups or bath toys. They don’t like getting their head wet so it is not unusual for them to prefer standing and splashing with their feet rather than their hands. When they are sitting down, take advantage of this time to participate in baby talk, you will be able to hear the beginnings of conversations, as they babble back to you trying to copy your sounds.

Taste and smell babies find even the simplest transitions difficult so try to keep the experience serene. Often this sense finds a pool outside a novelty and it can be just the thing to sooth their itchy skin from hot weather. They will also like the floating like sensation, so hold them carefully and let them feel the water beneath them. Adding a few drop of oil can also help, not only to help their skin but also to add a pleasant fragrance. Taste and smell children will often prefer washing outside to a bath indoors as they feel more included family wise and also their sensitive nose doesn’t have to contend with the many smells and fragrances found in a usual bathroom

You will need to hold on extra tight, as tactile babies wriggle around a lot, and it’s essential that you take extra care when it comes to safety. Expect a fair amount of water to go astray, as they squeal, splash, and kick so keep a number of towels handy. They will enthusiastically kick their legs, push against the sides of the pool and explore the floaty, wet world around them. They will have a wonderful time matching their vocalizations to their physical world, an “ahh” with a kick or “bababa” with a hand splash. As they get older, the simple act of getting in and out will be enough to keep them entertained for some time.

Make sure to place your visual baby in a position to always be facing you. They find comfort in “seeing” you there. They will be fascinated with the water, a substance they can see through, and also with bubbles and brightly colored play toys, such as colored cups, sponges and floating toys. They will happily play for ages looking at the water, their hands and feet through the water and also enjoy feeling cool and refreshed. Keep the wading pool or baby bath in an area that has activity, outside under a tree, or on the terrace would be good as this provides stimulating visual appeal. Obviously make sure you are next to them at all times.

Follow the usual rules for young children and water. They will need your vigilance in a wading pool, just as much as when in a bath. Keep the pool in the shade and make sure you follow the usual tips on sunscreen, hats etc. Keep bath mats and towels handy, not just for drying but also to prevent falls from a forgotten splash, and most of all have fun!


Priscilla Dunstan is a behavioral researcher and creator of the Dunstan Baby Language and author of “Child Sense” and “Calm the Crying.” She currently works in New York as a behavioral consultant.

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