Does the thought of potty your toddler in a public restroom scare the crap out of you? Loud noises, lack of cleaning, no privacy – it can be so stressful. If so, you’re not alone! But when you are prepared and positive to venture out in public, so will your toddler. So let’s set you and your child up for success with these essential tips for pottying your toddler in public to help make both you and your toddler confident and comfortable with using the potty when you’re out and about.
Why is going potty in public with toddlers stressful?
I’m not a fan of using public restrooms in general and using one with a toddler is even more challenging for two reasons:
- Public restrooms are not ideally set up for toddlers and are missing things like step stools and faucet extenders.
- Let’s face it, most public restrooms look as though they haven’t been cleaned recently. But when your child has to go there isn’t always time to drive home or get back to the car to use a portable potty chair.
The good news is that when you feel confident that your child is ready to make the transition from diapers and start potty training, it can be equal parts exciting and challenging. While research suggests that there is no right way to potty train, for many it can be one of the most challenging periods of toddlerhood. And when you layer on potty training while out in public, it can feel next level; as this definitely brings on its own sets of challenges.
How to potty your toddler in a public restroom
Use these fundamental potty training tips to help ease any worries you may be feeling as you venture out with your toddler in public!
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Always have your toddler try to use the potty before leaving the house
Encourage your toddler to try to go potty before leaving the house. This can help to set your child up for better success in the car and once you arrive at your destination. Using the potty before leaving the house is also a great habit and routine to start now. If your toddler refuses, don’t push them. Model going before you leave and eventually, they will follow suit. The more a toddler feels pressured the more they usually push back which may cause a power struggle.
Look for a family restroom
Some stores and restaurants have a family restroom. This is usually more private and less noisy. If a family restroom is not available, then look for the biggest stall in the bathroom so you can shut the door for privacy and still have space to move around comfortably and help your toddler.
Reduce the noise level
Being out in public can be exciting but oftentimes overstimulating for your toddler. Sometimes public restrooms can even be scary, especially for noise-sensitive toddlers, due to automatic hand dryers replacing paper towels and automatic flushing. Try to reduce any noise, distractions, or interruptions as your toddler is using the potty in public. If your child is noise-sensitive, bring a pair of noise-canceling earmuffs to reduce the noise level.
Bring a change of clothes
Never leave the house without a spare pair of underwear and clothing. If an accident happens (and it will), your child will feel much more comfortable (physically and emotionally) with clean dry clothes afterward.
Point out the potty
When you arrive at your destination, always point out where the toilet is for your toddler. This will help boost their comfort and confidence so that they know where it is when they need it.
Pay attention to your child’s potty behavior
Once you have begun to potty train your child at home, you will get to know their rhythms, behaviors, and signs for when they need to go. Don’t lose sight of this when you are out in public. Despite any distractions, do your best to pay attention to your child’s potty needs and signs when you are away from home.
Check in with your child regularly
When you are out and about with your toddler, make sure to check in with your child periodically. Instead of constantly asking “Do you need to use the potty?”, I prefer to say “Remember, there is a potty here if you need it.” Asking in this way allows you to avoid a power struggle. If you see your child really needs to go but refuses you can say “I need to go potty”, then go to the restroom and try to go. Once your child is there but doesn’t feel pressured they will likely go unless they have a fear of public restrooms.
Before you leave the house, have a plan and be prepared. Make sure your diaper bag is packed with all of your potty training essentials so that when the time comes, you feel more prepared and less stressed. I prefer using a backpack diaper bag so I can have my hands free.
Practice, practice, practice
The more your child practices using the potty in public, the more confident and successful they will become. Learning how to get their own toilet paper in public stalls is a lesson in and of itself! Consistent practice is the best way to help your toddler learn new skills or overcome fears of public restrooms.
8 Public Potty Training Essentials
Keep your diaper bag stocked with these potty training essentials to make public potty stops with your toddler stress-free!
Post-it notes are a wonderful tool (that you already likely have in your junk drawer) to use with your toddler in public bathrooms. Use post-it notes to cover the sensor to avoid any unexpected flushing.
Public restrooms are some of the yuckiest spaces to be with a toddler. They love to explore by crawling around and touching everything they see. Always keep a travel-sized pack of disinfectant wet wipes in your diaper bag to keep both you and your toddler clean from dirty surfaces, especially the toilet seat.
Portable Seat Reducer
Since it’s not practical to lug your toddler’s potty chair everywhere, you can still make going to the potty on a big toilet seat easier for your toddler with this foldable potty seat designed for on-the-go. This portable potty seat will absolutely boost their comfort and confidence. Make sure to purchase one that comes with a travel bag so you are never placing the seat directly back into your diaper bag
Hand Sanitizer Wipes
You can never guarantee that a public restroom will have soap to wash hands. That’s why I love these alcohol-free hand sanitizing wipes. You can also choose the liquid hand sanitizer.
Keep a waterproof bag in your diaper bag to use for any soiled underwear or clothes. This will help to keep the rest of your diaper bag clean and dry if your toddler has an accident while you are out.
Single ply toilet paper in public restrooms can be challenging to work with. That’s why I always like to have some flushable wipes on hand.
Toiler Seat Covers
Disposable toilet seat covers are a simple way to help keep your child clean from dirty toilet seats and germs.
Don’t let public potty breaks stress you out
Whether your toddler is wearing disposable potty training pants or has graduated to underwear, pottying your toddler while out in public is no easy feat. Yet, with a little patience, positive encouragement, and paying attention to your child’s cues, you can set them up for success (even with accidents along the way).
Regardless of where you are in the toilet learning process check out my full list of potty training essentials for home and on the go including my favorite potty training books! If you are looking for more support and guidance as you take this next step into the toddlerhood years, check out our Transforming Toddlerhood’s Parenting Classes to help ease your fears, frustrations, and toddler accidents along the way!
Frequently Asked Questions
Be prepared before you leave the house with a diaper bag packed with all of your potty training essentials. Have a plan for where you are going and always encourage (but don’t force) your child to use the potty at home before you leave.
Make sure you have a portable seat reducer to make using the potty more accessible for your toddler. Disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, and post-it notes to cover the sensor are all great items to keep in your diaper bag for trips to the public restroom with your toddler.
If your toddler has an accident in public, stay calm. Accidents are very normal! Always bring an extra set of underwear and clothes for your toddler so they are dry and comfortable. Make sure to have a waterproof bag for soiled clothes.
Having a fear of public bathrooms is quite common for toddlers, especially those children who are noise-sensitive. Make sure you have noise-canceling ear muffs. Be sure to put a post-it note or sticker over the auto flush sensor. It can also be helpful to role-play at home using stuffed animals to help a child process and overcome their fears.
Public restrooms can be really dirty and gross, consider having your toddler stand on the toilet seat and squat. You can support them by holding their hands or under their armpits. Squatting is a more optimal position to go to the restroom as well!