If you give your child three baths per week, you can expect to spend 390 hours supervising bath time before he turns six. That’s nearly three weeks of your life spent on the bathroom floor. If your child prefers daily baths, it’ll be closer to a month and a half.
If bath time is an endearing nightly ritual, those will be weeks well spent. However, if bath time is frustrating for you or your child, you might be wondering when you can start leaving him alone in the tub.
Part of the confusion is that there are lots of acceptable answers to this question. The answer you choose will be a combination of safety, privacy, and practicality.
When he is statistically less likely to drown
Reports on drowning are good to warn parents of the dangers posed by our bathrooms, but they often exaggerate the actual risks posed by bathtubs. The Washington Post, for example, reported that “drowning overall is the leading cause of unintentional injury death” for children between ages one and four, and there were a total of 7,543 drowning deaths for this age range over a 16 year period.
Although those figures are accurate, they are misleading. The report includes all sources of water, such as oceans and swimming pools. The article later references the approximately 37 toddlers that drown in the bathtub annually.
Those 37 children are 37 too many. Nonetheless, reporting like this makes it seem as though bathtubs are uniquely dangerous items. If we look at those numbers in context, the bathtub seems much less dangerous, at least for older children.
Let’s start with a low estimate of the number of baths taken by U.S. toddlers. If they average one bath per week, and there are approximately 8 million toddlers in the U.S., that’s over 400 million baths per year. Let’s assume that half of those baths are shared between two children, bringing the total number of baths down to just over 200 million. The bath is still overwhelmingly survivable.
The age range covered by the word “toddler” is also misleading, because drowning deaths taper off before many children outgrow toddlerhood. In a report about in-home drownings, the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that 82 percent of drowning deaths occurred in children younger than two years old, suggesting that children under age two are at significantly increased risk of drowning than two-year-olds (nine percent), three-year-olds (five percent) and four-year-olds (three percent).