- Identify general hygiene practices related to diapering and toileting for children.
- Use strategies for training staff about how to help toddlers learn to use the toilet.
- Teach, model, observe, and provide feedback on general hygiene practices.
It is critical to keep restrooms clean in child care and school-age programs, as toileting and diapering are a major source of contamination. Unsanitary practices can put staff members, children, and youth at risk for illness and infection. This lesson focuses on ways you can help staff members maintain hygienic diapering and toileting practices. It also includes information on working with staff members who are in contact with potty-training toddlers.
At a minimum, sanitary conditions must be maintained in all diapering areas and restrooms. Make sure:
- Toilets are flushed.
- Floors, doors, walls, and changing surfaces are clean.
- Paper towels and other trash are thrown away properly.
- Running water, soap, paper towels, plastic bags for soiled clothing, and toilet paper are available.
- Adults always wash hands after changing a diaper, helping a child use the toilet, assisting with soiled clothing, or touching contaminated surfaces.
- All children and adults wash their hands properly.
Many staff members who work with infants and toddlers need guidance in toilet training issues. Toilet training is an important milestone for children and one that staff members must approach sensitively. You can help teachers and staff members learn:
- When children are typically ready to begin toilet training
- How to tell if a particular child is ready for toilet training
- How to help children toilet train successfully
- How to work with families in the toilet training process
- How to help children (including preschool and school-age children) respond to accidents
Consider using this video to teach toddler staff members about toilet training.
You should also remember that staff members who work with preschoolers or school-age children may also need support around promoting independent toileting. For most children, toilet training is a distant memory by kindergarten. That doesn't mean there won't be an occasional accident, though. It also doesn't mean that they won't need some support around their growing independence. Here are some things to keep in mind when supporting staff who work with school-age children and older preschoolers.
- Accidents happen and they can be humiliating for the child. Make sure staff respond sensitively and make it a point to protect the child's privacy. Help staff members think about ways to minimize attention toward the accident and ways they can subtly help children find clean clothes. It's also important that staff members help children "save face" when they re-enter the program area after an accident. Help them think of responses school-age children can give when others ask what happened or why they changed clothes.
- Promote independence in young school-agers. In most school-age programs, children do not need adult permission to use the restroom, but this might be a new and difficult idea for young children transitioning into the program. Help staff remain patient and support children as they learn to recognize their own needs and take care of them independently.
- Plan ahead. Changes in routine or exciting special events can make children forget to take care of their needs. This means you should remind school-age children to use the restroom before field trips or long bus rides.
You can model talking positively to toddlers about the toilet. Join in congratulating children who "go potty."
Help staff members identify ways to organize the diapering and toileting areas so that supplies are always accessible and hygiene is maintained. Set up opportunities for teachers or caregivers in infant programs to visit each other's classrooms for ideas.
Talk to school-age program staff about how to teach children and youth to maintain sanitary conditions. Regularly inspect the restrooms to make sure they are clean. If you see a problem, talk to staff members right away and make a plan to fix it.
Watch how the staff member in the following video prepares the changing area in an infant classroom. All staff members should know and follow required cleaning procedures every time.
Take a few minutes to think about the range of restroom conditions you might encounter in infant through school-age settings. Read this chart and think about which scenarios might be most likely in your settings. How might you respond?
A staff member changing diapers without gloves
"Gloves are a major way you can protect yourself and the children."
A staff member finishes a diaper change, cleans the mat, and writes on the child's log. Then she washes her hands.
"The pen that you used for the log is contaminated. Let's disinfect that pen and talk about the steps for cleaning…"
You walk through the classroom mid-day and see paper towels on the floor and little puddles beside the toilets.
"I know you make sure your restrooms are clean everyday at opening and closing, but we've also got to make sure we stay on top of it all day…"
You see a pair of underwear hanging over the stall door. The staff member says the child's mother asked them to rinse dirty underwear before sending them home if the child had an accident.
"I understand where his mom is coming from, but rinsing the underwear introduces germs into our sinks and increases the risk of contamination. Would you like me to come this afternoon and help talk to her?"
A sink is clogged and is causing water to overflow.
"I let maintenance know that a sink is clogged. Please make sure children do not use that sink until it's fixed."
A child has become suddenly ill with diarrhea, and there is a strong odor near the restroom. The other children are laughing, covering their noses, and talking loudly about the child and the smell.
"I'll help the sick child into the office, and I'll get his mom's number for you. Your team can keep business as usual in the program areas. Please check the restroom and let me know if any housekeeping issues need addressed."
A five-year-old continually asks to use the restroom although it is always accessible.
"It looks like Josie doesn't quite understand how to take care of her needs independently yet. How do you think we may be able to help her remember that the restroom is always open and she doesn't need to ask?"
It is important to ensure compliance with sanitary diapering and toileting areas. Use the Restrooms and Diapering Environment Best Practices Checklist in the Apply Activities section below to focus your observation on this important set of competencies. When you have finished observing, store the forms in staff members' training files to document progress and competence with this skill.
Sometimes, staff members have a difficult time potty-training toddlers and they may use techniques that are not consistent with best practices. Use the What Do I Say Now Activity to read the scenario and answer the questions. Then compare your answers to the suggested responses.
It can be helpful to have a library of professional resources. Use the Toilet Training Booklist as you consider purchasing titles for your program’s library so you can share them with staff members.
The Restrooms and Diapering Environment Best Practices Checklist can be used to focus your observation in each classroom or program. Provide feedback to the staff members about what you saw, then save the completed checklist in the staff member’s training file as documentation of their progress and competence.
American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education. (2015). Caring for Our Children: National health and safety performance standards; Guidelines for early care and education programs, 3rd ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; Washington, DC: American Public Health Association. Also available at http://nrckids.org
Aronson, S. S., Bradley, S., Louchheim, S., & Mancuso, D. (2002). Model Child Care Health Policies, 4th Ed. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Aronson, S. S., & Spahr, P. M. (Eds., 2002). Healthy Young Children: A Manual for Programs. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Keeping Healthy: Families, Teachers, and Children. (2007). [Brochure]. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
North Carolina Child Care Health and Safety Resource Center, (May 2009). Information available by contacting 800-367-2229.
Ritchie, S. & Willer B. (2008). Health: A Guide to the NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standard and Related Accreditation Criteria. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.