Do your kids know what is expected of them enough to take care of their own needs in the bathroom?
If you have young kids, leaving them alone in the bathroom can quickly spell disaster, yet eventually you must trust them enough to do so. Independence can happen sooner than you think if you set up a familiar bathroom routine and give your kids the chance to get the hang of it.
Here are ten important tips for kids to leave less of a mess, get through their bathroom routine quickly, and waste as little as possible.
1. One kid in the bathroom at a time.
This has helped lessen the temptation to goof around. When it’s teeth brushing time, my older one goes first and prepares his sister’s toothbrush for her. She’ll be changing her clothes and then they can swap places.
2. Keep supplies easily accessible.
Store toothbrushes and toothpaste on the counter or a drawer they can get to on their own. You don’t want to discourage brushing by having the supplies hidden away, such as in a high cabinet. A liquid
soap dispenser next to the sink works best. I have to keep mine
literally right next to the sink, not back by the faucet, in order for
my 4 year old to reach it. It looks out of place, but I’d much rather
her have clean hands.
3. Use only a pea size amount of toothpaste as well as liquid soap.
Let them practice squeezing out their own toothpaste with help until they have the hang of it. Make
sure they know what a pea size looks like, for both toothpaste and soap. For us it’s about half a pump of soap. Let
them do it, so they know what it feels like and how hard and far to push
4. Have a stool handy for kids who can’t yet reach the sink.
5. Conserve water.
Teach them to only turn on the water to wet their toothbrush, then off again immedietly so they don’t waste water, then on again to quickly rinse their mouth and the toothbrush. The same goes for hand washing; on to wet hands, off while getting soap and scrubbing, on again to quickly rinse. Discuss the importance of saving water.
6. Let them brush.
I let my kids brush their own teeth and then I do a quick finish up, to “check for sugar bugs”. If they do a really good job on their own, I don’t need to finish up for them. This encourages good teeth brushing since they like doing it themselves as well as confidence. I’ve modeled how to get each side of every tooth while brushing with them the last few years. I’m now confident they can both do a good job on their own and don’t hover over them any longer. I do check in on them once in a while and might give them a finish up here and there along with some pointers, but no longer every time.
7. Use 4 squares of toilet paper.
My kids have more than once used way too much toilet paper. It’s hard for little ones to know just how much is enough vs too much. My advice is four squares. Teach them not to bunch it up too tightly and to fold it in so they can wipe a second time if possible. If necessary, they can get another four squares. If you use a nice absorbent tissue like Cottenelle Clean Care toilet paper, which is double ply, that should be plenty.
8. Use wipes when necessary.
Sometimes dry paper is just not enough. I have always kept baby wipes in the bathroom for this purpose. Up until recently this would be when a kids would call “Mom!!” at the top of their lungs and I would come to the rescue. However, 4 and 7 years old are plenty old enough to clean up after themselves when in the bathroom. So, I put a package of wipes on the back of the toilet if they needed them and taught them to throw them in the trash and to only put paper in the toilet. This can be hard to remember, though.
I was happy to hear about a flushable wipe and to purchase some Cottenelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths when I stopped by CVS the other day. I had a coupon, so thought why not give that a try. The kids won’t clog the toilets and they won’t feel like babies using baby wipes.
You, too, can Get Your Coupon for $1.50 Off the purchase of The Cottonelle® Flushable Cleansing Cloths and Clean Care toilet paper also. Only redeemable at CVS.
9. Clean up when finished.
Wash hands and put anything they took out away. Wipes are also nice to have handy to wipe the counter and around the sink after brushing teeth and especially around the toilet when someone’s aim is not quite on target. Kids are very capable of wiping up their own messes. If my kids make a mess of the mirror, they have to wash the mirror with window cleaner as well. The only problem with this is they love washing the mirror!
10. Bonus Fun- Secret Messages with Dry Erase Markers
Keep a dry erase marker in the bathroom so the kids can leave love notes on the mirror. They love writing secret messages for each other or Mom and Dad to find later. My kids know they are only allowed to do this if they’ve finished brushing their teeth and have cleaned up their mess. If you can’t stand a messy mirror, it may take some getting used to, but it is such an easy, free, and sweet way to encourage and express thoughtfulness and love, plus some reading and writing practice. My husband and I leave notes for each other and the kids there, too.
I hope this gave you some good ideas and the confidence to start your kids independently caring for their own hygiene. What tricks have worked for your family?