It happened while I was helping my daughter get up on the toilet, my son standing behind me. When I turned back to face him, I just managed to catch the moment when he decided to lick the handrail inside of the sandwich shop’s bathroom. It’s the only time I’ve ever considered actually washing his mouth out with soap. And then my eyes with the same soap.
Curious children and public bathrooms are an unfortunate combination. I still shudder when I think of my son’s unexpected take on lickable wallpaper. As a result of his tongue’s wanderings, I have had to find ways to better navigate the walls and floors of the bathrooms we have visited over the years. There was the time we spent two innings in a stall at Wrigley Field (would not recommend), the entire duration of fireworks at Disneyland in a stall at the end of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride (would strongly not recommend) and a Porta Potty at a craft festival (surprisingly ok).
I say this not to put you in the room where it happens; but to explain that I have had plenty of time to learn how to get creative to ensure my son avoids touching anything and everything in a public bathroom. I’ve broken it down for you below, based on how long you might have to wait or your child’s temperament.
This will only take a moment
No line? The simplest option is sometimes the best option. Ask your kid to keep their hands in their pockets and make a bubble with their mouth (puff their cheeks out with their mouth closed). This keeps their hands protected and their mouths distracted.
If you’ve got a child who needs a more active option or doesn’t have pockets in their outfit, opt for a quick round of Simon Says: Pat your belly. Pat your head. Clap your hands. Try to whistle. All you have to do is make sure that every option you give occupies their hands and mouths.
Everything is lava
Every child has played The Floor is Lava game. If you think your children haven’t jumped from the couch onto pillows to avoid stepping on the floor (which is bubbling with imaginary lava), they are just clever enough to wait until you are out of earshot. Now is the time to use all that training.
Before you enter the bathroom, let them know the rules of the game. The walls are now made of lava. That handrail, as delicious as it might appear, is also made of lava. The floor—and this is an important point—is lava, but they are wearing heat-resistant shoes. Alas, their hands and clothes do not have the same protection, so they can’t touch or sit on the floor.
If they want to win the game, they have to avoid the lava.
Welcome to the “Cave of Wonders”
The lava game is great for some kids. But for others, it could be an invitation to jump around like you’re in the middle of a bounce house. Folks in line for the restroom tend not to appreciate a pogo-ing child.
Another take on the lava game is to opt for the full Aladdin. I recognise that this is starting to sound like a heist movie, but you are pulling a con on your kids, so that’s not a bad way to approach it. In the movie, Aladdin has to take the lamp from the Cave of Wonders—but must not touch anything else if he wants to escape with the lamp.
The bathroom is now the Cave of Wonders. And the lamp? That’s the soap dispenser at the sink.
We’re going to be here a while
Even the best laid plans fall apart when the bathroom line is long and your child gets bored.
When I think we’re going to have to wait a bit longer (or hang out for two innings in a park restroom), I’ll stash a travel pack of wet wipes in my pocket. The key here is to distribute wipes liberally, like you’re tossing candy from a float parade.