As you walk past the kitchen you will see the children's bathroom to your left. According to State Licensing Regulations, children must be under visual supervision of adults at all times. Therefore, you will notice that the bathroom is not fully enclosed and a convex mirror in place to provide staff with visual access from the classroom. Hand-washing sinks are located outside of the toileting space so that children quickly exit when finished using the toilet and children washing before eating or after a messy activity can wash hands without entering the toileting space. Because the teaching staff has constant visual access, children needing guidance or adult intervention are quickly noticed and responded to.
As in most state licensed preschools we have boys and girls sharing bathrooms so that they can see what bodies look like in a natural, relaxed way. Adults monitor the children's naturally emerging curiosity about differences of body parts and recognize that this curiosity is not sexual in nature. It is no different than learning about elbows, belly buttons, and earlobes at this age. A relaxed atmosphere about bodies will help children understand that the human body and its natural functions, such as elimination, is different from sexuality. It will also reduce the need and desire to explore bodies through "playing doctor" or other games away from the adult's watchful eye. Between 4 - 6 years of age children become aware of the differences and begin to develop a sense of modesty. We do have a single use, child-sized bathroom off from the Literacy Room for children to use when they become uncomfortable with sharing the toileting experience with peers. The open doorway and convex mirror provides the supervising adult with visual access, while giving the child a sense of privacy from the other children.
Though sexually precocious children are very rare at this young age, staff members are trained to be observant to any signs of this in children, and will protect other children from behavior, which could be interpreted as threatening, dangerous, or in other ways frightening to other children. For the family of a sexually precocious child, this may include a referral to counseling, a report of suspected sexual abuse to CPS, and/or dismissal of the child from the program. This is not the case when children are observed to show age appropriate interest in each other's bodies!
You will also notice that the toilets, sinks, mirrors, towel and soap dispensers are all at the child's height so that children can use the facilities unassisted. We are not licensed for diapered children and, because of the nature of our program, do not accept children who cannot yet take care of his/her toileting needs independently. We request that parents make sure their child can handle all phases of toileting, unassisted, and send children in easy-to-remove clothing such as elastic waist pants or shorts.
The bathroom area also houses quite a selection of children's clothing, shoes and socks. Because children engage in wet, messy activities on a regular basis, we are able to offer children a change of clothing throughout the session. Water shoes are the recommended foot cover at this center! We have found that because we provide planned water play activities daily, children rarely feel the need to play in the sinks once the novelty of having everything at their level and fully accessible wears off.