Bathtime can be filled with sweet moments (oh, the slicked-back hair!) and stressful ones (slippery floors, crying toddlers, etc.) Whatever the vibe tub time takes, bath safety is paramount for all kids and caregivers.

New parents might be concerned with how to give their infant a bath and be curious about the best bath toys to make the experience more fun. Parents of older children might be wondering when their kiddo is ready to bathe alone or just how often the kids actually need to soap up. 

Here’s what every parent should know about bath safety. Bubbles optional (really!).

4 bath safety tips for babies and toddlers 

It can be nerve-wracking to bathe a baby, especially for first-time parents. Having an expert-approved bath routine can make things easier (and healthier) for everyone.  

1. Find a safe spot to soak

Some parents prefer bathing their little ones in the sink, while others find the appeal of a specific baby bath tub. However, Preeti Parikh, MD, pediatrician and GoodRx executive medical director, doesn’t recommend parents use an infant bath seat, which is nestled inside an adult bath tub. 

“This item, which is supposed to help an infant to sit upright in a tub, can flip backwards which can cause the child to drown,” she says. The FDA has also warned against infant neck floats, due to safety concerns.

2. Prep everything before bath time

From washcloths to skin-friendly soap to hooded towels, having everything handy means you won’t be tempted to dash out of the room to retrieve forgotten items. 

3. Be cautious with toys

Every few years an article goes viral about the danger of moldy bath toys, which means parents should be wary of what they allow in the tub. 

“Bath toys that have holes in them are most likely to have mold growing inside, which can possibly make infants sick,” says Dr. Parikh. So, try to limit the bath toys with holes in them and if you want to include toys in the bath, stick to ones that are more open and easy to dry.” 

If you see or smell mold, pull the object out of the rotation. And keep in mind that toys with pointy or hard edges can cause injuries if a child falls.

4. Lift slippery kiddos with extra care

To the new mama who is scared to pull a squirming baby out of the tub, we’re right here with you. We asked Dr. Parikh for the safest way to remove your baby or toddler from the tub.

“For a baby, you can put one hand under the head and the other on the bottom and pull the baby out of the tub before quickly wrapping the baby in a towel,” she says. “For a toddler, place both hands under the armpits and securely lift the toddler out before putting him or her into a towel.”

Bath safety checklist for kids

1. Check your home’s hot water heater

To avoid burns, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests setting your hot water heater below 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Around 100 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended for a comfortable bath, which will feel warm (not hot) on your wrist.

2. Childproof the bathroom

For bath safety, consider a slip-proof mat for inside the tub, a cover for the faucet and removing razors and other hazards from the area.

For the bathroom as a whole, parents might also want to secure the toilet lids, add more bath mats and keep medications, cleaning products and any other dangers out of reach.

Related: 20 babyproofing products to protect your little one in every room of the house

3. Ensure kiddos sit while bathing

Toddlers and young children who stand in the sudsy tub run the risk of falling, which could result in lacerations, broken bones or even head injuries. While faucet covers provide great backup, the best prevention for injury is a strict seated-only bathing policy. (As parents, we know this is easier said than done!)

4. Be choosy about soap selections 

Scented bath bombs and mountains of bubbles may create a spa-like experience, but some can cause bath safety issues for kids.

“Chemicals found in products like bubble baths can cause irritation to a child’s sensitive skin,” says Dr. Parikh. “This kind of irritation can also cause UTIs in young children. Products with a lot of glitter, fragrance and dyes are usually the ones that cause the most irritation because they have more chemicals.”

Related: Answers to questions about baby skin woes—straight from a pediatric dermatologist

5. Stay present

Whatever the distraction in the other room may be, it is not worth the potential results of leaving a child alone in or near a bathtub. Accidents happen. Drowning is the number one cause of death in children ages 1 to 4 years old, and there are 8,000 emergency room visits for nonfatal drownings each year, according to the CDC. For infants, two-thirds of drownings occur in the bathtub. 

And while the ping of a text might pull your attention away for only a second, it’s safest to have eyes on your child.

6. Always drain the tub

Once your little one is cozy in their towel, remember to pull the drain plug. An empty tub will keep other kids in the house safe, as well as your freshly-buffed babe (who might now be screaming, “Back in! Back in!”).

Answers to common bath safety questions

We asked Dr. Parikh some bath safety and hygiene questions for kids of all ages. 

Motherly: Every so often a celebrity will say they don’t bathe their children often. Do you have hygiene advice for parents who are bathing their kids less frequently?

Dr. Parikh: “How often you bathe them depends on your child’s age, how active they are and how dirty they’re getting, but generally we recommend school-aged children bathe at least once or twice a week. I would recommend that parents who are bathing their kids less frequently still make sure their kids wash their hands before meals and after using the bathroom, as well as wash their body after strenuous activities.”

Motherly: Do you have thoughts on what age kids can start to bathe alone?

Dr. Parikh: “At 6 years of age, children are typically considered ready to bathe unsupervised. However, every child is different, so I encourage parents to consult with your pediatrician if you’re unsure.” 

Motherly: How can parents prioritize their child’s body autonomy at bath time while still ensuring personal hygiene?

Dr. Parikh: “At a young age, use bathtime to teach your child how to clean certain areas and the importance of personal hygiene. You can also use a doll or figure to show how to wash different parts of the body and the importance of it.” 

Motherly: What bath safety advice do you wish more parents of older kids followed?

Dr. Parikh: “When children are old enough to bathe alone, it is important for parents to still remind them to be mindful of potential slips and falls, and be reminded to move slowly and cautiously when entering and exiting the tub. It’s also important for parents to teach their older children to turn on the cold water first before turning on the hot water, as this can help prevent burns from scalding water.”

A note from Motherly on bath safety

We know parents are managing countless tasks and, some days, we’re just trying to make it to bed time. We’re sharing these bath safety tips to keep your little ones safe, not cause more stress for you or your family. 

A version of this post was published February 8, 2023. It has been updated.

Featured Expert

Preeti Parikh, MD, is a practicing pediatrician in New York City and the executive medical director of GoodRx.