As children begin to use the toilet, bathroom safety becomes especially important. Because there are many potential safety hazards in the bathroom, child care providers need to supervise bathroom use carefully. As children reach the preschool years and beyond, child care providers can also help children stay safe in the bathroom by teaching them how to identify and avoid risks.
Supervision Is Key
Most toddlers and preschoolers are not developmentally ready to be left in the bathroom alone because they do not have the self-control and good judgment to avoid risks. Be sure that at least one child care provider is supervising toddlers and preschoolers in the bathroom. If your child care setting has an open toileting area, with toilets easily accessible in the classroom (instead of a separate bathroom), post one child care provider near the area to monitor and help out when children are using the toilets.
School-age children may be ready to use the bathroom alone. Before you allow them to go alone, make sure they understand the rules. Stay close to the bathroom, and check on them frequently. Make it clear that you respect their privacy but will come into the bathroom if there is a problem. If you are a family child care provider, teach children using the bathroom alone not to lock the bathroom door so you can get in to help them if there is an emergency.
Safety Risks in the Bathroom
The bathroom has many areas and materials that could be risky to young children. Be aware of the following risks, and plan ways to eliminate or reduce them.
- Drowning. Young children can drown in only a few inches of water in a matter of seconds. Water in the sink and toilet can pose a hazard, especially for toddlers. Always supervise toddlers and preschoolers in the bathroom, and do not leave sinks or buckets full of water.
- Hazardous chemicals. Cleaning products and even many kinds of soap can be toxic if swallowed. Children tend to be curious and may sample unfamiliar liquids in the bathroom. Store all cleaning products in a locked cabinet or closet that is inaccessible to children.
- Burns and shocks. Especially in homes, many bathrooms have easily accessible electrical outlets. Cover all unused electrical outlets with protective caps or covers to avoid electrical shocks, and replace covers as soon as you are finished using an outlet. Do not use irons, hair curlers or straighteners, or other hot appliances while children are around. Store these items in a locked cabinet so children cannot access them.
- Falls. Toddlers especially love to climb. Bathroom stools, toilets, and countertops may look like attractive climbing surfaces but can lead to falls. Always supervise young children in the bathroom, and redirect their climbing to another area. Mop up water on the floor as soon as spills happen; slippery floors can lead to falls. Teach children to walk rather than run in the bathroom.
For more information on safety in the child care setting, check out Preventing Injuries in Child Care.