Bathing Alone: How Old Does Your Child Need to Be?

I was a bit shocked when a simple comment about picking up toys in the hall while my toddlers bathed sparked numerous child neglect comments. My kids are 2 and 3, and I was within visual distance. Many parents threw up the old information that, “a child can drown in an inch of water,” and claimed I should have been within arm’s reach of my toddlers while in the tub. Others supported me, saying they do the same thing all the time. What the discussion boiled down to, was an answer to a simple question…

How young is too young to be alone in the tub?

You’ll get a different answer depending on who you ask. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not leaving children under 4 unattended in the tub. The U.S National Library of Medicine, however, has a publication on bathroom safety that says children under 6 should not be left unattended in the tub. A poll on my Facebook page for parents produced answers everywhere from age 2 to 10. Then you have to consider that the guidelines presented only state a child should not be unattended, what constitutes as “attended” exactly? Within reach? Within sight? Within ear shot?

A mom’s opinion:

Clearly, the very inspiration for this article suggests that parental opinions will vary, but here is my opinion as a mom of two kids with rather extensive childcare experience outside of that.

Children younger than 1: Never out of arm’s reach.

Children between ages 1 and 3: Within visual range, unless the child doesn’t sit up well, has a habit of slipping, playing with knobs, or has a health condition which may dramatically increase bathing danger.

Children between ages 4-6: Within close hearing distance with the door open and frequent visual checks, though parental discretion is advised. You know your child. No one is a better judge than you as to what your child can and can’t do safely.

Children ages 6 and up: Listening is still recommended for kids on the younger side, but the door may be closed. Many kids begin to want to bath alone somewhere around this age as they realize privacy.

In any case, swimming lessons can help children better understand water safety as well as how to hold their breath should they slip in the tub and go under. All parents should know both infant and child CPR and first aid.

What age did you let your kids bathe alone?

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