Kids Using Public Bathrooms

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Using Public Toilets While Potty Training

Public Toilets & Older Children

Seat covers for potty training and public toilets?

Nov 2007

I am about to start potty training and am unsure how to deal with using public toliets. All the product reviews for folding seat covers are terrible and I don't want to use disposables. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Cheers!

Sometimes too much info is a bad thing. For example, only people that had some tragic accident would bother writing a product review of a $5 folding potty seat. Ours worked great. When our dd was just first potty trained (at 1.75 years) we just toted the baby bjorn potty in a shopping bag, but when she was comfortable going at home on the potty with a little seat, we started toting the folding thing around. After awhile, we just skipped it and put down the paper cover (if available) and held her so she didn't fall in. I'd recommend trying to get your child used to using the big potty with the seat as soon as possible, because if going from diapers to the little potty is a big improvement, going from the little potty to the big flushing potty is the greatest thing ever. anon

If there's seat covers I use those and hold her while she's sitting on the toilet. And if not, I make seat covers using the toilet paper. When traveling in cars, I place a doggy training pad on her car seat for her to seat on top of in case of accidents. Many new malls now have family rooms with toddler size toilets and seat covers. Crystal

We keep a small plastic Baby Bjorn potty in the back of our car for emergencies. If it is pee, just throw in a toilet...or a bush and wipe down.We have boys, so now if they have to pee, they don't actually touch anything and I don't usually break out the back-up potty. But if it is poop, we either dump in the toilet and then wash out, or wrap a plastic bag around it to poop into until we can dispose of the poop properly. public bathrooms creep me out too

I just plop my kids on the potty or hold them over it if it looks nasty. I am 39 and haven't caught anything from a toilet. My kids are doing okay so far. -not too worried.

I always carried one of the small, one-piece, molded plastic Baby Bjorn potties with me...ALWAYS. Similar ones can be found often at various Dollar stores. I just found it easier than dealing with the possible and potential disasters of public toilets. Potty Mama

Dealing with small children and dirty public toilets

March 2005

My daughter recently turned 2 so we are gearing up for potty training. While I have a number of anxieties about this, I recently had a real scare. She and I were taking a walk along the Bay and I needed to find a toilet. What we found were a couple of those portable outhouses. Luckily for us we had a ''best case scenario'' in that one was large (wheelchair) and very clean. Even still, I didn't want my daughter to touch anything (I can't imagine that working in a normal sized outhouse) and there I stood staring at a hole over a large vat of human waste. So how do people deal with public toilets, both indoors and outhouse, as far as cleanliness and hole size? I can imagine several things such as carrying a small toilet or even seat along, but we won't always have those. Or maybe holding her suspended over the hole, but then where do her feet/pants dangle? And even if that worked with urinating, I am guessing that for poop she would need a more comfortable seating arrangement. I feel like I should be looking forward to ending diapers but I'm not.
Scared to Potty Train

**You're going to go into the restroom with her for a long time from now forward; she won't be solo.
**You'll almost always wipe the seat first, thanks to all those parents who hold their kids above the seat and don't clean the resulting spills.
**Bring backup wipes along - you never know when you're stuck with a porta potty.

Oh, also... despite germ gross out and toileting learning curves, you will naturally relax a little as time goes on. Children take a few years to learn how to wipe really well, but of course, you have to let them do it themselves at some point; otherwise you will end up with 5 year olds yelling to the end of the house ''Someone come wipe me!''. At some point, you just do your best and know your kid will perform less than perfect wiping for awhile. Try not to think about it. It is sorta gross. You will also learn to give your HOME toilet seat a good looking at before sitting on it, as aim is not always perfect in children either. Squeezes eyes shut and makes sure they bathe regularly.

Hi, I'm the mom of 5 yr old and 3 yr old girls, so have been dealing with this for a few years now...and I'm a clean-freak! First, calm down, you're thinking about all the right things...and as long as there's toilet paper, you'll be fine. Tell your daughter the basics about not touching anything in a public restroom--''germs are like tiny little bugs we can't see, and they're dirty. There are lots of germs in public bathrooms''. Or something like that.

Then, use a seat cover, if available, or cover the seat with TP if not. You can lift her up and set her on the seat, and hold her there. Neither of my girls had a problem going #1 or #2 (that only happens rarely, though--they usually prefer to poop at home) while I'm holding them. Yes, their dress or pants might touch the front of the toilet, but hey, that's what washing machines are for...

And I can't say enough about that waterless hand cleaner--Purell, or any generic form of it (Safeway, Albertsons, Longs & Walgreens have their own brands which are cheaper and exactly the same). We have numerous bottles of it all over the house, and in the car and diaper bag. I have a tiny bottle in each stroller and in my purse, fannypack, etc. We are never without the stuff. It makes me feel so much better when I can squirt that in my kids' hands after an encounter with a public toilet (sink or not--sometimes I just want to get my 3 year old out fast (she still tries to touch too many things in public restrooms), so we forego the sink and use the ''special stuff'' instead.) Another tip--scope out public restrooms around town (in stores, restaurants...), and try to plan your trips around the cleanest ones. Heidi

We've just gone through this phase and I too dreaded having to use often yucky public toilets. I recommend having the fold-up toilet seat with you as much as possible, as it really helps to be able to whip it out at a moment's notice. When you are caught without it--which we know will happen--you end up holding your child while they try and poop. Not as comfortable, but it has worked for us.

It seems our ''diaper bag'' is bigger now than when my child was in actually diapers because we not only carry the fold-up potty seat, but a spare pair of underpants, pants and socks (yes, they can get mighty wet in an accident). We always have a spare pull- up too in case our son is just too tired to make it to the toilet, has diarrhea, or we end up on a long drive for nap potential.

Good luck mastering the logistics, it won't seem as difficult in a few months. Constance

My two year old was potty trained at 22 months, and we use a foldable toilet seat for public places. They can be purchased at BabiesRus. She was not able to use it the first time, but had no problem from then on. She really likes ''her potty seat'' and it folds small enough for me to carry in my purse. As for touching things in the restroom, I have no answer, she has touched the most disgusting things. We use lots of soap after. happy with seat

Hi there - my best buy ever was a portable, foldable potty seat. It fits on any toilet and you know it's clean - just keep it in a ziploc bag and then clean it when you get home. Here's a link, search for Folding Potty Seat Good Luck - using public toilets is not that scary! cathy

At what age is it safe for kids to go by themselves?

January 1999

I was reading all the postings about the Mom & Dad disagreeing on safety issues , and I have a related question of my own. All the opinions expressed adamantly stated that children should never be sent alone into a public restroom. I was wondering: At what age *does* it become safe to send a child to the bathroom alone? 5? 8? 12? Sometimes I find myself in a very uncomfortable position: I have a 3 yr old boy and a 5 yr old girl. The three of us will be at a restaurant, and one of the children will need to go to the bathroom. We can't all pick up our stuff and go, or the restaurant employees are likely to think we've left and to clear away our food; I can't go into the bathroom with one child, leaving the other all alone and unsupervised at a table in the restaurant (I would think this is even more dangerous than sending one to the bathroom alone); I'm not keen on sending one child to the bathroom alone, because even assuming the child could *find* the bathroom there always are fears about what might happen. I usually compromise by walking the child to the bathroom door, sending him/her in alone, but standing near the door, but where I can also see the table. I didn't think this was that bad a solution, but everyone who posted a response to the Mom & Dad safety question seemed to think sending a child into the bathroom alone is a horrible thing to do. So does anyone have any alternative suggestions?

I'm a single mother with no father in the picture and I started letting my son go into public restrooms by himself when he was about 5. I stand outside of the door and estimate how much time it should take him to get in and do his business and get out. If it seems to be taking longer I call out to see if he is okay. I am perfectly willing to go into a men's restroom if I'm sufficiently worried. I've just had to do this once or twice in the last 4 years. There is a strong cultural taboo against a woman in a men's bathroom (and vice versa), but I recognize it for what it is, just a cultural taboo, and I feel no qualms about breaking it if I think the situation warrants it.

I think the compromise of waiting for the one kid while keeping the other kid in view in the restaurant is a good one. Dianna

Filthy bathrooms in public schools

August 2003

My daughter has complained quite a bit about the condition of the bathrooms at her Berkeley public elementary school. As we approach the beginning of the school year, I'm wondering what other parents have done to improve the condition of the bathrooms at their children's schools. Any advice on how to organize around this issue? Didn't Berkeley voters pass measure AA or BB or something like that a couple of years ago to hire more janitors to deal specifically with this issue? Weren't there some Berkeley High moms a few years ago who organized and got some results? From what I've seen and heard, this situation really is intolerable and I'd like to join up with some other parents to effect some positive change. The impression I have is that many kids' solution is to not use the bathrooms at all. Isn't there a better solution?
public school parent

I have no solution to the bathroom issue - just a few observations. I work in a school and we struggle with the bathroom problem. It is not necessarily an issue of more custodians, although BUSD custodians have had their hours cut in many schools due to the budget crisis. (Measures AA/BB do not necessarily provide more custodial hours). All schools schedule the custodians to clean bathrooms on a regular and reasonable schedule; it's a priority. The problem is: children and bathooms. (How many 6 year olds always remember to flush?) Multiply it by 200, 300, 400 incidents a day bathrooms. Really, they are never as nice as yours at home, and they are the one place at school where kids are unsupervised. Imagine the activities that occur when adults aren't looking! As a staff member I have ''popped in'' on all sorts of...unusual...activies, by kids of all kinds. But how do we feel about adults ''supervising'' this very personal place? Even if it was possible to escort each kid to the bathroom (it's not!) the real issue lies in teaching all children to behave responsibly when adults AREN''T watching. And there's the rub. We've create signs, posters, art work, had ''workshops'' with classes, did spot checks and drop-ins...but still our school bathrooms are ''nasty''. (The boys are the worst - those of us with boys at home know why - poor aim). Anyone with suggestions - I want to hear them! BTW, my own kids have survived BUSD bathrooms all the way through high school...the call of nature wins over delicate sensibilities. But does it have to be this way? bathroom monitor

I did not find out until he was graduating from an El Cerrito middle school, but my son never used the bathrooms at school and held it until he got home. This was due to the conditions of the facilities as well as the rowdiness that went on in them. He was also complaining of stomach aches. My plan was, if the stomach aches were caused by ''holding it'' all day, to get a note from his pediatritian requesting that he be allowed to use the teachers' bathroom. School was over, however, before I got to take any action and the stomach aches went away. By the way, I went to Cragmont in the 60's and also never used the bathrooms because I got roughed-up in one once when I was in the first grade, and the bathrooms were pretty clean. LC

I feel compelled to answer this post, even though my older daughter is still 2 years away from kindergarten at the Berkeley public schools. If the bathrooms are filthy and kids are too disgusted or afraid to visit them, and the schools are understaffed, underfinanced, whatever, why not call on volunteer parents?

I would happily go to my daughter's school a few times a week to supervise the bathroom situation during recesses/lunchtimes. It wouldn't be fun, per say, but having relatively clean, safe, accessible bathrooms is very important to me, as I imagine it will be for my kids too. Heck, I wouldn't even mind doing a little cleaning if it's necessary! I bet if the parents saw where their kids had to do their business, enough would volunteer to help keep things orderly and sanitary. I would! Heidi

2 1/2 Yr Old will only use the potty at home

November 2002

My potty training 2 1/2 year old refuses to go on any potty other than the one at home. At home, he's great, even getting up from the middle of a video to tell me he has to go. Great, right? The downside is that when we are not at home, he HOLDS it, sometimes 4 or 5 or 6 hours at a time (I know, I can't believe it either). I feel no rush to potty train, but I feel like we're neither here nor there, and I'm concerned about how long he's holding it. Any ideas?

A 2 1/2 year old can hold out for 4,5,6 hours without using the potty, with no problem. Ask him/her if s/he to go before you leave home, and then if s/he refuses to use a public toilet while you're out but has no accidents, I wouldn't worry about it. My child can go a LOT longer than I can and seems to have suffered no ill effects. Sometimes he wants to use a public toilet and lots of times he doesn't. I don't fight him on this one. Fran

I don't know if your son has expressed his reasons for only wanting to use the potty at home, but for my daughter, she found the big industrial toilets that you find in many public places to be quite menacing.

My solution: To carry around a Baby Bjorn potty (about $10) and a ziploc of Clorox wipes (well-marked, so as not to confuse them with diaper wipes!!). I usually just got smiles in public as we went from place to place with the potty in tow. (My husband found it to be a little too crass for his comfort, so he'd stick the potty in a plastic bag.) When she'd have to go, we'd stop in the nearest restroom and do our thing.

Now, she doesn't mind going on the public toilets, but if they are the big industrial ones, she asks to leave the room before I flush, as she finds that noise to be too scary. -- Ilana