Splish, Splash... Bathroom Safety Basics

Baby proofing bath time safety tips for kids 

It’s always frightening to think about the worst possible scenarios for our precious little monsters. But knowledge is power and sometimes even the smallest tip can prevent injury or save a life.

Every year, thousands of children receive emergency treatment for bathtub and shower related injuries, and many of these injuries can be prevented. 

The hands down simplest way to avoid bathroom injuries is to make this room off limits unless your child is with an adult. Because bathtime is an essential part of the day, let's get the safety parts down easy so we can focus on those squeals of joy as we dodge an inbound bubble splashfest coming our way (or is that just my dude?). 

DROWNING: Every year, we read about parents who leave children unattended in the tub “for a few short minutes” and come back to find them unconscious…or even worse. All it takes is 1 inch of water and you have a drowning hazard. I was shocked to discover that downing is the #1 cause of injury-related death in infants 1 – 4 years old. The good news is that it’s relatively easy to keep bath time safe and fun with the following tips:

  1. There should always be an adult present at bath time for children younger than 6 years old, even when filling the tub.

  2. Always use the smallest and most shallow amount of water possible when bathing your child (bonus water conservation for California parents).

  3. If you have to leave the bathroom, take your child with you (yes it’s annoying, but grab that towel and do it anyway).

  4. Older siblings bathing with younger ones should not be put in charge of younger children’s safety…or their haircuts (I’m just sayin’).

  5. Always keep a hand on your baby while bathing them to help prevent a slip or fall, and to ensure their face doesn’t slip underwater.

  6. Keep all bathing equipment – like sponges, soaps, towels– nearby and within arm’s reach so you don’t need to let go of your child or turn your back to retrieve those supplies.

  7. Toilet seat locks don't only prevent little fingers in the toilet bowl (...ew!) they help prevent unstable tip-overs into the toilet.

  8. When you are done with bath time, make sure to fully drain the tub and never leave still standing water in the tub when it is not in use.

Baby Proofing Tip: If you have installed a lock on the bathroom door, make sure that it can be unlocked from the outside in case your Houdini gets locked inside without you.

SLIPS, FALLS & BONKS: A wet tub or wet tile floor can be extremely slippery. Place a non-slip mat or appliques at the bottom of the tub and keep bath mats on the bathroom floor to prevent post-bath breakaways going to splatzville.

Encourage your child to stay seated during bath time by providing toys and reinforcing that standing is not appropriate.  We keep an “Up and Out” policy for my son: if he stands up, bath time is over. Clearly this only works when your child LOVES bath time. I highly recommend investing in a faucet cover to protect your child’s head during a squirm sesh – believe me these will happen and it has saved my little guy from many a goose egg.  

BURNS: Burns from scalding water cause a significant amount of bathroom injuries each year. Children under 5 years of age are at particular risk because their skin is about 30% thinner than an adult’s, so it's more sensitive. Simple temperature measurers or Anti-Scald Devices can be added to the faucet - I'm a fan of thermochromic options that change colors when it's too hot.  Even with these gadgets, always test the water before placing your mini in the tub.

Even for older kiddos, have your child take a bath instead of a shower. Why? Because shower temperature is harder to control and can suddenly change (think flushing toilets), burning the skin before your little one can move out of the water stream.

Burns can also happen by brushing up against the faucet while it’s hot – yet another reason to cover the spout. Teach your child not to touch it, and when she’s old enough, teach her to start the cold water before the hot.

Baby Proofing Tip: Keep your water heater set to no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit or 48.9 degrees Celsius. No, you won’t be able to take that piping hot bath anymore but do you even have time for such luxuriating these days? N-to-the-O. Sigh.

CLIMBING: As kids become mobile, any surface becomes a potential place to crawl, walk or climb (toddler parkour is a thing people). Toilets are no exception. Be sure toilets are safely and securely bolted to the floor and do not slide, rock, or tilt with weight transfer.

Keep the tank cover on at all times (are people leaving it off?!) and be sure it is firmly secured in place. A tank cover that slips and falls on a toddler is heavy enough to cause serious injury.

If your kid climbs onto the toilet, she may then try to climb up higher onto towel racks, counter tops or tub rims, where falls can be extremely dangerous. Move towel racks and other wall fixtures so they are out of a child’s reach. This will not only prevent children from trying to climb or hang off them, but will keep them out of the way if your child does trip and fall, removing the opportunity for head injuries or cuts.

CHEMICALS: Access to harmful, toxic chemicals either through cleaning agents or medicines is one of the worst scenarios for little kiddos.  The best way to keep the bathroom safe is to make sure that any toxic item is relocated to a high and preferably locked location that’s out of your child’s reach, like an overhead cabinet or shelf (we keep the nastiest stuff in our detached garage on a top shelf).  Cabinet locks can also be used but many parents have stories of their latches failing them over the years. So although it may be an inconvenience to not have that bleach at arms’ reach, it’s worth it to keep your little safe. As a pediatrician told me, the effort is minimal but the benefit is infinite. Word.

We did it! We got through talking about some of the worst “scaries” in the land. Phew. Now go forth and get those duckies a squeekin’ to make bath time the good, clean fun it should be! Be sure to follow Proofed on Facebook at www.facebook.com/proofedsafety for regular bite-sized baby proofing tips to make life easier.