Saturday, March 12, 2011

How do I stop the bathroom demands in class?

Ms. Dorothy,
What is the best routine for bathroom breaks in Kindergarten?  My room doesn't have a bathroom, the kids go down the hall, they just have to ask. But I find I am getting more and more requests to use the bathroom and it seems like it might be Spring fever rather than need.  I don't want to say "no" though, cause, well, they are in Kindergarten, and accidents happen!  Can you help?
- First Year Teacher

The best routines are those you establish early in the year and used consistently. 

In my classroom, I like to treat all of the daily business the same way it would be treated in an office. We talk about the places that adults work, and how they do things there. Would the boss have everyone line up by gender and use the bathroom at the same time? Would the grown-ups in an office go ask the boss when they wanted to use the bathroom? 

Generally, my students conclude that the bathroom is the kind of business that should not be announced, and that it should be up to the person who needs it to decide when. 

For safety, we need to know where everyone is, so students place their name card in the "boys room" or "girls room" pocket, and take the pass when they need to leave the room.  

If the pass is missing, we wait, or let the teacher know that we absolutely cannot. 

We also talk about how a grown-up in an office wouldn't get up and leave the room during an important meeting. They would know to go before the meeting, or wait until after. 

We establish that the reason we come to school is to learn, and the "important meetings" in our classroom would be any time the teacher is instructing the whole group. The times when we are supposed to be practicing or working independently are better for exiting the room to use the bathroom.

Once that is the norm in your classroom, your job becomes to watch and listen and pay attention to those times when there is greater demand.

Invariably, something you are doing is not engaging them if they are "taking walks" while you are teaching, interrupting to request the bathroom, or waiting 3 deep to use the pass. 

It happens. It just means it is time to change up what you are having them do because it simply isn't engaging.


  1. Here are a few more ideas I would like to add...

    Make sure the children aren't going to the bathroom in pairs - send them one at a time so it isn't so fun to "hang out" in the bathroom.

    Also - have several designated bathroom breaks for the kids built into your routine so you can say "Our bathroom break is in five minutes - can you wait until then?"

  2. Thanks Deborah! Children leaving the room in pairs is always a sign of trouble! Though I don't think that scheduled breaks are needed once children are secure in their toilet learning and no longer need reminders. I know a 2nd grade teacher who takes the class out for regular breaks, and it alwasy seems like it is more about the teacher's time schedule than about the students' physical needs. Do you think there is an age when bathroom breaks is no longer appropriate?

  3. Once again I LOVE THIS!!! I hate dealing with this! I hate saying no but there has to be some guidelines!