Passionate About Des Moines
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A Guide for Kids Using Public Bathrooms Alone

des moines moms blog public bathrooms kids safetyAs moms, we tend to worry about what dangers our kids might face each day. One of my biggest daily struggles as a mom is sending my kids–specifically my two boys–into public bathrooms by themselves. 

My sons are 9 and 6 years old. When they were little, it was easy to bring them in the bathroom with me.

But now my 9 year old is up to my shoulders and feels like a big kid. He HATES going into the women’s bathroom with me. I’m not sure what age is appropriate to send kids to the bathroom alone, but here’s what we do. I imagine that even if you’re a girl mom, there are times you’d like to send them into the bathroom without you too (or when they are out with dad!)

It’s Okay to Use These Bathrooms Alone

Single toilet bathrooms

These are typically found at the newer Hy-Vee stores, small businesses, doctor’s offices, and by the Target Pharmacy (my personal favorite find!).

Family bathrooms

Found at swimming pools, Adventureland arcade, some shopping malls, and libraries. I’ve also learned to ask larger businesses where these bathrooms are. If they don’t have them, I kindly suggest they get one. I think with the gender concerns in the news, we will see more and more of these!


You may go in alone and lock the door.

Mom or Dad will stand outside.

Wash your hands with soap. 

des moines moms blog public bathroom safety

It’s Okay to Use These Bathrooms with Your Brother

Bathrooms with only 1 to 4 stalls

These are typically found at restaurants, gas stations, and parks.


You MUST go in one of the stalls and lock the door.

You may NOT use the urinal.

Mom or Dad will stand outside the door and listen.

When you go in, you must tell Mom or Dad how many people are in the bathroom.

If the bathroom is busy, we will use the women’s bathroom together.

Wash your hands with soap. 

des moines moms blog public bathroom kids safety

We All Use the Women’s Bathroom Together When

There are lots of stalls: Target, Walmart, big mall bathrooms, and arenas.

When we are in a new location: For example, we were just in Washington, D.C. without Dad. My oldest used the women’s bathroom every time.


If you finish early, stand by mom’s stall door.

Never leave the bathroom without everyone.

Wash your hands with soap (have I said that enough?!?!)


I’ll be the first to admit that we follow these guidelines 95% of the time. I still worry about the 5% when they just go by themselves. For the times when we don’t follow these rules exactly, I trust my gut.

I’m sure as they get older, that 95% will eventually turn to 85%, and so on. We can’t always protect our kids, but I certainly try my best!

How We Talk About Safety

It is such a hard topic to talk about with your kids. I want them to feel safe and not afraid of the world they live in. However, we know there are lots of tricky adults out there. (Click on the link for some great tips!)

I tell my kids we practice safety so that if they are ever in a scary situation, they will be comfortable knowing what to do. I compare it to practicing tornado drills at school. It’s very unlikely they will ever need to seek shelter from a tornado at school, but if it ever happens, they are ready and confident.

For bathrooms, we practice yelling “KATIE” really loudly. They know I will come barreling into the men’s bathroom no matter what if they yell for me.

I know these ideas may seem way too protective to some moms or way too easy for others. But hopefully it will get you thinking about what types of procedures you can have in place for those times when nature calls! Oh, and don’t forget to wash your hands with soap!

What are your family’s rules for using public bathrooms?

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2 Responses to A Guide for Kids Using Public Bathrooms Alone

  1. Emily H November 10, 2016 at 3:18 am #

    I have three boys so this is my future. I read about a mom who used to have her kids count out loud the whole time they were in the bathroom and she would stand outside. If they stopped counting, then she would know something was wrong. It’s stuck with me, since I probably read that about ten years ago! Thanks for sharing your tips!

  2. Katie
    Katie November 21, 2016 at 10:04 pm #

    That is a GREAT idea! I would totally do that! Thanks for commenting!

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