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Before my daughter was born, I was under the impression that bath time was all fun and games—the best part of any little one’s day. At least that’s how I remember my hours spent in the tub as a kid. But now that I have a toddler, I’ve learned the reality behind my friends’ comments about the transition to the bedtime routine being hard. Hard? More like an epic battle. Every. Single. Night.

To ease the suffering of our evening struggles, I came up with what I thought was a genius idea: bath crayons! Entice her into the tub with an activity, I thought. But that was a fail: While they were fun for her, the cleanup was a nightmare, and the last thing I needed was another chore on my to-do list. I moved on to bubbles. Kids love bubbles, right? Wrong. Zero interest.

It became clear that in order to ace this most basic of parental tests, I needed a more thoughtful arsenal of surprise-and-delight tactics to make this nightly ritual better for everyone involved. So I did a deep dive into the world of novelty bath products for kiddos, placing them under the scrutiny of my highly discerning 2.5-year-old. Here are the 10 that stuck, from water-activated coloring books to Pop Rocks–style salts. I can say with confidence that they’ve proven to make time in the tub more fun—for daughter and parents alike.

Dye Job

The first major lesson derived from testing: Anything that changes the color of the water is an instant hit. Plus it’s an easy thing to switch up regularly and get excited about (“What color is the water going to be today!?”). Like the food dye you use to shade spring eggs, Plop Plop’s Natural-Color Bubble Bath presents a good opportunity to teach littles about color mixing while soaping up—you can turn bathwater green with just a few drops of blue and a little yellow. Musee’s cheery soak not only tinctures and scents the water, it speckles it with slow-to-dissolve “confetti” discs that add an extra fun factor. And More Than Magics’s gem bath bombs tint the water in extra-saturated hues as they slowly disintegrate.

Reading Rainbows

After a month with these puffy, waterproof books, my toddler has yet to tire of their magic—she still asks for them every night. The colorless pages come to life in vibrant hues when dampened, allowing her to get creative with the process. Whether she paints each one meticulously with her wet fingers or just submerges them, she’s always mesmerized by what the water reveals.

Wet Hair, Don’t Care

What used to be our main bath pain point—the dreaded hair washing—has become a highlight thanks to Dabble & Dollop’s 3-in-1 (hair-body-bubble) sets. Each night we pick a different “recipe” from the brand’s superhandy blending guide—favorites include fruit smoothie and orange cream pop—then work together to create it. A dabble of lemon, a dollop of vanilla, mix, mix, mix—and voilà! Lemon chiffon shampoo.

Super Suds

Soaps with unexpected textures—like Pacha Soap Co.’s gooey slime and Nectar’s fluffy whipped foam—are not only superfun, they might even encourage your little bather to do their own scrubbing. My daughter won’t let me wash between her toes, but she’ll do it herself with help from these tactile cleansers.

Dark Magic

Here’s a surprise that will get your kids bath ready in record time. Dim the lights, then drop these in the tub: the BPA- and phthalate-free cubes begin to glow as soon as they hit the water and automatically shut off when dry again. Just be sure to use them sparingly to keep kiddos captivated long after their first introduction.

Dry Spell

With bath supplies as engaging as these, you might need something to coax your mini out of the tub. Mori’s hooded animal towels with playful motifs like dinosaurs and crabs should do the trick. The best part? Unlike some other novelty kids’ towels I’ve tried, the 100 percent organic cotton weave is actually super-absorbent—an important factor when you’re dealing with wiggly little humans.