How to make a public toilet less intimidating for a kid? Sit on it yourself.

Amazon: Graco Traveling Potty SeatSee the lengths we're willing to go for our children? Here's how Charisse makes scary public restroom toilets less so for her potty-training daughter:

For public bathrooms, my daughter was a bit scared, especially of noisy or smelly ones, and didn't like to put her hands on the seat to hold herself up.

After struggling with one of those dang folding public toilet seats for a couple weeks, necessity became the mother of the hack when I forgot to bring it.  So here's what I do: seat myself (clothed of course) on the solid back part of the seat with my legs straddled.  This "shortens" the opening just enough to make it comfortable for a little one, and allows me to wrap my arms around to help with the scary part. 

Works better, and less to carry.

To be clear: she acts as a warm, huggable public toilet seat for her kid.

Charisse: you deserve a medal. We all do, don't you agree?

More: Hacks for public restrooms


  1. Shauna says

    This is a great hack, but I am such a klutz, that I would wind up botching the whole thing and we would both wind up soaked! My daughter is afraid of the very loud automatic flusher – it typically goes off mid-tinkle – so what I do, is put my hand over the sensor on the wall and hold it there until she is finished and well away from the toilet.

  2. mel says

    Wow. That is a whole level of parental dedication I haven’t reached. But the hand over the sensor is one I will definitely use. I hate those automatic flushers!

  3. Richard says

    We frequently wear hats when we’re out and about to keep the sun off, but they’re also handy for covering those sensors.

  4. Charisse says

    Heh, I never thought of this one as medal-worthy. It’s just that when faced with an already upset uncomfortable kid who really freaks about accidents, and a long walk to the next potty (we’re urban and usually on foot, and the park toilets are the tough ones), you do what ya gotta do. :)

  5. Kookaburra says

    Ewww I’m too squeamish about public toilets myself. I can’t possibly imagine myself risking getting dirty by sitting on the toilet with my daughter.

  6. wdskmom says

    Kookaburra… you’d put your own personal public toilet issues ahead of making a situation more comfortable for your daughter? tsk, tsk

  7. Jill in Atlanta says

    Yuck. I don’t think I could make myself do that. I am so glad I have boys. (thanks, Kookaburra, for taking the first punch on this one!)

  8. Sara in Austin says

    Perfect timing — my just this week potty trained daughter has yet to encounter a public toiler (and has already fallen in the home toilet with one of those folding seats), so this may come in handy in a punch.

    Not perfect, but better than a regressed potty-trainer.

  9. Jennifer says

    I do this too. It makes my little girl feel so much better. And seriously, I just don’t understand all those people that won’t sit on a public toilet. Its the people who hover over a toilet to pee that make the messes that need cleaned up…

  10. Kookaburra says

    I certainly didn’t mean to infer that I would put my issues ahead of my daughter’s comfort. She is not up to potty training yet, so I’m not even at that territory and who knows what I would do in the situation. Hopefully she will be comfortable using a public toilet and I’ll never have to cross that road.

    Oh and I’m certainly not one to hover over a toilet. I try my hardest to avoid the entire situation and just go at home. I can’t stand even going into public bathrooms… not because of the germs factor, but more because of the horrid stink, leaky toilets with water all over the floor, unflushed toilets, and the stalls running out of toilet paper.

  11. Leslie says

    I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with being careful about public toilets.
    Take it from someone who spent 3 years working with people who had toileting and hygiene(sic) issues,it’s better to be safe than sorry.
    But for your kids, you gotta develop a system that works.

  12. Scott Paterson says

    LOL… Have to admit I hate sitting my daughter on public toilet seats… Mind you being the Dad and not the mom I dont think I would be comfortable doing this !

  13. The Blue Pamphlet says

    I just pop off my child’s shoe, pull the pants and underwear off of one leg, then heft them up there myself so they touch as little as possible.

    My three year old son does fine with it when doing number 2, and he stands on my toes when doing number one to get the height he needs. ;)

    My twin daughters coming in a month? For the most part in public, I’ll let my wife do that end of the bargain. But, I’d presume I’d do the same thing with them as I do with my son.

  14. Memm says

    I must know! I can’t stop thinking about why you used “sic”? I’m super curious. Does it mean something different in your neck of the woods than in my neck of the woods?

    Can anyone answer this for me?

  15. Monkey says

    I’m sorry, but Kookaburra is right – you’re a moron if you don’t think this idea causes serious cleanliness issues for the parent.

  16. wdskmom says

    Kookaburra – logical clarification. And yes, it’s amazing what we end up doing with kids we thought we never would! :)

  17. Liz says

    For my son, I’ll take his pants off (or just one leg, depending on the shoes), and then have him straddle wide over the toilet. I hold his hands for balance, and we have no problems.

  18. STL Mom says

    You think American public toilets are tough? I took my kids overseas this summer and had to deal with Turkish toilets – i.e. the kind with no seats that you squat over. My 7-year-old daughter ended up handling it with ease after the first few attempts, but my 4-year-old son would beg to go out by a tree (which I wouldn’t have minded so much if he’d just had to pee!) and if we had to use the Turkish toilet I had to hold him around the waist the entire time while he cried, “don’t let me fall!” On the way home, I was actually happy to squeeze into the airplane bathroom with him – at least he could sit down!

  19. Darryl Papa-sensei says

    Wow. Before my daughter was born, this topic would have turned me off entirely.

    Now I’m thinking, “What a good idea! Talk about taking one for the team!”.

    Look how far our children bring us.

  20. reen says


    I think Leslie meant to type “sp” (as in “I’m not sure I spelled this right”) rather than the journalistic “sic” (“incorrect spelling by the original writer left intact”).

    I do the remove-shoe, heft-child thing too, so my daughters don’t have to touch anything with their hands. And unless it’s a super clean-looking restroom I cover the seat with TP prior to setting them on there. I’m sort of freaked out by a friend’s recent staph encounter. Ew.

  21. Bobui says

    I think this is an admirably great idea…I may have to use it with my scared-of-everything daughter!…but I would bring two of those disposable/reusable toilet liners…one for the toilet and one for me! =P

  22. Nanny says

    Oh man, when I worked as a nanny, one of the little boys liked to hold me around my neck as he sat on the toilet to make number 2. Talk about taking one for the team, and it wasn’t even my team!! Gross. You learn to avert your eyes and breathe through your mouth. Also, learn to anticipate BM’s and do them at home!!! haha. But hey, look, they grow pretty quickly – so in the long term scheme, what is the big deal? — Do What Works. That is my personal motto when it comes to kids!

  23. Caryl Marie says

    My husband and I travel a lot and we often take our daughter on the business trips. His business exhibited in nine cities last year and on each trip we took an old car inner tube that I got from my father. We carry it in the trunk partially inflated. When Marinda, who is now 5 but was just turning 4 when we started, is in a public bathroom I sit the inner tube on the toilet and she sits on the inner tube. I deliberately place the nozzle standing up in front of the toilet and 9 times out of 10 she places her hands on it or the tubing near it instead of on the dirty seat or the front of the bowl. When we are at the sink and she is washing her hands I’ve had other mothers notice and compliment me on what a wonderful idea the tube is. It’s no longer necessary to accept that young children have no alternative but to sit on the filthy, filthy public seats.

  24. Karissa says

    My daughter is 5. When she’s out with me and she needs to do a #1 or a #2, I differentiate from where we are and try to find a clean bathroom that has the toilet seat protectors available for her to use. And she has basically accepted that, except when she’s about to have an accident, and I don’t let her sit until I finish putting paper over the seat. Frequently, I have to wipe urine off the toilet seat before I put the covering paper down, because the urine would go right through the paper.

    The problem is when Kaitlyn has babysitters. We have a middle school/high school right across the street from our house and I guess I’m somewhat surprised that NONE of the four babysitters I’ve hired from there this past year have the same standards I’ve set for Kaitlyn.

    Kaitlyn definitely notices the contradictions when these girls practically run for a stall and throw themselves onto a seat. Of course, they’re not covering it or wiping it first. One of the sitters who took Kaitlyn to the circus the Saturday afternoon I had to work, even criticized her when she grabbed three paper towels and was placing them on the seat. The sitter’s grandma does that and the young girl thinks it’s environmentally wasteful to use that much paper.

    Another sitter, had to pick up a friend at the bus station, and while waiting with Kaitlyn sat down and took a large crap, only to discover there was no toilet paper in her stall. Then she asked Kaitlyn to hand her some from another stall.

    How can I explain such contradictions to my daughter who is about to be turning 6? Also, these girls do not readily wash their hands after using a public bathroom. What bad examples!

  25. Alli says

    gosh, and I thought I was being a good mom just for buying an extra potty seat and keeping it in a zippered tote bag in the trunk of our car. It’s clean, discreet to carry to the bathroom with you, and also houses a few plastic bags, some baby wipes and a bottle of hand sanitizer, just in case.

  26. Jean says

    For the moms of kids that are afraid of the automatic flushers — I carry post-it notes in my purse and stick those over the sensor. Works great!

  27. KT says

    As long as you wash your hands — properly, with soap and friction for 30 seconds — the chances of catching ANYTHING from a toilet seat are virtually zero. Most STD viruses can’t survive outside the body, and cold/flu germs would be eliminated by proper handwashing. The only caveat would be if you have any open wounds on your rear end, but even then, the chances are small. Even flushing the toilet with your shoe really just makes sure that all the germs on your shoe get passed along to the next person who uses his/her hand.

    Personally, I’ve been sitting on public toilets — and a LOT of them — for 35 years, and I’m pretty darn sure I’ve never caught anything. My kids sit on the seat, too, and they’ve never had anything, either. I do check to make sure that no one else has left pee on the seat first, but that’s about it. I always put my daughter on the seat sideways so that she wouldn’t get pinched by the toilet seats that have an opening in front.

    Use a paper towel to turn the faucet on/off and to open the door and you should be just fine.