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Toddler Talk: 10 Brilliant Bathtime Toys

My son always loved bathtime. Always. For 24 glorious, well-scrubbed months, we could spend up to an hour splashing and playing (and exhausting) ourselves before bed. And then—BAM!—it all changed overnight. He turned 2, and suddenly it seemed as if reading, chasing the cat, demanding yogurt and helping mommy prep her taxes were more fun than getting into the tub.

I realized I needed to change up our bathing routine. Simply introducing some new toys and activities made all the difference. Here are 10 tub-friendly toys that can make cleaning a feisty toddler fun again.

1. Bubble Oodles

Sometimes you just need a change of venue. In my kiddo's case, we moved our outdoor bubbles inside the bathroom ... and totally transformed bath time. My guy went from being a reluctant bather to a prune-fingered bathing aficionado. All I had to do was blow bubbles—in the air, on the water, in his hair, all over. This might prove so popular with your kids that you'll want to consider investing in bubble stock or making your own.

To buy: Gymboree, $4

2. Bubble Bath

Then, of course, there's the good, old-fashioned bubble bath. We didn't start bubble baths until after age 2, but what a miracle it's been. My son loves to dip his toys (and arms, and toes) under and around the floating bubble landscape each bath creates. His love of bubble baths means I no longer drag him kicking-and-complaining to bath time, but instead chase an excited toddler up the stairs. We use eco-friendly products which are a tad more expensive, so just make sure not to turn your back on a toddler holding the bottle. I speak from experience: A little goes a long way; the entire bottle goes a really long way.

To buy: California Baby, $17

3. Munchkin Foam Letters and Numbers

These soft, nontoxic letters and numbers are fun to look at, easy to handle and magically stick to the walls when wet. They're guaranteed to help with counting, learning the alphabet and extending bath time by a good 10 to 20 minutes.

To buy: Munchkin, $7

4. Rub-a-Dub Monsters in My Tub

These toys, from Alex, are colorful little squirts, literally: Enhance your toddler's fine motor skills by teaching her how to fill the monsters' bellies up with bathwater—just be ready to duck once she or he masters the art of monster-squirting!

To buy: Target, $11

5. Green Toys Ferry Boat

The Green Toys brand's 100 percent recycled Ferry Boat with Mini Cars is perfect for bath time ... though if you have a fan of all things wheeled, like my son, then any toy that goes, goes, goes is perfect for bath-time racing. My toddler likes to pilot his plastic boats, helicopters, trains and cop cars all over the bathtub. I don't know why a small car going in circles is so captivating, but I'm utterly thankful for the good 10 to 15 minutes of happy play it brings.

To buy: Green Toys, $23

6. Toysmith Mermaid Doll

I still remember being a child and playing with mermaid dolls in the tub—ones with long, floating hair were the best. Help your little mermaid get comfortable with swimming (and washing hair!) with dolls like this cute one.

To buy: Toysmith, $9

7. Tolo Toys Funtime Fishing

Have a little sportsperson on your hands? Help develop hand-eye coordination with this fishing pole, three colorful fish and a curiously happy little worm.

To buy: Tolo, $17

8. Incredible Creatures Soft Shell Turtle

Do you have an animal lover on your hands? Really Great Toys and Safari Ltd. make incredibly realistic—and water-friendly—animals, like this lightweight turtle (also handy for scaring the heck out of your spouse/any visiting relatives, if you leave it in the tub).

To buy: Really Great Toys, $10

9. Stackable Cups

So simple, but so fun—you can't have bath time without a set of stackable cups. Not only can you use them as tools for teaching counting, colors and dexterity, but they're also a great way for a too-busy-to-stop-and-drink toddler to hydrate before bedtime.

To buy: Babies "R" Us, $5

10. Alex Toys Bath Crayons

I once cajoled my drawing-addicted toddler into taking a bath by letting him use his dry-erase markers in the water. You know what? Don't do that. It won't hurt your kid, but it will definitely ruin your (probably overpriced) markers. Use something like this star-shaped crayon instead—easy for your little Picasso to use, and easy for you to clean up!

To buy: Alex Toys, $6

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