Intensive ABA Services News and advice on Autism treatments - The Lovaas Institute

Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

April 07

Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

Incorporating Learning at Bath Time

Bath time with any child is one of those rare circumstances when life is unambiguous black or white. It's either a time to look forward to or a time to dread. If you are in the latter group, skip this article. You have my sympathy...I'm in the same boat as you! If you are in the former group, read on.

For children who enjoy it, bath time offers opportunities to practice skills that aren't easily addressed at other times of the day. Parents sometimes find that bath time is the one consistent time in the day they can spend with their child focusing on the generalization of new skills. Below is a list of strategies some of our consultants have given to facilitate generalization of skills learned in a discrete trial format.

Body Parts

Hand your daughter a wash cloth and ask her to wash her face, arms, tummy, etc. To increase motivation, get a washcloth shaped like an animal (such as a duck or elephant). Ask, "Do you want the duck to eat your ear or your belly?" Have your daughter touch the correct body part while she answers verbally.


You can buy different fizzy balls that turn the water different colors. Buy a clear pitcher and fill it with some bath water. Then let your son drop a fizzy ball in the water. Once it is finished fizzing, ask what color it is. Finally, allow your son to pour the colored water into a matching colored cup. You an also try mixing two colors to make a third color or allowing your son to choose the color he wants (and then pick the correct one) rather than name it.


Buy foam letters for the bath. Show a letter to your daughter. Ask her to name it and then dunk it in water and stick it to the bathtub.


Practice "wet" vs. "dry." Hand your son a bath toy and ask him if it's wet or dry. Then, have him throw it in the bathtub and ask the question again. Sometimes, take it out of the bathtub and have him hold it while it's wet. Next, dry it off with a towel. Do not always ask all four questions. Vary which are skipped so that he doesn't just learn a pattern for answering. Practice "hot" vs. "cold" while the bathtub is filling with water. Sometimes, take a pitcher and immediately fill it as the cold water is coming out of the bathtub. Sometimes, wait until the water is warm to fill the pitcher. Have your son put his hand in the pitcher and say if it's hot or cold.

Toy Play

Have your daughter imitate toy play that requires water (e.g., sailing boats, shampooing her doll's hair, washing play dishes). Also, simply associating water with some toys that your daughter does not use may increase their reinforcing value in the future. For example, if your daughter watches Dora but does not show interest in a Dora character play set, try first teaching her to play with the Dora character play set while in the water. Then, transfer the play set to her playroom.

Song Imitation

Sing songs while your son is in the bathtub such as: Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, Hokey Pokey, If You're Happy and You Know It, This Old Man, or The Ants Go Marching. He should imitate the actions. The extra splashing can add a lot of additional reinforcement to the activity.


If your daughter has learned to play Simon Says, include instructions such as, "Simon says to put shampoo on your head."


Soap crayons can be used to draw animals, letters, shapes, numbers...just about anything. Soap foam can also be put on the wall. Then, ask your son or daughter to trace a shape or letter inside of it. Reinforcement is often provided from using the crayons and foam freely.

Special thanks to Mariam Luttbeg and Shawn Condon, staff members at the Lovaas Institute who helped in the compilation of this list.

Do you have other ideas of skills to incorporate during bath time? Share them with us here

The names of all children in this newsletter have been changed in respect for family confidentiality.

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