How To Handle and Teach School Bathroom Etiquette If the phrase “school bathroom” sends shivers down your spine, you’re not alone. Public toilets are known to be dodgy at the best of times, and school toilets can be some of the worst. Part of the overall factor can be attributed to children who are too few to learn more. In other cases, it is a lack of respect on the part of the students. Either way, school bathroom etiquette is something you need to tackle from time to time. Here are some direct discussions on dealing with this difficult question.
School bathroom tips
Here are some general things to keep in mind when talking about school bathroom etiquette.
Be clear and frank.
Don’t dance around the subject. Say what you mean. Children need to hear the details. “We all have to help keep the bathroom clean” sounds funny, but it might not help. Instead, name the problem and the change you want to see: “Sometimes people leave pee on the seats. You may need to wipe your seat down with toilet paper when you’re done.” It may sound embarrassing, but these are normal human functions. Talking about it reminds students that everyone defecates.
Use language children understand.
Similarly, avoid the temptation to use “sensitive” language, especially with young children. Use “pee” instead of “pee” and “pipe” instead of “feces”. Famous book that not everyone calls shit, and for good reason.
Be gender sensitive.
When discussing bathroom issues, don’t make assumptions about gender. Instead of “Boys have trouble pulling,” use language like “People who get up to pee are more likely to fail.”
Teaching bathroom etiquette at school
For kindergarten and early elementary students, public restrooms are still a relatively new environment. And while it might seem like something parents should cover up, it’s not always the case. Like so many other things in life, it’s about learning the right routine. So try out some lessons, activities, and bathroom behavior ideas from other teachers.
FLUSH Anchor Chart
We don’t know who created this anchor chart first, but it’s a perennial favorite on Pinterest to help teach bathroom etiquette in school. The acronym FLUSH covers many of the most important bathroom behaviors and is easy for kids to remember.
Sort Pocket Chart
This triage activity demonstrates both good and bad bathroom etiquette. Talk about each as you sort them with your students, then leave the results as a reminder for future bathroom visits.
Stories of social pigeons
These editable stories can be customized to suit your school and students. There’s a lot of information here that kids need to know.
The book “Going to the toilet at school”
This printable book focuses specifically on using the bathroom at school. It’s perfect for the first week of school because you create a routine.
Social skills activities in the bathroom
This set includes many great resources, including beacons, discussion cards, a mini-book, and more.
Basic bathroom banners
Hang these free printable banners to remind you of the proper way to behave in the school bathroom.
Bathroom song “Gotta Go”
This engaging song covers many of the skills children need to be responsible bathroom users. Use it as part of a lesson or sing it during morning meetings.
School toilet procedures video
The teachers and students at Lynch Wood Elementary made a fun video about bathroom best practices. Kids will laugh and learn something too.
School bathroom problems and solutions
Here are some of the biggest toilet problems schools face and ideas for solving them.
Students misuse urinals.
This is bathroom equipment that most kids don’t have at home, and likely no one will show them how to use it properly. So start young and teach the kids how the urinal works. (Don’t be afraid to teach all kids, regardless of gender. Get the puzzle out of the bathroom!) If you’re not a urinal user, try to find someone who needs to talk to kids about it.
There are urine spots on the seats or the floor.
In small quantities, it is often occasional. As noted above, those who get up to urinate don’t always have a great goal. Kindergarten Smorgasboard offers this solution: the toilet target.
It’s also important to remind children to raise the seat if they don’t want to sit on it (but put it back when they’re done, so others don’t fall into it and hurt themselves). And be honest with them: Sometimes we mess around a little bit. Take some TP and wipe it off. It is very easy.
What about urine floods and fecal smears?
A true teacher story from WeAreTeachers HELPLINE: “The after-school cleaner came to the college office and was so upset about the sea of literal urine on the floor. She thinks it was intentional and honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
The other teachers in the discussion saw the same thing their recommendations?
“I made my kids watch the poor janitor clean. I told them it was someone’s grandfather.. so what if it was yours?!”
“We have kids (boys and girls) in my high school who think flushing the toilet is funny. I suggested to the principal that when the perpetrators are caught they should clean the school for a week.
I talked about it with the students. I reminded them that sooner or later someone will be arrested and will have to face the consequences, and that would be very humiliating.
Children gather in the bathroom to play and have fun.
The toilet is one place in school where kids feel unsupervised, so it’s no surprise that they tend to gather and have fun. Some schools control this by limiting the time a student can spend in the bathroom or the number of children in the bathroom at one time. But this usually requires some kind of monitoring, and the teachers are already busy.
Teacher Julia B. imaginative. “3rd grade boys are notorious for wanting to hang out in the bathroom,” she shared on WeAreTeachers HELPLINE. “We found them climbing on booths, lying on the floor etc. Last week I asked our caretaker to rub that piece of bread all over the bathroom. Needless to say they don’t want to hang out anymore downstairs.
Children waste paper and soap.
Part of this goes back to teaching bathroom routines (see suggestions above). Talk to children about the cost of supplies and show them exactly how much soap and paper they really need to wash their hands properly.
In the end, you might just want to be happy that they remember to wash their hands!
Students vandalize toilets.
It’s a really difficult problem, and it’s been going on for years. Schools have adopted a variety of methods for this purpose.
Close the restroom and ask for a key to be picked up at the main office. This allows schools to limit each bathroom to one student at a time, and you’ll have a good idea of who might be vandalizing.
Completely close the bathrooms. Be very careful when using an approach like this. “Just keep it” isn’t an option for everyone, and there may be legal issues as well.
Use bathroom screens. Teachers can take turns (like at lunch or in the parking lot), or you can hire assistants at school. You might also consider a parent volunteering policy.
Make the bathroom a better place. It may seem a little illogical, but some schools have found that improving their toilets actually encourages children to behave a little better. Try painting murals like the ones above (find more great ideas here).
Students do not feel safe in the bathroom.
School bathrooms have been the scene of all kinds of bullying and harassment, from “whirlwinds” to sexual assault. Every school needs a zero tolerance policy for this type of behavior. Make sure students know who they are reporting bullying or violent behavior to, no matter where it happens.