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At what age is it ok to leave your kids in the bath unattended?

28 replies

mollipops · 02/08/2002 14:24

This might have been discussed before, but I couldn't find anything specific on it when I did a search so here goes -

I sometimes leave my 2 children aged 5y 9m and 3y 4m in the bath by themselves for short periods. I am always within earshot (not difficult as they are usually making lots of excited noise!) and usually just doing a quick tidy-up or checking on stove/oven etc. They always want to spend ages playing about and I feel frustrated that I could be doing other things instead of just sitting there getting splashed and soaked! Am I a negectful and selfish mum?

What do others do who have children around this age? I keep hearing my dmil's voice in my head, telling me about a friend/relative/friend of a friend who left her kids in the bath to answer the phone, was only gone "for a minute" and when she got back the younger one had drowned. I think they were 4 and almost 2. Horrible story...I don't think I could cope. So in the back of mind there is a niggly worry that something could happen while I am not in the room with them - but having said that, there was an occasion when ds has slipped and I was kneeling right next to the bath, and still couldn't have prevented or foreseen it happening! They have never had any nasty accidents, either with or without me being there, but I guess it's possible isn't it...Am I doing the wrong thing?

OP posts:

Enid · 02/08/2002 14:27

I admit I leave dd (2.7) unattended in the bath while I go into the bedroom to get towel/shout at cat for scratching furniture/fetch nappy etc. I do think its the wrong thing to do and its a bit of a risk. I know that she is very easily able to turn herself round if she slips in the bath so maybe thats given me a false sense of confidence...


threeangels · 02/08/2002 14:58

The only problem I would worry about is if a child slipped and hit their head hard on the side of the tub or on the faucet. They could easily knock them self out and drown. Five seems smart enough to leave for a second but the slippin and falling is my only problem. I would never leave my child at that age just to play alone though. At this age anything can happen. If you do need to leave for a short amount of time keep checking in every couple minutes just to make sure all is ok. When two are playing together they can get real silly. This womens children probally were trying to stand and fell and hit their heads and could not recover so they drowned. I really cant think of any other reason because they would be strong enough to get their heads up if under water. But who really knows.


mollipops · 02/08/2002 15:10

threeangels, only the younger child drowned - which of course would always leave you wondering if the older child inadvertently or otherwise played a part in it. Horrible and tragic.

You're right of course, they do get silly at this age (5 and 3) together in the bath...I do often have to tell ds to sit down. I know I should stay with them - I guess it's just another one of those things to feel guilty about! Maybe I should just try to make bathtimes shorter!

OP posts:

Mopsy · 02/08/2002 15:23

This is something that's worried me a lot. As mine are 5 and 10 now I don't feel I need to worry at all, but when they were smaller I kept a Lloyd Loom type chair with a comfy cushion in the bathroom - their long splashing sessions became my luxurious reading time! Also I found - still do - that it seems to be the natural time to talk about sensitive issues...


threeangels · 02/08/2002 16:03

Sorry mollypops misread your message. I think a lot of us are guilty of leaving our kids unattended for a moment at lots of times. I have during bathtime myself for a minute many times Just to grab a towel or get the phone or for whatever reason. We all do things that could have something happen tragically. We just dont always think of those things. I was watching a program once on playground safety and I couldnt beleive how much a child could really get hurt just playing.


emilys · 02/08/2002 17:04

i am guilty of this sin!! I leave my 2 1/2 yr old in the bathroom alone because it is the only chance i get to unload the airing cupboard and tidy his room. I work in the day and in the eves. need to get ds bathed and in to bed before tending to my other baby (dh) for his food, entertainment, secretarial and any other requirements before flopping in to bed with my 20wk bump! The bathroom is actually b/w the airing cupbaord & ds's room so it's not as bad as it sounds but i do talk to him the whole time i'm out on the bathroom or we sing songs together - this way i know he's OK. having said all that, i will think twice when there are 2 of the naughty devils in the bath. (double the mess - oh no - can't even start thinking abou that!). Better go - feeling a bit hard done by right now!


Loobie · 02/08/2002 17:38

my boys are 6 and 4 and i have left them together in the bath for about the last 10 mths now,we have a full length bath mat to avoid slipping and i leave the baby monitor in the bathroom with them so if i am downstairs in the kitchen i can hear perfectly everything going on in the bathroom.


oxocube · 02/08/2002 18:02

I shove all of mine in together and am always within about 5 paces away but, and this is going to horrify some mums, mine are 7 5 and 10 months. The bath is actually in our bedroom, so I am almost always in the room, but occasionally pop next door to one of the kids rooms to put away ironing etc. Fortunately, the computer is also in our bedroom, so when the kids are in the bath, I am usually catching up on Mumsnet! Should add that said computer and said bath are 1m 20cm from each other ( I have just measured to feel less guilty!!)


Fionn · 02/08/2002 18:23

I also tend to catch up on Mumsnet when mine (2 and nearly 4) are in the bath, but as the bathroom is opposite the study I can see and hear them too. I do also use the time to put washing away and tidy the bedrooms, and never stay in the bathroom for the whole bathtime. Mine surprisingly don't muck around in the bath but play very nicely together, and as they spend most of the day fighting I think it's good that they can have some time playing amicably together. They act up more if I'm in the room. If I pop downstairs the monitor is on so I can hear them, and I know the older one would call me immediately if there was a problem. I do try and play with them for the last few minutes of the bath though. But I don't worry about the safety aspect - I walk past the bathroom at least once a minute. Although I don't let my dp leave the bathroom for more than a few seconds if he's on bath duty - he doesn't have the same sixth sense when it comes to child awareness that mothers have! Or maybe it's me still being too controlling...!


zebra · 02/08/2002 18:34

I've left mine alone for brief periods from 8 months (FLAMESUIT ON).

The water is only 1-2" deep.
We have a long cord on the phone, so we can bring it back immediately if we go to answer it.
"Alone" means I am still able to hear exactly what they are doing, or I go get a nappy for 10m old DD and come back again.
"Brief" probably means up to 30 seconds, I guess. But only if I can hear exactly what they are doing, or I'm only out of earshot for about 10", and then I would go check on them immediately. That kind of thing.

My kids walk early 9-10m), so by 8m they are standing up in the bath..... I can't see how they would drown in 1-2" in water unless they fall very awkwardly or bang their hands & pass out, and any sort of loud splash sends me running. I'm actually more worried about a bad fall on the taps cutting their head(s).

I'm not justifying, only being honest. That poor woman who drowned on Lake Geneva the other day really upset me & reminded me how dangerous water is.


SueDonim · 02/08/2002 19:30

I had one of my biggest frights ever when I left my dd in the bath on her own while putting away washing. I went back to find she had managed to lean out and get hold of my hairdryer which was plugged in. She hadn't yet put it in the water but I was terrified that as I approached she would drop it in and switch it on accidentally. I still get a a cold sweat coming over me when I think about it even though it was 14 yrs ago. I'll always feel guilty about it, I guess.


WideWebWitch · 02/08/2002 20:34

Don't know what age is supposed to be safe but I usually leave ds (5 in Oct) alone in the bath. The door is open and I can always hear him but don't stay in the room. Mmmm, maybe I should reconsider this.


Tinker · 02/08/2002 22:59

I've left my 5 year old alone in the bath for about 2 years or so now - I can hear here talking to herself and, to be honest, she doesn't stay in very long if I'm not there. But bathtime is sooooo boring though!


sobernow · 02/08/2002 23:09

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

threeangels · 03/08/2002 03:34

I understand completley. Its good you are very cautious. I was reading a child can drown in as little as 1 inch of water. Also that a child is top heavy and can easily fall in a bathtub and drown. It can happen in a few seconds after a parent leaves the bathroom. I think Ill think twice about running to grab the phone or get that towel. You dont always think until you hear or read about drowning cases.


CAM · 03/08/2002 16:06

The information in toddler books,etc usually says that children should not be left alone in the bath until they are 4. Even at that age, it could be dangerous. I didn't go out of the bathroom until dd was 5 and still only pop out to get her pj's or a new towel.If the phone rings, I ignore it as I have an answerphone. I feel 7 will be when I stop worrying but even then, can they be trusted with hot water should they take it upon themselves to turn on the tap? As you can tell, I am the over-cautious type!


Hi · 03/08/2002 19:30

I wouldn't dream of leaving children 5 or under in the bath while I pop out of the bathroom the worst can happen all too quickly but then I AM A WORRIER! I tend to take small jobs into the bathroom that I can do on the floor while they splash around. I know how tempting it can be to run like wildfire to get a towel or something but couldn't do it unless they were dripping all over the floor shivering cold! THEN AGAIN, all children are different mine splash about a lot and have to be told not to stand up every minute at some bathtimes!


zebra · 03/08/2002 21:45

We have two (non-slip style rubber) bathmats in the bath; don't entirely prevent falls, but make falls much less likely.

I should say that when I left my 8 month old alone, that was in the baby bath, propped in the doorway, where I could usually but not always see him as I folded up his clothes/made up nappy/etc. in his room. I would have kept using the baby bath forever, but he started climbing out at 11 months. He's been climbing out of the big bath since about 2.5 yo. He tumbled out at least once before he was 2, now to think about it, when I turned for a moment to put something in the medicine cabinet.

I guess I have left the toddler & baby alone for about 5 seconds sometimes -- no longer. Long enough to fetch the phone or reach for a towel. I think leaving those 2 alone is a huge risk. They aren't going to drown in 5 seconds, but they could easily tumble against something very hard. Or find a bar of soap to eat, shampoo to drink....


Paula1 · 04/08/2002 20:38

Tinker, I love my DS bathtime, I get much more information out of him whilst he's playing in the bath about what he's done at nursery etc..., he's normally too busy with other things to tell me properly, but in the bath we have lovely chats


bloss · 05/08/2002 01:10

Message withdrawn


Azzie · 05/08/2002 09:42

Mine are nearly 5 and 2.75, and I sometimes leave them in the bath while I put clothes away or change beds. I'm always very close, and keep an ear on what is going on - if they are in a rowdy mood then I don't leave them (can't face the flooding - the other evening we had water dripping through the kitchen ceiling where a tidal wave had escaped the confines of the bath). I would never go downstairs while they were in the bath, and I probably wouldn't answer the phone in another room - I tend to do things that don't take too much of my attention. I do sometimes lie on the landing just outside the bathroom door and read a book while they are in the bath (no room for a chair in our bathroom).


sparkles · 17/08/2002 01:35

i have been leaving my dd in the bath alone since she was 4,but always always check regulary,and if i dont hear her chatting to herself i go straight in.our house is all on the one level,so the living room is only about 4 steps away and i can see her from my favourite chair!if my bathroom was on a upper level i dont think i would go downstairs while she was in the bathroom.also i think that a lot of this depends on what kind of child you have,mines is 5 now and i hate to brag but she knows there are rules,and is very obediant,dont know why!she knows shes not allowed to stand up or touch the hot tap,or enter or leave the bath while im not there.BUT after reading the stuff here i think i will reconsider some things,she is learning to swim and will often shout me in to show me here going underwater(her bath is quite deep now i come to think of it)and she probably wont always be as sensible/obediant as she is just now so i think i will stress a bit more that shes not to go under water unless im there EVER!and as an added precaution i think i will lower the water level and only let it be deep when i know i will be prepared to stay with her,reading or whatever.glad i read this section-thanks


Clarinet60 · 21/08/2002 12:29

I leave ds1 (3 years) occasionally while I sprint to get a towel from the next room, but its best not to really. They can slip noiselessly under the water and if they've shocked themselves, can take a breath to cry while still under. This is unlikely to happen, but needn't happen at all if you are there. Leaving them to play just isn't worth it. We've had a local drowning recently. It wasn't in a bath, but the child was 8 years and the water was shallow. Even before this I was quite paranoid about water.


Jbr · 21/08/2002 21:19

There is currently a public health warning on ITV in the middle of the night (one of several useful warnings that are on at stupid times actually) and there is a child of seven on there who drowns in the bath.

I don't know what age. Mine is 4 and I don't like leaving him in the bath on his own, not even in few inches of water.


lucyk · 21/09/2002 21:44

my ds is 4 and could be left in the bath i suppose but he likes to get hold of things
and he has been known to empty whole shampoos and
bubble baths i am also scared of him trying to get out and slipping over

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