Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Building Language In The Bathtub

Bathtubs can be a wonderful place to build language! Why? Because one of the most powerful ways to build language is inside of routines, especially those routines that occur on a daily basis.  What's more, many children love bath time! The only thing better for language than a routine is a routine that children truly love.  As a bonus, bath time is something that is already built into the day - no need to buy any new toys or find time to sit on the floor and play. As parents, we can create many teachable moments inside something we are already doing, almost every day. Here's how.

During baths:
  • Use self talk and parallel talk to describe what your child is doing or seeing.  Label each part of the routine, each night you take a bath.  Water on. Shirt off. Pants off. Socks off! Climb in tub. Water off! Wash toes. Wash tummy.  Get out. Dry, dry, dry! Dry hair. Dry tummy. Dry toes. Bye water! Water's going down.  Water's all gone.  Diaper on. Pjs on. All done!
  • Every once in a while, interrupt the routine. Stop and simply wait! See what your child does. She might verbalize the next step of the routine.
  • Model first words with easy developing sounds (p, b, t, d, m, n, h, w) as well as nouns, simple actions, and simple concepts (on, off, up, down).   Some of the words you might choose to model during bath time include: bath, water, off, on, in, out, up, wash, bubble, soap, pour, wet, nose, eyes, toes, knees, ears, go, brrr, dry, beep beep, boat, (while playing with boats or cars that float!), tummy, bye (while boats float away or toys sink to the bottom), more, two, done, tea, mmm & nummy, (while pretending to have a tea party in the tub!), milk, hot (when the tea you drink is too hot!), and eat (while eating the crackers that come with your tea). 
  •  Pair actions with words as you model the words.  Model "wash wash wash" as you scrub her little body with a washcloth.  Give her a baby to wash and a washcloth, too!  Model "go go go" as you send a boat skimming across the water.  Line up pretend animals on the edge of the tub and have them jump in one by one; say "in" each time an animal jumps in.  Say "splash, splash, splash" as you splash the water with your little girl.  Say "pour pour pour" as you and little boy pour water in and out of cups.  Children are much more likely to imitate a word if it is paired with an action!
  • Use expansion and extension to respond to what your child says. 
    • If he says, "wash," you say, "wash toes!"
    • If he says "water" you say "more water" 
    • If she says "bath," you say "in bath"
    • If she says "boat" you say "go boat go!"
  • Create communication temptations to create teachable moments in the bath.  Run a little water and then wait. Or, give her just one toy and then wait. Or blow bubbles (in our house, I love to blow bubbles in the tub! Much less mess that way) and wait.  Or create a silly game in the bath, such as pouring water on her toes.  Then, just as you are about to take another turn, wait.  Remember to wait! As soon as your child shows you she wants more of whatever you were doing, model a higher level response than what she used.  If she uses a gesture, you interpret her gesture with one word. If she uses one word, you model two. If she uses three words, model a longer, more grammatically correct sentence. Encourage her to imitate you and then carry on with the fun.
  • Structure your phrases carefully to encourage the use of early developing  two-word phrases. To do this, I often pick one word in the two-word phrase to remain the same, while the other word changes.  Then, I create an activity to match.  You can do the same! Say, for example, you want your little one to use more "person + action" two-word phrases.  You might line little animals up on the edge of the tub and command them to jump in, one at a time. Dog jump! (And the dog "jumps" in the water with a big splash). Cow jump! (And the cow does the same). Do the first few and then pause just before you have the next animal jump in. Your child might just follow your lead and come up with her own two-word phrase!
  • While using communication temptations, offer choices as a way to build her language. If she says, "water" to request more water, ask her if she wants "hot water or cold water?" When she giggles and requests more water poured on her body, ask her, "on toes or on knee?"  As you wash up her little body, make a point of putting soap on each part of her body.  When she asks for more, ask "soap on knees" or "soap on tummy?" Create fun, create a communication temptations, and then create a choice!
And most importantly, have fun and enjoy the moments with your little one.  Building language is fun, but building memories is priceless. :)


  1. Just Thank You very much for taking the time to write this for us!

  2. I have a blog post in draft that is extremly similar to this post! Instead of posting mine I can just share yours! I 100% agree with the importance of using everyday activities.