Ask LH: What's The Etiquette For Young Kids And Swimming Pool Change Rooms?

Hey Lifehacker, So I have a daughter that will be turning four in a couple of months. Last weekend I took her to a local pool for some daddy/daughter time. Fortunately, the pool had a special "parents and children" changing area — but that room didn't have a toilet.

When she needed to go, I felt a little uneasy in taking her into the male toilets and changing room, where there were naked adult men walking around. We managed to get in and out quickly without her seeing anything, but it made me wonder: at what age is it unacceptable to take a little girl into a men's changing room? And what should I do if a similar situation arises? Thanks, Uneasy Dad

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Dear UD,

We covered this exact issue late last year when a chain of NSW swimming pool centres banned kindergarten-age kids from accompanying their parents into the wrong change room. (Read the full report here.)

The general consensus was that this was a colossally stupid decision and an example of political correctness gone mad (unsurprisingly, the ban was quickly reversed). Most of our readers agreed that it's perfectly acceptable to take a child into the "wrong" change room if they're too young to dress themselves and/or use a toilet unsupervised.

However, the age at which it ceases being socially acceptable is harder to pinpoint. Personally, I've allowed my daughters to use female toilets unattended since they were three and five — but that's mainly because I know they can look out for each other. If I only had one child like you, I'd probably be more reluctant to send her in alone.

In any event, no reasonable adult is going to take offence at the presence of a three-year old, so what you're doing is fine for the time being. (You'd certainly run into more strife if you tried to take them into the women's change room!) It really comes down to how comfortable you feel about it. Obviously, having naked men around isn't ideal, but as long as you make a beeline for the nearest toilet stall she's not likely to see much.

Alternatively, if she only needs to do a Number One, why not get her to go in the pool? This is what most kids do, and quite a few adults too. You know it. I know it. The pool staff know it. If you're going to let your daughter swim in urine, she might as well join the pee party. There's no shame in this; especially when the pool doesn't provide suitable facilities. (She should probably draw the line at dropping a log though.)

Cheers Lifehacker

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    Alternatively, if she only needs to do a Number One, why not get her to go in the pool?

    I literally laughed out loud. Was not prepared for that.
    Nice one, Chris.

      LOL the system only works if nobody talks about it! It's the world's little tinkly secret.

    I know it too, that's why there is a crazy amount of chlorine in public pools

    In most pools I go too, they indicate 6 year old is the maximum age for using the other gender's toilet.
    When I go and change in the male's room with my daughter, I am careful as not to expose her to too many nude guys, but when I go, it is usually packed with other kids :) and when I get dressed, I just get naked long enough to put my underwear :)

    I have a six year old girl with an intellectual is terrible when I'm alone with her in public and she has to use the toilet. It's not so much I'm scared for her's more she likes the rest room I end up yelling at the female toilets for her to finish up and come out while she is happily singing her little heart out. A few times I've just had to announce I'm coming in and go in to get her.

    Last edited 03/02/14 3:48 pm

      That's actually pretty sweet. We can, all of us, only do our best, and you're clearly doing yours. Frack anyone who tells you otherwise, eh?

    The pool I take my sons to in Melbourne has the 6 y/o sign up, but I feel very sorry for the other dad's who bring their 6 y/o daughters into the change room. The room is generally tight confines and there are hairy balls and asses everywhere. 6 y/o girls in a male change room is too old IMHO.

    Heaven forbid that nudity should scar a child for life. There's nothing inherently wrong, dangerous or bad about nudity. Want to protect your child from potential predators, that's fine, but worrying on the off chance that they might glance inadvertently at a naked body for a couple of seconds? Really?

      To be honest it's more for the sake of the other adults that you try and avoid taking your girl child into the change rooms..........children tend to stare..........point..........laugh occasionally......

        Ok, that's probably fair. I would just assume that adults would be able to be mature and laugh something like that off. But a valid point nonetheless. Well met.

        Isn't it circumstances like those where you start to teach a child that's inappropriate behaviour?

    Take her to the mens changing room for as long as it works for you. Your daughter needs to get used to seeing naked men. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks

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