Toileting Policies at Preschool

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Preschool with pee-covered toilet seat

May 2010

I recently began checking out preschools around Berkeley/Albany area and saw a gross bathroom at a highly recommended preschool which shall remain nameless. During a brief moment when I turned my head to look at the bathroom, I noticed the toilet seat had pee on it on half of the seat - one ''puddle'' was at least 3 inches long. I understand that the teachers aren't always aware of everything, but I was visiting the school for almost an hour, and the urine-drenched seat remained when I left. I mentioned it quietly as I left, but the teacher just smiled and said, ''yes, yes.'' I repeated it, but still nothing. I will give the benefit of doubt that she didn't hear me since preschools can get pretty loud, but it was gross!

The school also lets yellow mellow (not a fan but can understand), but the pee-covered toilet seat was too much. This is almost a deal breaker for me. Am I overreacting after seeing this? The seat remained like this for almost an hour! Any advice would help. Thank you. not mellow about yellow

I worked at a cooperative preschool, a total of 7 years, with my 3 children and we were ALWAYS on top of dirty bathrooms. I have a bad feeling about the fact it stayed like this for an hour. In all my years I never saw a toilet stay dirty for an hour. Trust your gut on this one. If the teacher had said, ''thanks for pointing that out, I'll get right to it'' that would be one thing, but to basically ignore you is a deal breaker. Karen


Sending poop home from preschool

August 2004


Does this seem gross and disgusting to you?
My daughter's preschool has been kind enough to help out with potty training my 2.5 yr. old. Today she had an accident, they took off her soiled clothes, put them in a plastic bag (for me) and cleaned her up. When I got home with my plastic bag and opened it up to put in the washing machine all the poop was still in her underware. gross! I guess I just though it'd be reasonable to empty it into the toilet before sending it home with the child! Is this to much to ask when they are helping with potty training at no extra charge. Thanks for your opinions!
anon. pls.

If the ''poop'' is in a lump and can be emptyied out of the underwear into the toilet without having to be touched then that is a reasonable thing to expect. However if the poop is smooshed, then getting it into a bag and cleaning up the child is good enough. If you were grossed out by it, then imagine how the daycare staff feel! That's what we do at my daycare. anon

Although my daughter is out of that stage, I remember somewhat. She went to a pre-school in the city that would bag her soiled clothes. However, I do not remember that they sent the pop home. But she did have accident, mostly with urine. I personally, think that you should speak with them about their potty procedure. Sending poop home seems to me that it would damage the clothes and as well as being a tad strange. Would they send soiled diapers, too? Ask them about flushing the large matter in the toilet. I think it is lazy on their part.

I would call several preschools and get their take. Ask them about their procedures. My daughter went to San Francisco State University Child Care Center - tied #1 as an infant/toddler facility. Call them and ask. They probably would love to help. They meet the highest standards for the age level of 6 months to 3. Maybe they can give you an insight on what they should do or should not.

Even though you say, ''they are helping you with your child's potty training''. That is totally up to them. Most schools state that the child MUST be potty trained before they enter, others should deal with potty training because they did not specify. It is all part of the job.

I hope this helps. BTB

Yes, thats totally gross. My guess is that is was an accident, that the caregiver was changing your child while distracted by one kid tearing the alphabet off the wall, one kid attached to her leg and the smell of burning popcorn. Preschools are very hectic and its easy to to skip a very simple step like dumping the poop out of some undies before sending them home. I would just mention it in good humor and I bet it wont happen again. I'm grossed out too

My child's preschool did the same thing. I never really thought of it as their responsibility - I mean if you think it is gross, imagine if it was not even your child's. I just threw those underwear away - luckily it didn't happen very often. anon

It certainly isn't pleasant for you, but I don't think it's a big deal that they didn't bother to remove the poop. I'm sure that at some time the same thing happened at my daughter's school, and I didn't give it a second thought to see the poop in her undies when the soiled clothes came home. At least her skin had been thoroughly cleaned before she put on clean clothes. anon

oh yes! I remember...spraying out underwear in the backyard. It is (as far as I know) standard practice to send home soiled underwear in a plastic bag. I (personally) feel that if a preschool is kind enough to help with the stressful job of potty-training, i can clean out my kids pants. BE SURE to spray it out before putting in the washing machine, as I learned the hard way the smell can stick to your other clothes!!! Hope this is an easy-ish training for you and your preschool. juliet

Sending poop home with the clothes is normal, but here's a tip for making these accidents easier: Instead of cleaning poopy underwear, you *can* just throw them away. If you buy big packages at discount stores, you can get underwear for about a dollar a pair. Well worth wasting them, in my book! Anon

Your preschool is liable for potentailly spreading disease. This is an irresponsible person who is ignorant of his/her actions, plain lazy, or both. Don't let them off the hook. Fecal matter has tons of germs. Tell them they need to be extremely mindful of what they do with it. a preschool-paying mom

A BPN member stated that the pre-school had some liability for sending home poop to you. Hmm.

Here's the poop: a preschool is under no obligation (legal or otherwise) to clean your child's soiled clothing. Moreover, if ''spreading germs'' were a tort, I suspect that most of us with children would be liable every time our kid sneezes, wipes his nose, or fiddles with his diaper and then grabs for your face (don't laugh, you know it happens). Finally, the fact that the day care enclosed the soiled clothing in a plastic bag suggests that, to the contrary, they made an attempt to isolate the problem. You could say, they DOO care. It could be argued that by handling the poop while around other children, they could have done potentially more damage than simply putting it in a bag.

Consider this: What if your child were not the poopor and the accident occured during supervised outdoor playtime? How much time away from managing the other children would it have taken a person (we'll call her the poopee) to properly dispose of the poop to your satisfaction? I wonder if it would be worth it to you to have one less adult away from the playground for that much longer. What if, say, in that time, a child got injured? And of course, there is the discussion of poop-styles and what is clean? Can you imagine the user manual? I have friends whose table I would not eat on; conversely, they think I'm a fanatic.

Bottom line: dump the baggie of clothes in the toilet, bob them up and down with your hand or some tongs. Remove them to a bucket, and flush. Toss the damn things in the washer. DONE!

If you do not agree with the poo-policy, that's your right and you may want to consider changing to a school who will, uh, do the doo doo as you do. Tsan


Preschool's strict potty policy for 2-year-olds

Sept 2006


We are considering enrolling our son in preschool when he turns 2 next year. Our favorite location so far (a Montessori preschool) enforces a strict (we think) potty training regime from day one, requiring new toddlers to arrive in Pull-Ups for the first 2 wks, and training pants thereafter. All diapers must be thrown away at home to reinforce the school's efforts. Potty training is considered part of the child's ''work,'' an opportunity to learn ''age-appropriate'' control over one's bowels/ bladder; there are pottys available right in the middle of the room for practice.

Our concern is that no matter how great this school is in all other respects, it may be a lot to ask a 2-year-old to adapt to new surroundings and be forced out of his diapers at the same time, possibly being set up to fail in a very public and unfamiliar setting. We would tend to be considerably more relaxed in our approach. Most of our friends' children were closer to 3 when they were potty trained (at home, at their own pace)...

Does anyone have experience with this kind of early potty training in preschool? What were your child's experiences, good or bad?
concerned mom

Most Montessori's push the potty training to be completed before the child enters at 3 years - are you sure it is for the 2 year- olds? That seems very heavy-handed and potentially harmful (in terms of backfiring the true training for awhile). Anon

I think any school that enforces potty training either totally misunderstands that all children develop at different times (some children train at 18 mos , others at 4 years old depending on their individual development)or they just do not respect children and their needs. It is disturbing that there is a lack of recognition that potty training is not something that can be forced. Wasn't this something people did in the 1950's? I think the repercussions of doing so (esp. to please a school) can be very negative and life long for both parent and child. My advice is to find a preschool that truly understands child development and respects it. Afterall why risk your child's emotional development for their academic career? anon

You didn't mention where in the ''two'' range your son would be when he would start preschool; my latest read of the research suggests that it is on average not effective to start helping a toddler with toilet learning before 27 months. And different kids are going to be different, so the regimen you described, if forced on every child, seems too inflexible. Karen

It is my understanding that a big part of Montessori learning is developmental in nature. It seems very odd to me that a Montesorri school would require two year olds to potty train in such a strict fashion, since potty training (especially for boys) doesn't typically take place on average until age 2.7-2.9 years. Many two year olds simply aren't ready to potty train. It seems to me that the school would just like for all of their students to be potty trained so they force them into it, ready or not. My son will be 2.8 when he goes to Oakland Montesorri in the fall and they have assured me that Montesorri learning is develpmental and that they will assist me in potty training my son when he is ready. They did note that many children learn quickly after beginning pre-school there because the classes are mixed ages and they tend to want to be like the big kids and go in the potty instead of diapers. My advice is to think twice about sending your two year old there. If you love the school, can you sign him up for next fall and send him somewhere more developmentally appropriate this year? Signed, A Concerned Mom, too.

That sounds horrible! Haven't they heard that you should NOT start potty training when a child is going through a big change/stressful time? I would certainly say that starting preschool qualifies as a big change! To expect a 2 yr. old to do this sounds cruel. I also want to point out that although you mentioned that this was a Montessori school, most of the Montessori schools that I know of DO NOT require the children to be potty trained at 2 yrs. old and they do not employ such draconian methods! I think that you should follow your instincts...yes, children become potty trained more easily when they are ready and this time is usually closer to 3 than 2 yrs. old. You say that the school is wonderful otherwise, but I have to wonder how great it really is if they force children to do this... and it does not seem that their philosophy matches yours on this important matter. my 2cents

Seems a rather extreme policy to me...I've never heard of one like it in all the many preschools I've explored. I think it would be enough to make me look elsewhere. I think it sounds impossibly painful, and I doubt that a school that would have such a policy wouldn't express the same kind of rigidity in other ways that might be trying for a young child. anon

You are correct that most children nowadays are closer to three when they are successfully potty trained. Particularly in boys, the reflexes and appropriate response often cannot occur in two year olds. Often, the potty-training that does occur in early children ends up being time generated routines, and accidents can occur for 1-2 years.

When it comes to this preschool, I would ask them some very hard questions. What happens if your child fails? Will the child be disciplined with time outs? It seems to me that learning to go to the bathroom is a significant achievement in a child's life and just reading the archives will tell your that if not done correctly, it can lead to significant parental issues. We all learn and grow at our own rate, and I find it appalling that a school would force you into accelerating your child's development for their convenience. I would question whether they truly want to help raise a child that will go to school with confidence and a sense of independence. If the child is branded a failure for potty training (if he/she is not immediately successful) how likely is that child to take risks in the future? And who are these people that they know when a child is ready?

I hope that other advice from parents who potty trained early are able to assist you if you choose to continue with that route. B

In response to the question about toilet training 2 year olds in a preschool. I have talked to many many parents about their experiences with toilet training and I can tell you for sure that there are many methods that can work. You are describing a very structured plan that might, in fact, work well for lots of children if it were simply a regular part of the day, with support given for success but no criticism for accidents (which would be consistent with the Montessori philosophy). However, some children adapt quickly, others take their time, and others are resistant. I am writing this note to highlight one form of resistance that can cause further problems. Some children want to cooperate with the potty system and are able to do fine with peeing, but they don't want to poop into a potty or toilet -- sometimes it's a readiness issue, sometimes a privacy issue, sometimes a ''no'' issue. A child may begin to withhold bowel movements as a way of avoiding the issue, and the BMs then accumulate, resulting in a large or hard BM when the child finally ''goes''. If this pattern continues, a child will resist going because it hurts. To avoid the problem, parents should be aware of the child's usual pattern (usually 1-2 BMs/daily for toddlers) and keep in touch with the teachers to make sure that BMs are not skipped.

I'll be doing a Bananas workshop on ''Living With 1s and 2s'' on June 24 and I'd be happy to answer questions about this topic. Meg Zweiback

That sounds too early and too strict based on current norms. Many children are not being potty trained until 3 these days (much later than in our parents' generation) and it doesn't seem to be harming them any.

I don't necessarily think potty training at 2 is the problem. It's the way the school is trying to run the whole family's life. Sounds like they'll be way too regimented in other areas as well, in ways you may not like. What happens if they disagree with your family in other things? For example, what if they require naps when your child wants to stay awake and play? It doesn't sound like they will be trying to meet your childs needs, and if your child is different in any way, they may take it out on your child.

This policy would be a red flag to me that they consider their teachers' convenience more important than your child's needs. mother of independent children

I really don't like the ''enforced'' potty training concept. I think it tells you a lot about a school right off the bat - they are insisting you conform to their way of doing things rather then working with you, as well as forcing you to ignore where your child is developmentally to meet their needs. I do understand a school's desire to not have to deal with diapers but I think it is a mistake to force a child to potty train before being ready. Especially a boy. Boys much more commonly potty train at age 3. Some sooner, some later. The important point is to let your child do it when ready. And if your child doesn't do it when school requires it you are then left with battling with your child or withdrawing them from the school. Both put you in a horrible position. I chose a preschool that didn't require potty trained kids and it really worked out well. anon

I haven't had any experience with this, because it sounds so completely unacceptable. A child cannot be forced to potty train, especially at such a young age. My twin boys trained at 2.5 and that was considered early, especially for boys. It seems like a plan that harsh is bound to backfire for many kids driving them to hate the idea of going potty at all and prolonging potty training needlessly. I thought the whole idea behind Montessori was that kids were able to do things at their pace. Sounds like the opposite at this school. I would think twice about sending your little one off to this place. Sounds like it could be a traumatic experience that you would regret. If they take such a strict stance on this what else do they attempt to control? I'd find somewhere more child-friendly. yikes

In my opinion, this school is overly strict in its enforcement of potty training. I would look at other options if I were you. Our daughter went to a preschool/daycare that had a very relaxed attitude toward the whole thing - as she ''graduated'' from the daycare to the preschool part of the school, the peer pressure plus gentle encouragement had her ''trained'' in 2 weeks with very few accidents and no trauma. By the way, she was 2 years and 9 months. Some friends I had who initiated training earlier had longer, more frustrating experiences with numerous accidents. A mom

I might be concerned that if the potty training seems more rigid than you are comfortable with, you might find that the school's other expectations/philosophies are not in line with your parenting approach either.

As a datapoint, I have 2 girls, one potty trained at 2.5 yrs and one at around 3.5. I wouldn't have wanted to potty train them earlier than they were ready, but I know it's possible.

Go with your gut about the place overall. Jill

Yes, the potty-training sounds much too strict. I just wanted to clarify that this is not a ''Montessori'' idea. My daughter, now 3 1/2, started at a Montessori school when she was 2 and eight months. She was not potty trained or even considering it. Within 6 weeks, she was fully trained, just via peer pressure. However, many of the kids she started with are still not potty -trained.

The Montessori curriculum emphasizes learning at an individual pace. I would look elsewhere. The first weeks at preschool are stressful enough without adding potty training to it! anonymous

I'm certainly not a pottytraining expert (our son is only 14 months) but that does not sound good to me at all! Everything I have read has stressed waiting for ''signs of readiness.'' Also, I know lots of 2-year-olds (and some 3-year-olds) who are not yet pottytrained. If I were you, I'd take a pass on that school. Just my 2 cents