As an early-year educator, some of the more frequent questions asked by parents are whether babies can play with bubbles, how old they should be to play with bubbles, and how to know which bubbles are safe to buy.
In general, it is safe for babies to play with bubbles from 6 weeks old. However, there are many things consider when buying bubbles to ensure that they are safe for babies and specific safety measures to follow when babies are playing with bubbles.
Bubbles can be a wonderful and fun activity for the whole family to enjoy. But when playing with bubbles with babies, especially when introducing your little explorers to bubbles for the first time, there are specific things to consider to help keep your little ones safe and make sure they enjoy their introduction to bubbles.
Benefits of playing with bubbles for babies
Bubbles can be a great way to have fun with babies while also helping to develop many essential motor skills.
Some of the skills bubbles may help develop are:
- Visual tracking skills: Bubbles move slowly and can create colors by reflecting the light, making them very catching to the eyes. This makes them perfect for helping babies to use their eyes and practice their visual skills.
- Gross motor skills and movement: As babies start to get a little older, they may begin to reach out to touch or grab bubbles. They may even roll, crawl, or pull themselves toward the falling bubbles. These actions will help develop gross motor skills.
- As they get older bubbles can help to develop other skills such as balance, muscle tone development, fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, coordination skills, oral skills, speech development, hearing and language, listening skills, body awareness, spatial awareness, social and emotional development, and communication skills. When playing with bubbles, children run, jump, speak, shout, laugh, and interact with the bubbles and games played using the bubbles with their whole bodies, which is why all these skills develop.
How to know which bubbles are safe to buy
The most common ingredients used in bubbles are liquid soap and water. This means that most bubbles bought from child-specific stores, like Toys ‘R Us, are usually safe for babies.
Store-bought bubble mixture
When purchasing a bubble mixture from the store, it is always best to check the ingredients to see which type of soap is used in the bubble mixture to ensure that it is safe for babies and that it doesn’t contain anything that your baby might be allergic to. Some companies may add other ingredients to prolong the life of the mixture or to make the bubbles stronger.
Ingredients that store-bought bubbles usually contain are glycerin, corn syrup, and other polymers, which help to improve bubble properties. Some conventional polymers that are used include, but are not limited to, HEC (hydroxyethylcellulose) and Guar gum, which are relatively harmless and are even found in small amounts in some foods.
Some store-bought bubbles also add ingredients that affect the PH level of the solution and change the consistency of the liquid, which helps them blow better and improves the longevity of the bubbles.
These ingredients may include baking soda and citric acid, baking powder, distilled vinegar, and citric acid. These ingredients can all be found in food and are relatively harmless unless your child has an allergy to any of them.
What to avoid
A polymer that is sometimes used in store-bought bubble mixtures is PEO (polyethylene oxide), which is not very safe as it can cause skin irritation and problems if ingested. So try to avoid bubble solutions that use PEO as their polymer.
Homemade bubble mixture
In my opinion and from personal experience, the best and safest bubbles you can use with your baby are bubbles you make yourself at home. When you make your own bubbles, you know exactly what ingredients are going into the bubble mixture and can ensure it is safe for your baby to play with. (see our recipes for child-safe bubbles below)
General bubble safety guidelines
Although bubbles are fun and can have multiple benefits, it is important to remember that there are specific guidelines to follow when your baby is playing with bubbles.
Depending on the age of your baby and the instrument used for blowing the bubbles with (bubble wand, bubble blower, bubble machine), here are some general safety guidelines to follow:
- Use child-safe and non-toxic bubble mix
- Make sure no soap gets in your baby’s eyes. (See below what to do if this happens though)
- If you are using a bubble wand, make sure it’s big enough that your baby won’t be able to choke on it. (See below how to make your own child-safe bubble wand at home)
- Bubbles should be fun! If your baby is not in the mood or upset, then try again another time
- Most importantly, NEVER leave your baby unattended with bubbles or any parts that come with bubbles
What to do when soap gets in your baby’s eyes
We can try to stay as safe as possible, but, unfortunately, accidents do happen from time to time. As a parent of 2 baby boys myself, I have had my fair share of soap in the eyes from bubbles to baths and hair washes.
The main thing to remember when your baby gets soap in his/her eyes is to stay calm. Your reaction can affect the response of your child. When babies get soap in their eyes, it usually only causes some minor discomfort and isn’t a major issue, as long as it is dealt with swiftly.
Here are some steps to follow when your baby gets soap in their eyes:
- Ensure that all the soap is rinsed off your own hands before attending to your baby
- Flush your baby’s eye with fresh, cool water as soon as possible to avoid irritation
- Hold your baby over a sink or bath with the affected eye pointed downward.
- Fill your hand with fresh, cool water and rinse the eyes
- Gently put your finger on the lower eyelid and pull down gently to keep eye open
- Gently pour lukewarm water over the eye in a steady stream until all the soap has been cleaned out
- Check your baby’s eyes for any remaining soap, in which case you can repeat the above steps until all the soap has been completely removed.
Redness may occur if a lot of soap has entered the eyes. However, this is normal and nothing to worry about unless it gets worse within 1 hour of rinsing. If the redness gets worse after about an hour, it may be due to an allergy, in which case it is best to seek medical advice as they would need to flush the eye with distilled water.
How to make your own baby-safe edible bubbles at home
This recipe is always a favorite for my kids and their friends. They really enjoy trying to ‘eat’ the floating bubbles. These bubbles are safe to eat, making them extra safe to use with babies too.
Materials you will need
- Measuring Cups
- Mixing Bowl
- Container to store the bubble mixture
- Bubble Wand (See how to make your own below)
Ingredients you will need
- 1 ½ Cups Liquid Kool-Aid (any drink will work. Experiment with your favorite drinks)
- ⅛ Cup Corn Syrup
- ¼ Cup Organic Dish Soap (any child-safe, dish soap will work)
Pour Kool-Aid (Or any other drink) into mixing bowl/jug. Add the corn syrup and mix slowly, avoiding not to make bubbles.
Slowly add the dish soap and mix it in very slowly using a spoon until it is fully incorporated into the mixture. Avoid making bubbles in the mixture (if any bubbles form, you have to wait for them to settle).
Now you can use the funnel to pour your solution into a container for storing. The bubbles work straight away, but for the best results, let them sit for a day.
This same recipe can be made using plain water instead of juice. Enjoy.
Note: This recipe uses soap, so don’t allow your child to drink the solution. However, since it is a very small amount, it will not have any negative effects on your child if they ‘eat’ the floating bubbles.
How to make your own bubble wand
It is essential to make sure the bubble wand used does not pose a choking hazard.
Babies like to experience their surroundings by exploring them. Babies love to put things in their mouths, and this is an unavoidable fact. So to reduce the risks of choking or causing harm, use a bubble wand that is too big for babies to put in their mouth and does not pose any threat to their health.
You can make your own bubble wand that is big and child-safe in many ways. Some of my personal favorites are bubble wands made with a plastic cup, pipe cleaners, plastic bottle, funnel, and clothes hangers. You can use many things to create your own bubble wand at home. Here are some ideas you can start with, and you can experiment with other items you may have at home that you think will make a safe bubble wand.
To make: Using a knife or pair of scissors, make a hole in the bottom of the plastic cup that you can use to blow through.
How to Use: Dip the big open side of the cup into the bubble mixture and blow through the hole in the bottom to make bubbles.
To make: Using a knife or scissors, cut off the bottom of a plastic bottle to use as the dipping side. Remove the cap from the top.
How to use: Dip the cut end of the bottle into the bubble mix and blow through the top part of the bottle where the cap has been removed.
To make: Fold a pipe cleaner in half and twist the ends together, leaving a small tail as the handle (You can twist two pipe cleaners together to make a stronger or longer wand. Open the pipe cleaner, and you can make the circle into any shape you like.
How to Use: Dip your open shape into your bubble mixture and blow the same way as a regular bubble wand.
Open a wire clothes hanger; make it into a circle shape. Twist the ends together to make a handle. Use thread or a thin rope to wrap around the circle part of the wand to hold the soap. Use Tape or duct tape to hold the rope in place and to wrap the handle.
Games to play with bubbles to help stimulate your baby’s development
For more fun and interesting bubble recipes, and fun activities with bubbles to help stimulate your baby’s development, feel free to check out this post.
Babies enjoy playing with bubbles as much as toddlers. With the right bubbles and environment and following all the correct safety measures, bubbles can be a fantastic learning and development tool for babies.
Make sure to have your camera ready to get pictures because you will want to capture those exited moments when your little one sees the bubbles.
Article checked by:
Dr Binu George – Consultant General Pediatric
(MBBS, FRCPCH, Dual CCST (UK), Paediatric Neurodisability)
Head Of Department, Child Development Department at
NMC Royal Hospital, Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates