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How Often Should You Really Bathe Your Kid?

A useful decision-making tool to determine when your kid should take a bath

Published on: August 10, 2021

grumpy child in bathtub protesting having to take a bath how often should you bathe your kid decision tool

Some celebs caused a kerfuffle recently when they revealed that their parenting preferences for their own children did not include daily baths. As Kristen Bell explained, I'm a big fan of waiting for the stink. Once you catch a whiff, that's biology's way of letting you know you need to clean it up.” Mila Kunis said she waits until her kids are “visibly dirty.” A lot of people on the internet are appalled by these stances and firmly believe you should wash your kid every day.

Personally, I’m a bath-most-days parent, but I’m open to skipping when the situation warrants. Sometimes we just do a quick rinse. For us, bath-time is a nice transition to wind down after a busy day. My friend Trish says she’ll insist on one when the kids can’t quickly recall the last time they had a bath. I like this option because it kind of sounds like trying to beat the buzzer on a game show.  

I mean, it seems kinda obvious, but don’t we all have a built-in sensor in the middle of our face that lets us know when the kids need a bath?  

But for those of you looking for a little more guidance, I am happy to provide this guide to when to bathe your kids:

Are your children visibly filthy from competing in a sporting event? A bath is recommended.

Was your day on the calmer side and maybe your kids barely broke a sweat? A bath is not necessary.  

At any point in the last twelve hours, did your child apply sunscreen or bug repellent, or oil up for a body-building competition? Bath.

Did your offspring sit around all day complaining that “there’s nothing to do”? No bath.  

Was a non-domesticated animal touched or approached from downwind? Yes, bath.  

Was it a day heavy on screen-time, very little outdoor play, and seriously-don’t-beat-yourself-up-about-it because-we’ve-all-been-there? You can probably skip the bath.  

Did your children spend their day inventing a game called “Wrestling Wrestle-triathlon” that was played in the corner of your yard right next to the compost bin and yard waste? Bath.    

Is it late, and the kids are wiped, and they just need to go to sleep? Skip the bath.  

Did your child recently receive any gifts including but not limited to squirt guns, splash toys, bath bombs, or bubble-making? A bath is advised.  

Is your young one allergic to water? If so, then no bath.  

Is your child 13 or older? Oh good Lord, yes. Make them bathe. Twice.  

If your son or daughter approached you and said “Look what I found” and then revealed something that made you involuntarily cringe, then:

  1. Was it moving? If you answer “yes” then proceed with a bath.
  2. Was it something that used to move but is no longer able to? BATH! BATH! BATH!  

Have you and/or your partner had a long, stressful day and would like a few moments of G.D. (that’s “Genuinely Desired”) peace and quiet? An extended bath followed by a mandatory read-to-self session for the kids is the proper protocol here. Plus early bedtime. Plus wine. Plus watch something on TV that you would never admit to watching. Plus wine.  

This concludes my completely silly guide we'll call “When to Bathe Your Kids.”  In the great list of issues facing our society, we can argue about whether the climate crisis or the pandemic or any number of things are at the top of the list. But I’m going to go ahead and slot the bathing “issue” in at number 26,437 on the list of things we need to worry about.  

And remember: You can read about the baths/no baths habits of Hollywood’s pretty faces all you want, but ultimately, like most of parenting, it comes down to deciding what’s right for your family.  

But the teen definitely needs a bath. His B.O. is as ripe as his attitude.  

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