What to do with your kid when you’re in a public restroom?

Here's the real deal, folks: what to do with your kid when YOU have to use a public restroom. Andi bravely provides the details:

While out shopping with my toddler, I dread those calls of nature that send me running for the bathroom. It's great when you know that the bathroom is equipped for toddlers/infants (those little seat things with the straps are great, but unfortunately rare). Sometimes you can get the handicapped stall and just push the cart in with you. Unfortunately, not all public facilities are created equal and there's no way that I'm leaving my precious baby girl in the cart on the other side of that door.

In a pinch, rather than putting the baby on a potentially disgusting public bathroom floor, I have found that I can lower my jeans to knee level, and put one of my daughter's feet in each leg of my jeans alongside my lower legs. She thinks that wearing Mommy's pants **WITH** Mommy is really funny. She's kept off the floor. She can't escape. My hands are free.

Believe me, I know that this sounds a bit weird, but it works.


What do you do with your baby or toddler when you need to use a public restroom?

Related: How to trick the autoflush toilet sensor in public restrooms


  1. says

    It was much easier before my son figured out how to walk. I usually opt for the stroller or backpack carrier method. (My backpack carrier is on an actual frame and stands by itself. It also fits in the majority normal stalls.) So long as I keep it away from the handle, rails, and toilet paper, he seems content to sit and listen.

    The problem I have is that Paul likes to shout a greeting whenever he hears someone open/close a door, or wash their hands. When we walk in or out, he waves to the mirror and anyone else he sees like a minature beauty queen. Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to get a 13 month old to understand the law of no talkingto strangers in the bathroom.

  2. Terry says

    Another nicity of being a guy… you can hold them while using the bathroom… for at least 1/2 of the bodily functions.

    The pant idea seems like a good idea…

  3. Myles says


    Oh the memories of the baby bjorn and urinals; tuck legs behind arms, unzip, lean back, cross fingers and hope for the best! “Zipadeedoda” as a whistle works great when others enter. Afterwards, baby wipes…never the sink.

  4. Judie says

    I used to keep my child in a car seat and brought that in with me into the store. Then I placed that car seat with my child still in it, in the shopping cart. When I used the bathroom, I just took the baby in the car seat with me and placed that on the floor. When my child could walk, it was no big deal to have them stand in the bathroom next to me. If you’re at the mall or a place that doesn’t have shopping carts, strollers work great!

  5. says

    I used to carry a little puzzle in my purse for my daughter to manipulate while I used the toilet.

    After she got older and her verbal skills exploded, the challenge became how to deal with automatic sensor bathroom fixtures (toilets, sinks, hand dryers) and the occasional foaming soap dispenser, which once inspired her to ask a server at a restaurant if they knew the bathroom had “farting soap”.

  6. Chris W says

    I have two strategies with my very active son in the public restroom.

    When he has to go, we do the flying pee maneuver which is basically what you’d think of if superman were to pee while flying. It gets around him coming out of the bathroom with pee all over him from trying to do it standing up and also keeps him off the toilet seat. With my daugther, that scheme doesn’t work out so well. We used to just carry a plastic kid seat until she got old enough.

    To keep his hands off stuff in the bathroom, I tell him to hold his hands and he assumes a prayer position. Telling him to do something active versus telling him to NOT do something is much more effective.

  7. says

    I’ve used the flying pee maneuver on more than one occasion – it’s a life saver.

    With my daughters, I never have to take them – not that I don’t want to. We generally have this problem: the mens rooms are absolutely horrid. I don’t mean bad by a womans point of view, I mean just downright nasty. My youngest (4) is probably more adventurous, but both the girls (wisely) have their limits.

    My problem is two-fold: my wife doesn’t seem to get just how nasty a mens room can get, and I don’t understand how human beings can be so disgusting – except that I guess it’s the whole “I don’t have to clean it up, so why do I care?” thing.

  8. says

    When I take my 4-year old into the mens’ room, I don’t fret about her touching anything (nor did I ever). I just make sure she washes well before leaving. My wife won’t let her touch anything in the ladies room.

    She thinks mens’ rooms are clean, but ladies’ rooms are disgusting.

  9. says

    My trick has always been to involve them with “helping” me–getting the toilet paper, holding my purse (keeps little hands busy), keeping the door closed, etc.

    For you folks with strollers/cartable kids–don’t be shy about using the handicapped stall. They’re big enough to accomodate that stuff, and frankly, with a baby/little kid along, you’re more immobilized than most “handicapped” folks.

    As an architect, I’ve seen a lot of both, and most of the time the ladies room is far worse than the men’s. If I’m someplace with a single bathroom for each gender, and there’s a line for the women’s, I’ll choose the men’s every time. Of course, I also carry Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer in my purse.

    Dave’s post brings up an interesting question: what do you do about older kids when they’re just a smidge too old for the opposite gender restroom? My husband refuses to take our 5yo daughter into the men’s room now, and is pretty adament that our 7yo son use the men’s exclusively. In crowded public places, I don’t feel comfortable letting him go in alone, but he’s not comfortable going with me. Anyone have a hack on that one?

  10. says

    Chris W. – I agree with your prayer hands idea. The first thing I say to my children, 3 and 1, is “Do not touch anything but your self!” Then I proceed to play the “Put your hands on . . . your head, knees, belly etc.” game.

    I have also been known to bring the cart into the handicapped stall or, if unavailable, just leave the door open. Hey, when you gotta go . . .

    When my babies were younger I “wore” them everywhere. Sadly, now they just want to be “big kids”. I have tendonitis in my wrists, so the thought of using those baby bucket things was excruciating. When I needed to use the bathroom my Mei Tai’s, Slings and Wraps were very handy. I wrote about it here: http://www.mybabyandmore.com/BabywearingNotJustForBabies.html

    I hate using public restrooms. My biggest challenge now, with my potty trained children, is how to let them use these nasty things. The Superman/flying pee maneuver trick is awesome and my son would probably love it. Thanks again Chris w. I use the “step on my feet” trick. My son steps on my feet, he holds himself for aim and I have enough control of his torso that he doesn’t lean on the toilet.

    For my daughter – Ugh! I would just as soon have her stay in diapers than sit on those yucky toilets. But since she refuses to poop in a diaper I have no choice then to let her sit on a potty. I have the On the Go Potty that comes with its own carrying bag and fits in the diaper bag. I just sit it on the floor (on a towel that I also keep in there – I know its overkill) for her to use. You can buy refills but I just use folded paper towels and a plastic grocery bag.

    I also agree with Myles’ “baby wipes…never the sink” rule. We are a wipes and hand sanitizer family too. Necessity breeds invention. The public restroom challenge definitely needs these awesome Hacks. Thanks!

  11. John says

    To Lisa:

    A 5 yo girl can probably still be brought into a men’s room if necessary. If it’s a large place, who cares, it’s for safety concerns. And I don’t think many will be offended being in the presence of a little girl. She’s unlikely to see anything anyway. If it’s a small place with not many people around and she can do everything by herself, he can maybe send her in the ladies’ room and wait for her outside the door.

    A 7 yo boy can probably still use a ladies room as there are all closed stalls. If he’s uncomfortable with it, I think what matters most is how you feel about it. Bring him in until you feel fully comfortable letting him go on his own.

  12. Chris says

    My SO is no longer comfortable taking our 4 year old girl into the mens room, but we figure if she can use the girls room alone at school she should be able to do so in other places too, so he waits outside the door with a bottle of hand sanitizer and we hope for the best.

  13. Chris says

    My SO is no longer comfortable taking our 4 year old girl into the mens room, but we figure if she can use the girls room alone at school she should be able to do so in other places too, so he waits outside the door with a bottle of hand sanitizer and we hope for the best.
    When I had infants too small to stand I just held them on my lap.

  14. A Good Mom says

    I make a “paper donut” for my daughter by folding 3 long sheets of toilet paper and placing them all over the toilet seat for when she needs to go. I bring a book with us everywhere to keep her occupied, and I ask her to point out different colors and characters while I go. If I forget the book, I ask her to count the tiles on the wall in the stall, without touching it. Also, I let her know that germs are little bugs, and she wouldn’t want them on her, so she doesn’t touch anything she isn’t supposed to anymore (but she also just turned 2).

  15. Anna says

    I love the “family” bathrooms. They’re great for kids that aren’t old enough to go in the public washroom on their own, but too old to go in the opposite-sex bathroom.

  16. Patricia says

    Since I work a professional job that sometimes requires me to be out of town overnight and gone during the day in the summer, and since I am single, I have a list of three high school girls who care for my 6-year-old son. The problem is that when they are at the movies, amusement park, zoo, etc., his sitter when taking him into a public restroom, will just escort him into a stall and leave him to do his thing while she does hers in the next stall. In such circumstances, he will sit to pee and unlike what I do, they don’t put any toilet paper over the seat before he sits down. This worries me and he rebels when he’s with me and I insist on putting paper down before he pees and craps. If there is urine on the seat–and that’s often the case–I doubt it would faze these girls to have him sitting in it! Once last month at Worlds of Fun he had significant skidmarks in his underwear because both he and his 17-year-old sitter selected and used stalls with all the toilet paper depleted. When I asked AJ about it, she just seemed to roll her eyes and show surprise at my hygiene standards which are obviously higher than hers. However, they do insist that he wash his hands. For that I should be thankful, I guess!