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Teacher using bathroom buddy stuffed animal when teaching bathroom routines

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Teaching Bathroom Routines That Kids Will Want To Follow

Managing the seemingly endless stream (no pun intended) of kids coming and going from your classroom to use the restroom can be exhausting. You know you have to teach kids the bathroom routines of coming and going to the restroom. You’ve used all the systems. Keep reading to find out the system I used to teach the bathroom routine for getting permission to use the bathroom.

Bathroom Routines That Didn't Work For Me

“Teacher, can I go to the bathroom?” or hand gestures to signal kids have to use the restroom or sign out sheets. These are all things that have happened in my classroom but guess what… NONE of them worked for me. In fact they made more work for me. (Exactly what I didn’t need.)

Large teddy bear holding with a sign around his neck saying "Bathroom Bear" used for teaching bathroom routinesing

Searching For The Best Bathroom Routine - I Was Desperate

I needed a routine that allowed my students to use the restroom and get back to class quickly and with no interruptions.  I needed a bathroom routine that let me know at a quick glance who was using the bathroom. 

I needed a routine to teach kids how to take care of restroom issues without asking me. 

I needed a bathroom routine that was easy to follow. 

Then I started using “Bathroom Buddy”.

It’s a simple, effective and dare I say cute solution to bathroom hassles in the classroom. I’ve used Bathroom Buddy with kindergarten, first and third grade students.

Teaching Bathroom Routines With Bathroom Buddy Was An Answer To Prayer

Teaching bathroom routines with Bathroom Buddy works and I can’t wait to share this simple teacher hack with you.

Let’s go through what it looks like in the classroom. Then we’ll go over how I taught this routine to my students and got really good results.

Teaching Kids How To Use Bathroom Buddy

First, Bathroom Buddy is a simple system for teaching bathroom routines that uses a stuffed animal aka Bathroom Buddy to indicate and regulate who is out of the classroom using the restroom. I used a stuffed bear so we called it Bathroom Bear. You can use any stuffie and make up your own name for it. 

To set it up, I put Bathroom Buddy at the front of the classroom. He was very visible to everyone. He also has a sign around his neck saying “Bathroom Buddy”. This is important because Bathroom Buddy isn’t a toy. He has a very specific and important job.

How Bathroom Buddy Manages Bathroom Visits

When a student needs to use the restroom they walk over to Bathroom Buddy, and grab him and place him in their chair or on their desk. They go use the restroom and then they return Bathroom Buddy to his spot at the front of the room.

(If you didn’t see the video on teaching restroom procedures is it here: Bathroom Teacher Hacks- Bathroom Buddy.

Why is Bathroom Buddy Soooooo Awesome?

First, only one person can use Bathroom Buddy at a time and they don’t have to ask you if they can leave to use the restroom. Enough said on that matter. We all know that this is priority number one when teaching bathroom routines. More than one kid out at a time is a recipe for disaster.

Second, you can quickly see if anyone is in the restroom and who it is. If you notice that Bathroom Buddy has been sitting on a student’s desk for a bit too long then you can take action. Having it so visual is really a good thing.

It helps to get the kids in and out of the bathroom quickly because when you are teaching them about Bathroom Buddy you are going to emphasize the fact that you are watching to see how long Bathroom Buddy is at their desk. 

Too long and the teacher will have to investigate. (Also don’t forget that sometimes you will have to revisit and reteach bathroom routines.)

Third, and this one might seem a bit strange but during a lock-down or fire drill you can quickly scan the room to see if anyone is out using the restroom. It actually happened to me once and I knew one of my students was in the restroom because of Bathroom Buddy. I was able to grab them and make sure they were with me as we exited the building.

Without Bathroom Buddy I would not have been able to see someone was missing until we were out of the building. By then it would have been too late.

Without Bathroom Buddy I would not have been able to see someone was missing until we were out of the building. By then it would have been too late.

Fourth, it’s quick. They grab him, walk him to their seat and then out the door they go.

This might seem like a lot but you don’t have to manage it. After you establish and teach the routine it’s on autopilot. And autopilot means you don’t have to waste your precious attention and energy on bathroom issues.

Fifth, it gives you a better idea if someone is using the restroom more than “normal”. This might be for all sorts of reasons but as a teacher it’s an important thing to know if kids are leaving because they have a real bathroom issue or they are leaving to get out of class. Both need to be addressed.

A Word Of Caution

You really have to be explicit with how you teach this procedure in your classroom. EVERYONE is going to want to use Bathroom Buddy. So let them. Take turns. Practice. Expect Bathroom Buddy to get heavy use the first few days after you introduce this new tool into your classroom. Just know… it’s normal.

How To Teach The Routine Of Bathroom Buddy

Let your students know he’s not a toy. Then explain how it works and what their behavior needs to be when using Bathroom Buddy. Here are some issues that came up with me with Bathroom Buddy that might help you when teaching this procedure.

  1. When using Bathroom Buddy he sits either on your desk or on your chair. Not in your desk, not under your desk. Simply place him quickly at your desk and go use the restroom. He doesn’t need to hold your pencil or your water bottle. FACTS.
  2.  When walking to get Bathroom Buddy and going to the bathroom etc. Go directly from one point to another. Wandering around the classroom is not showing your need to use the restroom. 
  3. Do not throw Bathroom Buddy.
  4. Only the person using Bathroom Buddy can carry him. One turn at a time. Do not take Bathroom Buddy off of someone else’s desk. 
  5. When using Bathroom Buddy do it quickly and quietly. 
  6. If you need to use the restroom and someone is out for a long time let the teacher know you need to use the restroom.

Keeping It Private & Quiet

Now when students have to use the restroom they don’t need to yell across the room, “Teacher, can I go to the bathroom?” They don’t have to remember any hand signals to ask for permission. ( I can never remember those hand signals anyway… and in Kindergarten sometimes those hand signals can go unintentionally wrong… if you know what I mean.) There’s no sign-out paper that somehow no one ever really uses.

5 Tips For Managing Student Bathroom Issues

Want more help with teaching bathroom routines and procedures? Check out this post that will help you even more. 

5 Effective Tips for Managing Bothersome Bathroom Issues. It’s perfect for your K-1 classroom management.

You can even grab a FREEBIE “Bathroom Buddy” sign for your classroom.  

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Angie K

Angie K

I love to help teachers create an amazing teacher life.
I've taught for 25+ years and I want to help you find joy and energy in each day.

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