At our house, the evening grumpies are very real. Even the most mellow of evenings can turn into a full-blown, all-hands-on-deck tantrum at the simple mention of two words: "Bath time." Don't get me wrong, my kiddos love bath time: the toys! The bubbles! It's a wonderfully warm and splashy way to end any day. It's the act of getting into the bath that seems to be the struggle. No matter how much I remind them that they love playing in the tub, no matter how many bath bombs I offer, they still do not want to stop their evening playtime and head to the soapy wonderland of cleanliness.
I get it, I do. After a long and busy day, our kiddos reconnect by laying on the carpet with Dad, while playing blocks and singing, it's wonderful moment and a hard one to end. So every night, evening playtime came to an end, almost always with tears, as we cajoled (read: yelled at) our little one into the tub. Our whole family finished every day frustrated and irritated with each other, which I loathed. Admittedly, evening time is not when I do my best parenting and after months and months of our evening devolving into screaming and crying, I finally decided to try something new. Something so simple, and so easy, that the professional therapist in me was left wondering how the heck it took me so long to figure it out: Include getting into the bath in the evening play session! Make the trip into the tub a game! I realise that this sounds like the too good to be true stuff of Julie Andrews nanny movies, but it actually works. Every time.
We start with a five minute warning, but instead of telling them that we will be "cleaning up," we simply let them know that in five minutes time we will be "changing channels and doing something different." After a quick clean up, we shout out something like: "I'm the kangaroo and you're the bunny! Who can get into the bathroom fastest?" For our youngest, who is now five, this has worked like a charm since she was about two years old; she immediately hops her way into the tub. Our oldest kiddo is turning eight this year and he requires a bit more finesse. So we changed the game up to reflect his more sophisticated play: "The floor is lava and you have only one lava-proof boot! You must hop the whole way without falling into the lava pit!" We have been using this trick since our eldest kiddo was two years old: over five years and it still works, nearly every night.
The reason it works is a simple one. Ending connected family time is hard for kids, especially after a long and busy day. During the pandemic, when kids are feeling more disconnected than ever, moments of play with a loved one are not only helpful, they are also therapeutic. Engageing in a silly "Floor is Lava Race" or acting like you are a rocket on the way to the bathroom helps kiddos relax and promotes positive interaction with their daily routine; both of which can be empowering for kids. As a bonus, it helps thwart the evening tantrums and encourages family closeness. Even better, I'm left with out the guilt of ending our day yelling: "Or else!" Now, if anyone knows a trick help keep all the water inside the tub, I'm all ears!