Independent Play for Kids: Bathtub Fun

Being a working parent is demanding.  Being a working parent with your kids home all day is demanding squared.  Being a working parent with your kids home all day when your child does not have a lot of independent play skills is relentless

For parents of children who require a lot of supervision, there are a number of activities that many children can do independently, and that may provide you a few minutes to yourselves.  For kids who enjoy messy, sensory fun, here are some fun activities that you can contain in a very washable location: the bathtub.   

Many of the activities you might normally do on an activity table or in the yard can be converted to the tub.  When play time is over, you can turn on the water for easy clean up of your child and the play area.


Bathtub paint is available online, or make your own by mixing liquid hand soap, cornstarch, and food coloring.  Let your kiddo paint the entire bathtub, with brushes or their fingers, whatever they like!  Use food coloring if your child is apt to get some in his/her mouth; use liquid watercolor if you’re concerned about staining clothes. 


If you don’t know about oobleck, it is a magical substance that feels solid to the touch, but becomes a liquid when you pick it up,  Add food coloring or liquid watercolor and it’s the coolest, messiest thing around.  I like to make a humongous bowl of it, putting one liquid watercolor on one side of the bowl and another color on the other side of the bowl; as they play with it, the colors swirl and change and mix and are truly mesmerizing.  Again, your own circumstances dictate whether food coloring or liquid watercolors are best for your family.

Edible playdough

There are many different recipes online –  choose the one that fits your kid’s allergy situation.  Here are my favorites:


Slime is always sensory fun, and there are a number of different types of recipes. 

    • Borax-free slime is made with fiber powder, so although eating it would not be good on the tummy, it is safe for kids who might give it a small taste. 
    • Gummy Bear slime is safer to eat, but it’s chock full of sugar, so careful of the sugar-crazies!
    • Borax-free and sugar free slime recipe, try this one that uses Jello.


For children who get excited by foaming bubbles, let them create miniature volcanoes in the bathtub.  Line up a bunch of paper cups in the tub and fill them half-way with vinegar.  Drop in some color, either food coloring or liquid water color.  Show your child how to put a spoonful of baking soda into one cup – and watch the eruption!  Exciting, non-toxic fun.   

Last, just a reminder that for kids who like water-play, actual baths are always an option for a family stuck in the house.  Now, you don’t want to leave your children alone in a bathtub full of water, but if your kid is able to play in the water safely while you are supervising, you might be able to get in a phone call or two.  If you want to mix things up, check out bathtub color tablets, different colored/scented bubble-baths, or (my kids’ favorite): water beads.  Please note that water beads are not edible, and only appropriate for children who will not ingest them.  Pre-soak the water beads first so they get plump and as big as a marble, and dump a bunch in the tub.  For kids who like to taste all of their toys, dump a container of blueberries in the water instead! They are the same size as water beads and also float!  Other novel floatable fun objects include bars of soap, apples, corks, sponges, and ice cubes.

Here’s hoping that at least one of these ideas will spark delight in your kiddo’s eyes and give you a few minutes to breathe.