Preparing the Bathroom

Raising Reciprocity’s 9th episode is part of our Preparing Your Home series. Join Megan and Kate as they share strategies for how to prepare your bathroom to support the independence and development of your child.

(0.00) Intro to Series: Room by Room

How does the set up of the spaces within your home support your child’s growth toward functional independence and allow them to participate in the care of these environments? How can the spaces be a reflection of your family’s values and meet the needs of everyone who shares space there? How can the organization of the space and the systems to care for them create flow in the day in- day out activities of your family members? 

(0.52) Benefits of Preparing the Home 

An orderly home includes many benefits, for the children that live there. When a space is organized and there are systems for how to maintain it, the nervous system is able to remain calm. WHen a child is empowered, in age appropriate ways, they learn to become active participants in their world; be it caring for themselves, the environment or others. This instills a sense that they have the power to effect change on their environments. They then learn to advocate for their needs and understand that not everyone has the same needs. Compromise and working together to get everyone’s needs met as best as possible becomes the norm- a cooperative attitude that can have far reaching effects.

(3.05) Overview

Ask yourself: What activities do we do in this room? What is needed to support the child to do those activities? And how can the child participate in the maintenance of the space so that it continues to function well for everyone who uses it. 

(3.24) The Bathroom Sink

Hand washing is a life long healthy habit. Get your child started with this as soon as they can stand on their own. Here’s what you’re going for: Create the ability for the child to be able to reach the sink. Get a stool; If possible install a faucet handle that allows the child to turn the water on/off (twist knobs are more difficult). Use a faucet extender, store bought or homemade; Set the hot water gauge such that a child could not scold themself; Supply a soap pump that the child can pump themself or offer bar soap. When it comes to teeth brushing identify how the child can collaborate in the process.

(5.57) Kid’s Are Shorter Than Most Grown Ups

Provide a mirror in a location that matches the child’s height, lower their towel rack or hook, store their hair comb/brush where they can reach it. If single-use towels are used, have a system for separating the clean ones from the used ones. A large bath towel can be cut into smaller sections to be used like on would use a paper towel for hand drying. 

(8.30) Adapt the Space As the Kids Needs Change

Are your children ready for face washing supplies? Are they growing interested in doing their own hair? Gather the materials and create a “kit” that lives in a basket or in a drawer. If the bathroom is shared by multiple people identify which activities can be shifted to another space in the house, such as the child’s bedroom. 

(9.53) The Full Length Mirror

Providing your child, even at the youngest age, a full length mirror, is a gift to them. Worried about it shattering? There are shatterproof mirrors sold, or simply line the back of one entirely with duct tape. It may get broken, but the pieces will stay put long enough for you to safely remove it. The benefits include the immediate feedback the child gets from their reflection. It helps foster a sense of knowing oneself as they learn their body schema, babble, smile at, or talk with their reflection. And use it as an aid providing feedback when they are learning how to put on and take off clothing. 

(11.18) Bath Time

Again, ask yourself, “Based on the development of my child, how can they participate in bath time?” Can they be the one to put in the bubble bath or the bath toys? How do they put the toys away when the bath is over? Is the towel hook where they can reach it? What about the hamper for dirty clothes? The point is, as teh adult you create the systems that will allow for your child to participate. Reflect on what this teaches them as you coach them to follow through and use these systems verse if what they see is you repeatedly doing all the steps for them.

(12.56) Safety Reminders

Store medications, razors, nail polish and the like in a way that is out of reach from your child. Look for the wide variety of locks and latches sold to keep these items secure from small hands.

(13.38) Big Toilets, Small Kids

The kind thing to do is make adaptations for children to function in this world where most of the interior architecture is designed for adults. Provide a step stool and handrails for your toddler to access the toilet. Get creative if your space is small, could handicap rails be installed even if only temporarily? When the child sits on the toilet, look to see if their feet can touch the top of the stool. Nobody wants their feet dangling when they are trying to make a BM! Use a toilet seat insert or install a seat with a smaller flip seat that lowers on top of the adult sized seat. Be sure that whatever style seat insert you get is one that is easy to clean. Figure out where to store it when it is not in use, such as a hook on the wall. 

Teach your child how much toilet paper to use. Suggestions are to teach them to count out the number of squares, or pull it across their lap and then stop and tear, or to unroll it until it is just about to touch the ground and then rip it off. Alternatively you could precipitate sections and store them in a basket the child can access. Match which of these will work with your child and your space. 

(16.35) The Floor Potty

There are pros and cons to using the floor potty that become a reflection of your child’s needs and yours. The floor potty is already low so therefore comfy for your child to get on and off, no loud  possibly startling flush and it can be transported. On the other hand, at some point the child needs to be retrained to use the large toilet, you have the added step to clean it out between uses, and it can be transported. …do you really want your kid going poop in the living room? Maybe that’s fine with you. The point is to be thoughtful about it. 

(17.21) Pee and Poo Accidents

Again, it’s all about the systems. Expect accidents and mishaps whenever your child is learning something new! Sure cleaning up pee and poop is nobody’s favorite thing to do, but by setting up systems to help you more easily deal with messy accidents you will be better prepared to stay in a frame of mind that encourages you child to keep trying to get it right versus shaming them for what is a totally normal and health body function. Have cleaning supplies, places for putting soiled clothing and access to fresh clothing figured out- and once again- ask yourself. “How can my child collaborate with me when we go about freshening them up after an accident?”

(18:43) Not a Chore, A Source of Pride

When you engage a child in caring for the shared spaces in your home you are not simply teaching them chores. It is so much more than that! They are learning active participation in their own care and in that of others. As humans we are wired for connection, so indeed when we show children how they can wipes up water splashes near the sink, or off the mirror, or pee drips off the toilet seat, and that that is a courteous thing to do for others, they will smile with pride at how they can effect change and influence good feelings for another. 

(19:50) Chores are Normalized

It’s true, as the elementary years hit you may see children start to resist household tasks as chores. Aim to have them participate in ways that increase their responsibility, but that are also manageable. It can even be fun to shake out a bath mat or scrub the toilet with baking soda and white vinegar, or learn how the toilet paper roller snaps into place. Maybe they are eager to water a plant or are able to fold the hand towels. There’s no specific way to measure how participating in the care of one’s environment affects one’s self esteem, but to can trust that children who do such tasks have a sense of belonging, a greater “ I can do it” attitude and a positive inner voice that lets them know they are capable. 

Slow down and show them how to do these tasks. Will their work be as well done or quickly done as you can do it? No- They are learning! Please don’t let your adult perfectionism get in the way of supporting a child as they work to become a competent and confident adult who is on their way to great things! Remember, with all the ills in the world, if the one additional thing you can take on is to be more intentional in your parenting, then put your energy there. 

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