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Adjusting toilets for children

Published on: 12/01/2012

Toilet use by young children is often scary for both parents and children. Useful materials on this topic are discussed in this article.

Toilet use by young children is often scary for both parents and children. One deterrent to use is a large opening. Yet there are few specific papers on making child-friendly toilet designs. Those available usually deal with school toilets. Examples of design adjustments can be found in publications by IRC and UNICEF. A paper presented at the practitioner’s workshop in Kigali, Rwanda in 2011, stressed the practicality of urinals, also for women and children, in sanitation blocks in congested urban areas.

Potties can be an intermediate step between infant’s open defecation and using the toilet. Other mothers train infants to sit across their lap and defecate on a leaf placed between their legs. They then throw the leaf into the latrine, but also (unsafely) in an open pit or compost heap. Yet others allow children to defecate in the open, but will dispose of stools in the toilet.

Interviews with 2793 mothers in the town of Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso showed which mums were most likely to dispose stools safely in a potty or otherwise. Associated factors were access to a tap in the yard, their husbands' occupation, the number of health education sessions attended, the zone of residence and the family’s ownership of certain valuable objects. A study in a shantytown in Lima, Peru showed that children of 1,5 years and older used a potty in one out of every five households with young children.

In Bangladesh, ICCDDR is piloting different designs of plastic potties as part of encouraging safe infant stool disposal.

Links to materials referred to in the article providing more background information:
  • large opening in toilets are a deterrent for children
  • IRC published examples of toilets with design adjustments
  • UNICEF is another source for finding toilets with design adjustments for children
  • urinals for women and children were discussed in a workshop in Kigali
  • 2793 mothers were interviewed in Burkina Faso about safe stool disposal
  • Lima in Peru was subject of a study on use of potties
  • plastic potties with different designs were piloted in Bangladesh