Children and Squat Toilets: Everything you ever wanted to know and a whole stack of things you probably didn’t

On more than one occasion (i.e. two occasions) I have introduced the child of a newly-arrived expat to the ways of the squat toilet. Usually this is because squat toilets are less popular in Singapore than western-style ones and therefore more likely to be available at short notice, and said child has given us really, really short notice.

In a touching display of multiculturalism, it is common to find both types of toilet side by side.

In a touching display of multiculturalism, it is common to find both types of toilet side by side.

We’ve had enough practice to forge on without a pause. Here’s how we’ve taught our kids the secrets of the squat at each of their precious developmental stages.

Older Children (from 3 to 5 years and older)

These kids are old enough to master the Asian Squat:

…which P has been good with since he turned four, but which the more locally-bred T can do at two and a half. Add a pair of waterproof, non-slip shoes (in order to stop this happening {video} ) and advise the youngster to remove their underpants and trousers completely and hold them tucked under one arm.

Make sure they know to face the same way as usual (the door, except for boys urinating) – their bottom should be towards the back, over the drain – and everything will work out just fine, plus or minus a short hosing-down of the cubicle for beginners.

Eventually they’ll be able to swap total-pants-removal with a slight drawing-down and your job will be complete.

Updates: At Suitcases And Strollers they give a bit more detail on how to tell your kids to pull down/hike up their pants so that everything is around the knees and not the ankles or bottom. (They also recommend skirts.)

And Elle at Life In Japan with Toddlers complains of the difficulties of getting a toddler undressed whilst keeping everything off the floor. I agree, and we both usually undress and re-dress our youngsters outside the cubicle and send them in half-naked except for the non-slip shoes. P is getting a bit old for this, but can handle his clothes better (plus he’s a boy). Any other solutions, let us know.

Toddlers (2 to 5 years)

For the child who is too young/inexperienced to squat independently, there’s the supported squat. If you attended one of those hippy childbirth classes you’ll know just what I mean. For everyone else:

He has no idea what this photo is for. But check out the new mo!

He has no idea what this photo is for, but check out the new mo!

Note that the supporter should be positioned BEHIND the toileting child. This is very important. Trust me – I know.

Early Toddlers and Babies/Very Anxious Children

For the real youngster (or very nervous), I recommend the baby dangle. Camping parents, early toilet communicators, people who don’t like to carry potties or toddler toilet seats everywhere, and human swings will be familiar with this one:

It's more fun than T makes it look.

It’s more fun than T makes it look.

For heavier children, continue to support them with your hands around their thighs, but lower their feet to the ground so they’re bearing some or all of their own weight:

Same support grip, just lower.

Same support grip, just lower.

I use the one-handed low dangle for cleaning up afterwards:

The low baby dangle.

At T’s current weight, this is no fun for either of us, but no phrasing I could think of for “Can I please borrow your small toddler for a squat toilet blog photo shoot?” sounded right.

…unless I’m using toilet paper and can stand the child to one side.

No Toilet Paper?

Of course you have toilet paper. Anyone who cares for kids always has tissues and baby wipes on hand. But if you see a little hose or a bucket with scoop you can have a toileting experience which is not only culturally enriching but wipe-saving as well.

Wipe-saving hose.

Wipe-saving hose. Buckets with scoops are an alternative in some places.

DO NOT ALLOW YOUR CHILD TO USE THE HOSE THEMSELVES. Or at least don’t allow my child to use the hose, and if you do, don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’ll let Lee from Riding Effortlessly On A Large Green Turtle explain you the rest, but the short version is you use water and your fingers.

If you do BYO toilet paper or wipes, note that in many places you can’t flush them without clogging the system. Look for a small bin instead.

No Flush Button or Chain?

Based on previous experiences, I suspect not everyone knows this, or at least that’s how I charitably explain it when presented with an un-flushed, uncisterned squat. If the toilet doesn’t have the usual mechanisms, pouring a bucket of water manually into the bowl works just the same (but awesomer, according to fascinated five year olds everywhere).

And that’s basically that. Not daunting at all, especially considering how much bodily waste your child no doubt shared with you as a nappied infant.

As always, if I missed anything or you do it differently, just say so!


Still confused about the squat? Chang Mai Climbing Adventures will (literally) draw you a diagram.

Not sure whether your traveller is adequately toilet trained to ditch the nappies on holidays yet? This post helped us decide what to do.

Also: more tips on travelling with kids!

Click For More Tips On Travelling With Children.

Children And Squat Toilets: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know And A Whole Stack Of Things You Probably Didn’t.

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