When you're a Dad on your own you take your small girls into the Gents with you. Mums take their sons with them to the Ladies.

At what age should we stop doing this? I guess the answer changes depending on whether we're talking about train stations or airports with lots of anonymous, crowded traffic. Or just your local pub. With shopping centres somewhere in between.

So what are the range of answers, depending on location?

5 Answers 5


Aside from your comfort with the location and requirement to ensure to their personal safety, as soon as they don't need help toileting and washing their hands. This could be as early as 3 or 4, or as late as 6 or 7, or later depending on the location. As children approach puberty, mixed bathrooms become less appropriate.

I avoid this awkwardness by using family washrooms or special needs facilities where available.

  • 1
    i've used disabled / special needs toilets with two small ones. i did once get glared at when we exited though. a wheelchair user was waiting outside. it was his accompanying wife who was doing the glaring.
    – hawbsl
    May 6, 2011 at 13:14
  • actually, that makes me feel that's a reasonable question here in its own right.
    – hawbsl
    May 6, 2011 at 13:15
  • 13
    I am partially disabled, and never have thought these toilets are solely for the disabled. If all of the other toilets are being used, then why not use the disabled toilet. What does get to me, is when people use them when the others are free; I cannot use a normal toilet. Don't get me started on disabled parking spaces.
    – Hairy
    May 9, 2011 at 7:49
  • 2
    It is most of the time illegal to park on a disabled parking space, toilets are a whole different story : they're not reserved to disabled people, they're setup so that it makes it easier to use for them...
    – Laurent S.
    May 18, 2018 at 11:21

My local Health club has stated no one over 5 years old may enter the wrong changing room. Being a man, and knowing that dressing kids before and after a swim is like herding cats, I am obviously chuffed having all girls. However, I think it's a bit arbitrary. I have an 8 year old with whom we both have no issues changing in front of.

My view is that the moment the child becomes uncomfortable with it, or you become uncomfortable with it, is the time to stop it. My 8 year old is starting to 'develop' and I don't think it will be long before she will prefer being on her own changing.

As with most things in this 'category', I think it is all going to be about how you both feel about it. The moment one of you feels iffy about the situation, is the moment to change, imo.

  • 2
    +1 with the comfort level, especially the child. If they are not going to want to do it then don't force them.
    – MichaelF
    May 10, 2011 at 16:10

My rule of thumb with both my children has been "if he/she can do it him/herself, he/she should". That includes going to the toilet, washing hands, etc. My four-year-old boy goes to the toilet by himself, whether it be in restaurants, shopping malls, etc. or at home. My seven-year-old obviously goes by herself as well, and has since she was about four (when she could reach the faucet without being lifted).

I've found this approach helps their self-confidence and their autonomy. While that means that sometimes, in the morning, they decide to make breakfast (and make an enormous mess) before we even have a chance to get up, it also means there's a lot of things we don't need to do anymore (like putting their clothes on in the morning) - and they're often proud of their accomplishments because they know we value autonomy.

Adolescence is definitely too late to stop accompanying them, diapers is definitely too early. If you ask them "did you wash your hands" with some of their peers present and they're embarrassed, it may be time to let them take care of their visits to the little men's/woman's room themselves...


When the child says, "This is the wrong bathroom!"


I have a ten year old daughter, she has gone into the ladies on her own since she was 8. I always wait right outside the door. I think most women figure out that I'm waiting for a daughter, I've certainly never been subject to any off-key comments about it, just just stand respectably far from the door that you cannot be accused of peeking. @Zayde suggests also being aware of the available exits, there may be more than one.

Personally I don't think its EVER okay for able-bodied people to use disabled facilities in any way UNLESS they are shared with baby-change. They may be empty when you arrive, but (@hairy) you could be keeping a disabled person from relief whilst you're in there. Its not like they have other choices.

  • For a young child, beware of bathrooms with more than one exit. You might wait outside and the child could exit through another door. Nov 20, 2019 at 2:07
  • 1
    could someone explain the downvote ? I answered the exact question asked. Nov 20, 2019 at 15:56
  • @ZaydeinNY We dont tend to have those much in the UK, but you are right to point it out. Nov 20, 2019 at 15:57

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