Ever since my daughter was very young, and even up to the present day, she’s been a huge fan of bath time. She would spend hours soaking and playing in the bath if I let her (and if the water didn’t get too cold).
After I realized her fondness for bath time play, I intentionally sought out educational bath toys so that her washing time could also be learning time. I especially looked for toys that would reinforce STEM early learning concepts by fostering her natural curiosity and her love of the water.
Luckily, there are now so many bath toys that also present tremendous STEM learning opportunities for children as young as 9 months old. Take a look at these great options for taking STEM learning to the bath:
SAFETY NOTE: Children exploring the water (in either small or large quantities) always require adult supervision. Never leave a young child alone while he/she is bathing and always stay within an arm’s length while the child is in the bath.
Exploring science during bath time can go in several different directions because the study of science is so broad. Kids can explore EARTH SCIENCE (which investigates the properties of the earth, ocean, and atmosphere), LIFE SCIENCE (which focuses on the study of living things), or PHYSICAL SCIENCE (which studies natural forces and the makeup of natural material). Luckily there are bath toys to explore all three of these types of scientific exploration:
For young children that are expressing curiosity about the world and its atmosphere, a good STEM bath choice is the Moluk Plui Rain Cloud Tub Toy. This toy (for children 2 and up) mimics a small cloudburst, allowing children to make connections between their play and the weather.
But the toy also allows young children to control the “rain” just by lifting their finger. The simple but appealing design of this toy engages the senses and fosters an interest in basic physics. This toy can also be used in a pool or water table, plus it’s easy to clean!
Bath time is a great time to expose children to the study of creatures that live in the water. There are lots of sea creature bath toys available, including this Ocean Sea Animal, 18 Pack Rubber Bath Toy Set.
I like this particular set because the figures look realistic and can give children the opportunity to explore the characteristics of different sea creatures. These types of toys can also spark conversations between children and caregivers about the differences between sea and land creatures.
Note: The set linked here is not recommended for children under 3.
Young children that are interested in things that GO will enjoy the Learning Resources STEM Sink or Float Activity Set. This bath set includes a colorful submarine and raft to inspire creative play. It also contains shapes of varying weights, allowing kids to predict, investigate, and observe which of the objects will sink or float. As an added bonus for caregivers, this toy comes with guided activity cards featuring more than 20 ways to use the set to teach STEM concepts. Recommended for preschoolers and older.
Technology learning (meaning using tools and developing fine and gross motor skills) can easily take place in the bath. There are many bath toys that utilize “tools” which allow children to practice fine motor control, develop better hand-eye coordination, and understand how man-made instruments can help people solve problems or accomplish tasks.
The Boon Company makes several such toys, including the Cast Fishing Pole Bath Toy (for children 18 months and older) and the Water BUGS Floating Bath Toys with Net (for children 9 months and older).
These simple but well-designed sets come with tools to help children accomplish straightforward, but fun and engaging tasks.
The BUGS set allows kids to use a wide net to catch three different insects and encourages an early appreciation for entomology.
With both sets of “tools”, young children will work on developing spatial awareness, depth perception, and fine motor development.
One of the best ways young children can explore engineering and design is through playing with blocks. In fact, research shows that children’s block play is directly linked to math competence and an interest in STEM careers later in life.
And this beneficial play doesn’t have to stop with bath time!
The BathBlocks Stem Discovery Blocks Bathtub Toy allows young children (3 and older) to take their design skills to the water. These floating blocks bring the creativity and possibility of block play to an exciting new environment. Plus, the movement of the water upon the blocks can create conversations about flow, buoyancy, density, balance, and force. The blocks are also bacteria and mildew resistant and are made without PVC or phthalates.
For toddlers learning shape recognition, Learning Resources makes these great Shape Shell Turtles for children 2 and older. Each of the 8 turtles comes with a removable shell featuring a shape (moon, star, cross, circle, square, rectangle, triangle and oval). Children then pair each turtle to its appropriate shell. The puzzle-like pieces give children the opportunity to work on matching, shape recognition, and counting skills. The set also comes with a mesh storage bag and all the pieces are mold resistant.
Another option, which is also a matching activity, is this 12-Piece Animal Shape Foam Bath Set With Pop-Out Numbers from Verdes. Children as young as a year old can use these foam pieces to match numbers with a corresponding animal. Kids can also use them to further develop skills in sequencing and identifying numbers.
These toys are just some of the great options for bringing STEM play into your child’s bath routine. But if you just can’t wait to incorporate STEM concepts into bath time (before you get your hands on these toys), try simply adding items from around your home to the bath.
Try plastic measuring cups, food storage containers, small watering cans, colanders, or even non-porous plastic toys like LEGO DUPLOS. These simple materials can spark conversations with your child about cause-and-effect, floating/sinking, design, and measurement. It’s also just fun for children to see common household items being repurposed for their bath time play.
With so many opportunities for bath time learning, there’s no need to wait on exploring STEM concepts during bath time!