The past couple of weeks have been rough on all of us as we face COVID-19 head on. While you are practicing social distancing and doing your part in flattening the curve, you may at the same time be pulling your hair out, wondering what you can do to keep your active little one from tearing the house down. This simple list of bathtub letter learning activities will give your little one some much needed entertainment, while giving you some peace of mind. These activities are educationally purposeful and help you actively support your child’s learning at home. Of course, all activities should be done under adult supervision! After reading this post, you will learn:

  • How bathtub letter learning activities are a great way to engage your little learner in some letter play
  • The different materials you can use to make bathtime learning fun
  • 4 bathtub letter learning activities for different stages of development
  • What to do if you encounter any problems during play
  • How to extend your child’s learning beyond the tub
Toddler boy in bathtub playing with alphabet letters.

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Why use the bathtub for Letter Learning Activities?

The bathtub can be a magical place for a young learner, but it is also an especially great learning environment. While you may already have some favorite games to play in the bathtub, these letter learning activities may become a fast favorite with your little ones. The added benefits of tub learning will help your child retain more of what you are trying to teach. Here are some of those benefits.

Engagement

Just being in a different learning environment increases engagement. It’s something new and exciting, which is intriguing to our littlest learners. Children will also love trying a new game that can become part of a beloved bathtime routine.

Even if you want to throw in an extra bath in the middle of the day to break those long days up, your child will love a little bathtime reprieve.

Toddler boy playing with bathtub foam letters

Sensory Development

In addition to increased engagement because of environmental changes, your child will also be getting the added benefit of sensory stimulation along with learning letters.

Water is a wonderful way to calm the senses and the body (source). Through water play, your child is taking in a lot of new information through their senses, so sneaking in some learning while they are primed for receiving new information is the perfect learning environment.

If your child doesn’t have sensory issues, you can try to add in some bubbles. I love this bubble bath because it is plant-based, gentle and non-toxic, safe for eyes, and has a calming aroma for another added sensory boost. Although the price tag is a bit hefty, a little bit goes a long way with this bottle as it produces a lot of bubbles!

4 Bathtub Letter Learning Activities

The following bathtub letter learning activities are at different levels of difficulty depending on where your child is in the process of learning their letters. Remember, it is considered developmentally appropriate for your child to learn letters anywhere between the ages of 2 and 6, so be patient if your child isn’t meeting your expectations. Take your child’s lead while engaging in letter play!

Hide and Seek

toddler playing in bathtub; bathtub letter learning activities

This first activity is great to do in a frothy bubble bath. Have your little close their eyes while you hide some letters in the bubbles. Your little one will search and try to find the hidden letters. Make sure that your child names the letter as they find it. If your child doesn’t know the letter’s name, emphatically say, “You find the T! Great job finding the T! Can you say T?” You can even have them trace the letter with their fingers for some more added sensory benefits.

Variations

Have your child practice some motor skills by using tongs to pick up the letters they find.

For a child who is in the process of learning some letter sounds, tell your child the specific letter you want them to find by telling them to look for the letter that makes the sound /t/.

Fix It Up

Bathtub letter learning activity, letters  mixed up on a tub wall

If your child is working on recognizing their name or simple sight words, this activity is for you. Put the letters in your child’s name or in a familiar sight word scrambled up on the tub wall. Have your child fix the letters and put them in the correct order. Scramble them and fix them as much as your child would like!

If your child recognizes their name or simple words, but doesn’t remember the names of the letters, help them point to each letter and say the name out loud.

Variation

If your little one is still learning letters and words, have an example of the word up on the wall already for your child to copy. You can use these bath crayons to write an example with.

Find the Missing Letter

bathtub letter learning activities; find the missing letter

This is activity is definitely for the child who already knows their letter names. You can do this activity either with your child’s name, simple sight words, or even just the single letters. Use the tub wall to put up a word, name, or segment of the alphabet in its entirety. Make sure your child sees the string of letters or the word.

After they see the letters, have them close their eyes while you take one letter down. Then, when they open their eyes, have your child tell you what letter is missing. Repeat by taking down different letters.

If you are doing just a string of letters and your child is having difficulty telling you the letter name, try singing the alphabet song with them and pointing to each letter as you sing. They will notice when they get to a the letter that is missing!

Variation

For children who are really strong with their names and words, you may want to start taking multiple letters off. Make sure that your child says the letters in the order in which they should appear in their name or the word. If they say it incorrectly, put the letters up in the order that they say them and ask them if it looks right. They will hopefully notice their mistake. If not, share with them the correct way.

Crayon Match

Use a bath crayon to draw some letters on the tub. They could be random letters or spell your child’s name or they could be simple and familiar sight words. Have your child find the letter in the tub and match it to the one you drew on the wall. This is a simpler activity for children who may not know all of their letter names yet, but are working on recognizing and categorizing.

Variations

You can write the lowercase letter on the wall and have your child find and match the uppercase letter that they have floating around in the tub.

You can draw a quick picture and have your child find the letter that makes the sound the picture begins with to place on the wall beneath your fancy artwork.

Common Problems You May Encounter

Sometimes even our most organized plans don’t go the way we hoped. Here are some things you can do to help your child if they are struggling.

WHat If My Child Isn’t Interested?

You may have a child who just purely isn’t interested in this type of play. One reason this could be is that it may just be too hard for them. Children can shut down and avoid tasks that are too hard for them.

Start with baby steps and working on exposure instead of expecting them to be able to name the letters. Some ways to just expose your child to the letters is to just have them free play with them in the tub. Let them explore the foam toys in their own way.

You can also have them play some games such as trying to throw the letters onto the bath wall and seeing which ones will stick. Secretly, you can name the letters as they throw them by saying things like “Ahh! You’re throwing the letter B. Will it stick? Oh no, the letter B fell!”

Just practicing exposure will build up their confidence with any games you might introduce in the future.

What If My Child Isn’t Retaining the Letter Names/Sounds?

This is completely okay, especially for toddlers and younger preschoolers. It takes a lot of repeated exposure to retain something. Remember, learning letters is simply memorization. They are just looking at a symbol and memorizing what it is called and what it “says”.

You can help them by consistently saying the letter names and sounds in their presence. But make sure it is in context like in the example I gave above (when you throw a letter or find a letter, say its name a lot!). Have them repeat the letter name or sound after you say it. Practice tracing the letters and saying the name and sound as they are tracing it. There is a strong link being created when you use multiple senses to learn something!

Toddler boy playing with bubbles in the bathtub

Extending Letter Play Beyond the TUb

These activities can be done anywhere…not just the tub!

Take your letter learning fun around your house or even outside by using magnetic letters as a tool for learning.

Hide your letters in shaving cream or in a rice, pasta, or sand sensory box. I provide a lot more support for early literacy learning and plenty of free resources in my Toddler Read to Lead FREE email Course.

What are some of your favorite ways to play with bathtub letters? Drop a comment below!