Potty training can definitely get messy sometimes. And one of the messiest issues parents face when potty training is when their toddler tries to play with their poop.
If you’re wondering what to do when your toddler is playing with poop, you’re not alone!
These simple tips will help you deal with this messy situation once and for all.
Why Toddlers Play with Poop
While playing with their own poop is pretty gross to you, to your toddler, they’re simply exploring. And this messy activity is actually a good sign they’re ready to start potty training.
If your child is still in diapers and taking the poop out, your toddler is in a perfect phase for you to introduce the potty to them.
There are typically two different reasons toddlers play with poop.
First, your little one may have begun to notice the fact that there is poop in their diaper and it’s making them uncomfortable. Or your toddler could just be curious about the poop that is coming out of their body and wants to explore it further.
Either way, playing with poop is often a phase that your toddler will grow out of shortly.
But catching your toddler playing with poop can be a great learning experience.
What to Do When Your Toddler Plays with Poop
Before you overact about the mess they’re making, consider the reasons your toddler could be playing with their own poop. Then, take the time to talk to them about poop etiquette and the places poop should go.
Follow these simple tips when talking to your toddler about playing with poop:
- Talk to them about where poop comes from and where it should go – in their diaper or in the potty. You could even let them flush some of the poop down the toilet to show them how the potty works.
- Read books. Books about pooping in the potty can help your toddler understand what it means to go in the potty and not play with their poop.
- Mention that poop is not something they should play with. Encourage them to stick with toys instead of poop.
- Keep your cool as you’re talking and cleaning. Overreacting may give your toddler the impression that playing with their poop is a good way to get attention.
- Show them how to properly wash their hands after using the bathroom (and after playing with poop).
Is Playing with Poop Dangerous?
Just because playing with poop is normal for toddlers doesn’t mean that it’s safe.
Fecal matter is filled with bacteria, which means poop art can be dangerous for your little one.
While the simple act of playing with poop probably won’t cause any health issues for your toddler, putting that poop in their mouth could be a big health issue.
In addition to the danger of a bacterial infection, ingesting poop could also cause food poisoning in your child. And since toddlers are prone to putting their hands in their mouth on a regular basis, it’s likely that they could ingest poop while they’re playing.
To avoid sickness from your toddler playing with poop, make sure to thoroughly clean your toddler with warm, soapy water, paying particular attention to their hands and under their fingernails.
How to Keep Your Toddler from Playing with Poop
After your initial lesson on playing with poop, you’re probably hoping and praying that it never happens again. But chances are, your toddler is probably going to try to play with their poop again.
Luckily, there are a few simple measures you can take to help keep your toddler from continuing this behavior.
Here are some quick tips for avoiding another poopy mess:
- Pick out outfits and pajamas that make it difficult for your toddler to get to their diaper. Onesies, overalls, and zip-up pajamas are great options for toddlers who are still wearing diapers.
- Watch your toddler for signs of pooping and make sure to change them immediately after their bowel movement is finished.
- Reward your child for staying out of their diaper. Give them encouragement by telling them how proud you are that they kept their poop in their diaper or let them put a sticker on a chart every time they poop and don’t play with it.
- Put your child’s diaper on backwards, making it difficult for them to unhook it to play with their poop.
- Keep an eye on your toddler while they’re potty training to make sure they don’t have a chance to make a mess after they’re finished pooping.
- Consider other messy play options to take your toddler’s mind off playing with poop. Finger painting, slime, and play dough are all great ways for your toddler to get the sensation of playing with poop in a more constructive way.
- If your toddler does happen to get into their diaper again, put them in the bath standing up to keep them from connecting a fun bath with making a poopy messy. Simply clean them up and take them out, making sure avoid playing with toys or splashing in bubbles.
How to Clean Up Poop
On top of helping your toddler stop making a mess with their poop, you’re probably wondering how to clean up that poopy mess.
Cleaning up poop from any surface requires that you clean the mess and sanitize the area. To clean up poop, you’ll need:
- Rubber gloves
- Paper towels
- Dish soap and/or stain remover
- Disinfecting cleaner
Put on the rubber gloves to protect your hands from germs and to avoid getting messy.
To clean the poop, start by removing as much of the poop as you can with the paper towels, then wipe away all the residue until you’re left with a clean surface.
Then, spray the disinfectant cleaner on the area and allow it to soak for a few minutes. Wipe the cleaner away with a clean paper towel.
If your child has smeared poop on a rug or carpet, be sure not to wipe the poop. Instead, use a combination of dish soap and warm water to loosen the stain from the carpet.
Blot the soiled area with a damp, soapy paper towel until the spot is clean. Then, blot the spot with vinegar to help disinfect the spot and allow it to air dry.
To clean poop off clothing or fabric, soak the cloth in cold water, blotting the area until the poop stain has been removed.
Spray the spot with a color-safe stain remover then wash the clothing in the hottest water possible.
Make sure the stain has been removed before placing the clothing in the dryer to keep the stain from setting into the fabric.
When Does Playing with Poop Become an Issue?
While toddlers playing with poop is typically a normal occurrence, you may be wondering when playing with poop goes beyond a regularity.
Children who wear diapers or are in the beginning stages of potty training are likely to experiment with their poop as they explore this new phase in their life.
So, if your child is between the ages of two and three years old, playing with poop is completely normal.
But if your little one is fully potty trained and still messing with their poop, you may want to discuss the issue with your child’s pediatrician.
Certain medical and behavioral issues, like autism, sensory processing disorder, constipation, or anxiety, can cause older children to want to lay with their poop.
Talking to your child’s doctor about the problem may help you evaluate the issue and assist you in stopping the problem in its tracks.