I’m hoping you can weigh in on a disagreement I’m having with my husband. At what point should I feel safe leaving my child alone in the bath for a few minutes? He’s almost three, and I don’t leave him for a second. But my husband does, and it makes me very nervous.
My son has never had any issues before in the bath, but I know it only takes a second for something terrible to happen.
- I’d say when 1) they’re fully aware of and in control of their bodies (i.e., never fall down, stumble, run into things, etc.) and 2) when they can swim on their own. I think No. 1 is the limiting factor so that makes me say maybe around 8 years old? Maybe 7 years old depending on the child? Trust your mommy instinct (I’m thinking 3 is too young).
- I don’t know the best age, but I think 3 is too young. My aunt lost a child who was left alone in the bath. I think he was 2.5, so a little younger than your child, but still. It was before I was born, but I was told he was trying to climb out of the bathtub (probably trying to follow his father who had left him there), slipped and hit his head and was not found in time. Since I grew up with that story, I never leave mine alone for more than 30 seconds, but even those trips I try to minimize. My oldest is 3.5, and I still think he’s too young. But of course, I have a sad history.
- You are correct that something bad can happen quickly when the child is left alone around water. But the age when it is safe depends on the child: how verbal he is, how strong he is, how big he is, how active he is. If your son is able to climb out of the tub himself, sit up straight alone, and use his hands to play with his toys while sitting securely in the tub, then I think it is probably safe for him to be left alone for up to 30 seconds.The biggest concern is that a parent plans to leave their child for only a few seconds but then gets distracted and ends up leaving the child alone for too long. When I began to leave my children alone in the tub, I would count out loud to myself to remind myself that I had to get back to the child before I got to 30. Another trick is to have the child sing a song while you are gone so that you can hear their voice and know they are okay.
- I’ll leave my 2.5-year-old for 30 seconds or so—long enough to grab a towel, etc. She doesn’t try to stand, though. And she’s quite the talker, so I can HEAR her the whole time. She’s also *very* cautious physically. I really am confident that she isn’t doing things that would make her slip. I’ve been leaving my older kids in the bath alone—to quickly grab their baby sister if she cried or to go downstairs to grab something, such as PJs out of the dryer—since they were 5 and in swim class, able to float, blow bubbles, not panic if their face gets wet, etc.
- I have no clue what the right answer is, but at 3 I would leave the bathroom and be in the adjacent bedroom. I’d use the time to put away laundry, read a book, etc. However, I was in earshot 100% of the time. She was very playful and loud in the tub, and she knew how to swim. My daughter is now 5, and I still won’t go downstairs even for a few minutes to change the laundry over.
- I think 3 is too young to be left unsupervised. If the child slips and whacks their head, they may be rendered unconscious.If time is of the essence, put the child in the shower instead. Maybe this might be a better option for your husband. He will need to hop in the shower with the child, but the process is super fast. Safety has become first above all else. Nobody should be leaving a child this young unattended. What can be more important than your child’s safety? You’ll have all the time in the world to regret it, if something tragic was to happen. It will never be worth it.
- I don’t have the answer for “bath,” but we started using the shower for our older son when he was 2.5. Our shower is NOT a shower inside a bathtub, and it has a non-slippery floor. If you have that and also if the child can stand stablely and is very verbal, we cannot see any big harm (any worse than a fall on a sidewalk) to him if we were to leave him there 1–2 minutes.
- If anyone is interested, the American Academy of Pediatrics released an updated Policy Statement on the Prevention of Drowning in 2010. I agree with above posters that each child is developmentally different and you’ll have to make the best decision based on your own child. But they “suggest that all kids under the age of 6 be watched carefully while in the bathtub.”