Giving your baby a bath can be a bit scary – they’re so little, and they’re slippery when wet. We know to look for baby tubs and skincare products that make bath time as safe as possible. But what about helping babies like bath time and the water? For some tips tips that every mom should know, we talked to Rita Goldberg, the CEO of British Swim School, which runs dozens of swim schools in 20 states. Water safety skills for kids are her thing, and she has plenty of practical advice on how to make bath time less scary and much more fun for you and your little fish.

StrollerTraffic: What should moms remember about giving their little ones a bath?

Rita Goldberg: Bath time should certainly be taken as seriously as swimming, as drowning is one of the leading causes of death in infants and toddlers. However, bathtub drowning is totally preventable if parents keep in mind a few basic principles. In addition, while also adhering to a stricter set of safety rules – bathing your baby should be one of the best times for fun and bonding. With the combination of fun and teaching, bath time becomes a learning experience for both mom and baby. I see bath time as the best time to prepare children for survival lessons and water acclimation.

ST:  Does that mean babies can be taught water safety?

RG: Children can begin developing skills for water safety as young as three months! Some things to do and not do to get babies acclimated include:

  • Do lots of splashing, making noise, and smiling!
  • Do not wipe babies’ eyes – if you blink yours, they will copy.
  • Do always submerge the ears. This will help them not to be afraid of the sounds and feel of water in the ears. This exercise is very helpful when swim lessons begin.

ST: What are your top bath time safety tips?

RG: My top four tips for bathtub safety are:

  • Never leave your child alone in the tub. Not to answer the phone, door, or to tend to another child! If you leave the room, pick the child up and leave the room with them.
  • Always close the door when filling the tub, so the child cannot access it.
  • Put toys in after the child is in the tub, not before.
  • Do not leave buckets or large toys in the bathroom area, as a child could use that as a step.

ST: How can you be sure the bath temperature is safe?

RG: Always fill the tub by running cold water first. It may take a little practice to eventually get it to the correct warm temperature, but it’s far safer than having the water too hot. My own mother taught me that testing the temperature with your elbow is the best way.

ST: We’ve heard that too! Babies don’t need the temperature as warm as we like our own water temps to be.  Let’s talk sharp eges… faucets and counters especially. How can we protect our babes?

RG: Avoid them by covering with plastic corners or overlays. Most local hardware stores and baby stores have many means of protection for sharp corners.

ST: Everyone loves bath toys. What kind of toys do you suggest that are safe?

RG: I try to adhere to the “three S’s” – squeaky, squirty, or spongy!

ST: Yes! We’d add washable too! Nothing cute about mold!  What useful bath safety product is a must?

RG: Non-slip mats inside the tub are key – but I think no safety product can compare to a diligent parent.

ST: Any more tips that moms should be aware of?

RG: Be sure to always remove cleaning products. Put child locks on all cupboard doors in the bathroom – even those that are placed up high, as well as the products that are low. Lastly, over the last 35 years, we at British Swim School are able to see a clear difference in the speed of a toddler’s ability to survive and swim that has had a happy, splashy, noisy bath time, apart from one that has been overly protected. Noise, moisture, unwiped eyes, and splashes are a part of the early learning phase of swimming, and it helps to start training in the bath. You and your baby should regard this time as a happy and fun playtime. If you do, then our job of enforcing a skill set becomes easier.