Matching Craft Stick Shapes

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In addition to making for a great learning activity, foam craft sticks are also a fantastic tub toy! You can tailor this game for toddlers up to elementary school kids.

Ahead of time, I labeled various craft sticks with the names of shapes, as well as the symbol of that shape. Make sure you have enough of each to actually form that shape So for example you’ll need 3 labeled craft sticks for a triangle and 4 for a square.

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At bath time, at first I simply tossed in all the sticks! Elementary school kids can hunt them down, finding the name or symbol of each shape and then forming it on the tub wall.

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For Veronika as a toddler, obviously I had to guide her through the activity. We looked at each craft stick and I asked her what shape she saw. Then I guided her hands to build them against the wall.

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At first she was more interested in the colors of the sticks. But once she saw the shapes take, well, shape, she began naming them with interest. “Rectangle!” she chirped.

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We went up as high as a pentagon, which was a new shape for her vocabulary, but she soon start saying, “Let’s make a pentagon.”

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Both Veronika and big brother Travis loved seeing if we could make a circle, using enough craft sticks.

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And after that, the extra craft sticks are just gloriously fun in the bath.

Art Station in the Tub

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I’ve seen a lot of cute “art stations” set up in playrooms and bedrooms, but when I read about setting one up for kids in the bathtub I thought it sounded like a neat alternative. After all, there’s no where better to make a mess than the exact place where you’re going to clean off.

Oddly, I couldn’t find inspirational images of what to include in our tub art station when I searched online, so I sort of just rigged this together. I filled an art caddy with a few water-friendly “art” activities. We had all-natural bath crayons, a “soap fluff” that I thought the kids might enjoy smearing on the walls (or their bodies!), and a little set of animals with washable markers.

The fluff, it turned out, didn’t interest them at all.

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The crayons received lots of attention. I had laid down scrap paper to scribble on, but of course the tub itself was fun to draw on, too.

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The biggest hit turned out to be those silly animals and markers. Once the kids had covered the animals with color, we drew a bath and used water to “scrub” them clean.

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What would you include in a bathtub art station? Please share in the comments!

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Colored Ice Cube Bath

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Veronika has loved playing with ice this summer, so tonight we brought the fun inside. If she thought ice melted fast on the patio, just wait until she saw how fast it would melt in the warm bath tub!

To make everything more fun (plus more obvious visually), I froze water in the compartments of an ice cube tray with a little food coloring added to each. Dark colors like reds and blues will work better here than soft yellow.

Once Veronika was in the tub, I popped out the ice cubes one at a time. Be prepared for fast action, because that ice isn’t going to last long!

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She loved watching the food coloring swirl out into the tub as the ice melted almost instantly. She also enjoyed taking the cubes from my hand, a momentary shocking sensation of cold.

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When we had about half the ice cube tray left, I dumped them all in at once for a grand finale. This game was – obviously! – quick, but made for a joyful end to a hot day.

Doll Washing

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Veronika loves to mother her baby dolls, and frets intensely whenever one gets dirty (a spot of glue, dirt from outside, etc.). So I’ve wanted to give her a chance to wash her dolls in a “bath” for a while now, but all of the ones we own have soft cloth bodies.

When I spotted a tiny all-plastic doll at the toy store, I knew it would be worth the purchase. Sure enough, Veronika wanted to carry”new baby” around all day, and that was before I even trotted out the big surprise. It was New Baby’s bath time!

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I set out a basin of shallow soapy water (use baby shampoo for a tear-free activity), along with a small cloth, a bath toy, a cup for pouring, and some pretend creams and lotion. (Note: Depending on your toddler’s age, feel free to provide real baby powder or lotions for the game).

New Baby was ready for her bath! Veronika so lovingly and carefully attended to this task. She scrubbed New Baby with the cloth, poured water over her head (“shampoo!”), made her jump and splash in the water, and more.

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Midway through the bath, New Baby needed a sip of milk, of course!

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I also used the opportunity to name all of the doll’s body parts, including less common ones like wrists, ankles, and elbows. Mostly, though, I sat back and let Veronika dictate the way that bath time would go.

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Your child can learn so much from this game, whether the above-mentioned body part vocab, the mechanics of washing, and social/emotional learning as well.

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Plus water is fun to splash with!

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When she seemed about to tire of the game, I declared it was time for the doll to get “warm and dry”, which is exactly what I say to her when she needs to towel off. She was so proud to handle this task.

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Take a look at the hug and snuggle that followed! This is exactly how I carry her to warm up after a bath, and it pretty much made my heart explode.

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Sponge Bath

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Veronika recently painted with sponges, and since we had leftovers from the pack, we decided to continue the fun in the water!

A sponge is the perfect cheap toddler bath toy. First there’s the obvious fact that it’s, well, a sponge! It will hold a large amount of water and toddlers love squeezing them out. Veronika delighted in the squishy sound that it made whenever she did this, as well as the bubbles that foamed up if she squeezed them under water.

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Then there’s the fact that they stick to the side of the tub. It’s almost like playing with big wet stickers!

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Plus sponges play right into your toddler’s love of cleaning. My tub was sparkly clean by the end of Veronika’s bath!

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For learning fun, cut the sponges into shapes before adding them to the tub. It can be a bit tough to cut into thick sponges, but luckily Veronika didn’t mind that my circle and heart were a little crooked.

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We also talked briefly about the different colors, but honestly I mostly sat back and let her play! An extra long bath never hurts.

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Michelangelo’s Bathroom

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Just as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is designed to make grown-ups look up, here’s a trick to tilt up your little one’s head! This little “art” project can help your child tip his or her head up during hair washing if they are otherwise fearful or reluctant to do so. It works like a charm!

You can cut up any pictures for the project, including old magazines or even old calendar pages. We had an old book of nursery rhymes that’s become tattered over the years, but I love the illustrations. So I snipped out a few, and began to tape them to the tub walls.

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I deliberately chose images of Veronika’s favorite things, including cats, chickens, and stars.

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And she has some unexpected favorites, like umbrellas!

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She loved watching as I hung the pictures, oohing and aahing as if she were in an art gallery. Come bath time, I was so pleased when my trick worked. “Where is the sheep?” I asked. Her little neck craned up, and water poured over her head without any getting in her eyes.

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Success! I intend to mix up the pictures on occasion so our “art show” stays fresh.

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Ping-Pong Pop Up Bath

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The kids have just started to take a bath together, a big milestone around here now that Veronika is okay to sit in deeper water. This bath game is one that a toddler and kindergartner will both love!

Simply fill the tub, add soft ping-pong balls (or golf balls), and watch them pop up! No matter how the kids pushed, the balls always popped back to the surface.

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This is pure simple fun. Push it down…

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…watch it pop up!

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We tried it with one ball at a time, or with multiples, which got a big laugh.

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Veronika also discovered she could put them in our rinsing cup and pour them out. The balls might have bobbed below the surface for a moment, but they always popped right back up again!

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Consider this game any night you want to make bath time feel special with almost no effort.

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Homemade Bath Shapes

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Here’s a fun variation on foam sheers in the tub that Veronika has enjoyed lately at bath time.

This time, I used cookie cutters to trace shapes that are becoming identifiable to her, including stars, moons, basic shapes like circles, and a few fun ones like bells.

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I cut them out and then lined them up on the bathtub walls so she could see how they stuck right to the tub. She loved taking them off and on again.

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The star was a fast favorite. With no prompting, she held it up high every time I sang the “up above the world so high” line of Twinkle, Twinkle!

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The moon likewise received big smiles when I recited a favorite poem about the moon.

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This was a great way to combine tub fun with object recognition as your toddler begins adding more and more words to his or her vocabulary.

Toys Play Hide and Seek

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Veronika is old enough now to enjoy games of hide and seek. Tonight, I put a fun spin on the game by taking it to the water!

Toss a variety of container lids into the tub at bath time. Ideally these would all be opaque with an older toddler, but with my one-year-old I didn’t worry that some were see-through. The lids themselves are half the fun of the game, since they will make excellent bath toys.

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While she was watching, I put a rubber frog under one of the lids.

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“Where’s frog?” I asked. She didn’t get it at first, reaching around for other lids. But I showed her how to lift the correct lid and declared, “There’s frog!”

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Now she was interested. I hid him under another lid, and this time she proudly looked around, then reached under.

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There’s frog!

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Needless to say, the lids and frogs made for a great bath time.

Unwrap

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Now that Veronika is old enough to understand a good surprise, this little bath time game was a big hit. It’s as simple as this: I showed her a toy, and then wrapped it up in her washcloth.

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Where did owl go?

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She eagerly grabbed at the cloth and figured out how to work her way through the layers to the owl. She looked quite pleased, although she may have enjoyed the washcloth “prize” a bit more!

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As she turned her attention to a little foam bear, I pulled that one aside and made sure she saw it go into the washcloth next.

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I wrapped him up… and she got to “unwrap” a present!

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If you prefer a dry version of this game, babies love unwrapping their toys from wrapping paper or tissue paper. What’s old is instantly new again! Who says presents are just for birthdays?