Bath toys make the essential process of cleaning off your grubby offspring into a fun, if potentially wet and messy, activity.

Obviously small children should never be left unattended in the bath for even a moment. That way you have some chance of ensuring that the water stays inside the bath and not all over the bathroom floor. But older children (even much older children, and I’m talking about fifteen year olds here) also get pleasure out of playthings in the bath, so think carefully about whether or not wholesale damage might be caused to the floor and possibly the downstairs neighbour if water goes everywhere. Jugs and beakers might look like a great idea but trust me sieves and funnels do far less damage in the long run.

Classic rubber ducks and other floatables

It is said that one is never alone with a rubber duck. (see the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams) and certainly the bright rubber (these days plastic) duck is the archetypal bath toy. Almost everyone has had one at some point in their life, bobbing up and down in the bubbles of bath time, looking nothing whatsoever like a real duck but informing what we think a duck should like from now until the end of time. There are also floating boats and frogs and wales and all sorts of cool aquatic stuff, but the truth remains you can have those as well, but you really need a rubber duck. And some boats. And maybe a whale.

Wet letters

I love these. They are made of soft squidgy vinyl foam or plastic and when they get wet they stick to things. Specifically they stick to the tiled walls above the bath and let you make words and spell out the child’s name. Essentially giant wall magnet letters but without the magnet. They also function as very tactile letters to hold and explore the shape of for more kinaesthetic style learners trying to get to grips with their ABCs

Bath activity centres

These contraptions put tubes and funnels and water wheels etc all in one place. They usually stick to the side of the bath or the wall tiles and can be fun as well as compact and more easily tidied away if you have some kind of dream of having a bathroom that occasionally looks like a place that an adult might also want to relax. You know – bubbles, candles and some peace and quiet. Good luck with that!

Swimming creatures

Wind-up or battery operated frogs, whales and other swimming creatures abound, and I wanted to include them because I had fond memories of them but I had a great deal of difficulty in finding ones to recommend as the reviews are so variable. Lots of people seem to love this Tomy turtle but equally well there are quite a few complaints about reliability – enough to make me wary about giving it an unequivocal thumbs-up.

Other toys.

Just a note of caution here. Many ordinary toys are in fact perfectly suitable for playing in the bath. It stands to reason that anything made entirely from plastic ought to be fine (Lego bricks, plastic dinosaurs, plastic tea sets etc) and giving dolly a bath can be great fun. Here’s the thing though – younger children simply cannot work out what is and what isn’t water safe. Many an expensive battery operated toy or something wooden or containing metal parts has been essentially ruined by submersion in water. Yes, this is the voice of experience as a child and as a parent. Don’t do it. Special toys for water, kept in a special place and brought out with great ceremony for water based and bath play is the only safe demarcation line. Honest.