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Toddlers are Terrified of Automatic Toilets

April 20th, 2007

I don’t know what goes through the minds of people planning kids’ museums and attractions. Why do they put automatic toilets in places that are supposed to be kid friendly? My kids are just starting to get past this, but as toddlers they were absolutely terrified by the automatic toilets.

It goes like this: you are trying to potty train your young child, you bring her into a public restroom at the local tot museum, and as soon as she spots the blinking red eye, she freaks out, refuses to use the toilet and you are left struggling for ways to reassure her. Finally, you crouch down, face nearly touching the toilet, to attempt to firmly cover the sensor so the toilet does not flush while your child is sitting on it. You hold this painful pose for 15 minutes while your kid tries to poop. Then maybe you get a little lazy because you’re in pain from holding the pose or because your other child is lying on the floor, licking the side of the stall, and you move your hand ever so slightly. The toilet, with its supersonic public toilet pressure, emits a loud WHOOSH and your kid is sure she is going to get sucked down, never to see you again. Potty training is set back a decade and have to start looking for a therapist.

I know not every kid is afraid of these things. Some may think they are kind of cool. But save this cool feature for the sinks. The cool factor is much more appreciated there when there is no danger of being sucked into the sewer.

Any day now I’ll start a whole campaign with T-Shirts. Something like: Toddlers United to Stop Horrifying Terrible Red-eyed Automatic Potties. (T.U.S.H. T.R.A.P.). If your interested in joining the movement or have a more punchy acronym, let me know.

If you are a parent seeking help, I can suggest one solution that works pretty well. We learned it from a kind attendant in the baby care center at Disneyland. She showed us you can simply stick a Post-It Note® over the eye and it seems to work most of the time. The trick depends on a couple of things – first the ability of the post-it to stick to the dingy surface of the toilet. Second and most importantly it requires buy-in from the toddler. You have to really sell it with confidence and enthusiasm. I’m not much of a salesperson, so my success would rely on the kid’s disposition on a given day. Still, I keep a couple of post-its handy in my wallet at all times.

My suggestion, again, for anyone building children’s facilities: DON’T MAKE THE TOILETS AUTOMATIC. Save it for the sinks and we’ll all be better off.

(If you are in LA or Santa Monica, I have a list of fun things to do with toddlers and kids. But they don’t have toilet reviews. Yet.)

Entry Filed under: Fun, Life, Los Angeles, Travel


  • 1. wendy  |  May 17th, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    I’m searching for a potty seat that fits on top of these industrial style toilets. Any ideas??



  • 2. Serena  |  February 19th, 2009 at 1:28 am


    I can thoroughly relate to what you are going through. My girl has an irrational fear of the automatic flushing toilets. My experience is the same as yours. I go in, she sees the blinking light, she perches on it for 3 seconds and jumps off insisting there is “Nothing!” … we walk out and lo and behold, she holds her bladder, half an hour later, she goes in public or in the car. It has been the bane of my existence. I tried everything from coaxing to cajoling to threatening to bribing. Nothing works!! I’m gonna try your post-it note next. Thanks for the tip. Hope it works. I am getting so sick and tired of this ….

  • 3. MSGQuixo  |  February 19th, 2009 at 9:03 am

    My sympathies! My kids are now 8, so I can testify that they WILL grow out of it! But the post it notes do work as long as you can convince your daughter.. It is much better than when they insisted I hold my hand over the sensor — it just put the rest of me way too close to unpleasant part of the public restroom.

  • 4. Potty training infants  |  August 2nd, 2009 at 6:10 am

    Something needs to be done i n public toilets, may be a separate stall without automatic flushing. I agree that this is rather annoying.

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