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Classroom Management to Control Bathroom Breaks

Janelle Cox

Classroom management for bathroom breaks during school can be a tricky issue to handle. If you’re an elementary school teacher, then you know that children will ask to the restroom a lot! And, many of these bathroom break requests can be hard to decipher, because many children just use them as an excuse to get up and out of their seat. How can you tell if a child really has to go, or if they just want an excuse to get up? If you’re a frequent bathroom goer, then you know that it’s hard to tell a student that they cannot use the restroom. We have all experienced at one time or another the sudden urge to have to get up and use the restroom while in an important meeting, or during a situation where you shouldn’t get up. So we can sympathize with our students when they really need to go. But our job as teachers is to decipher when students are just trying to get out of class, and when they really have to go to the restroom. To help you separate the real bathroom breaks from the phony ones, we have come up with a few classroom management strategies.

Have a Classroom Management Restroom Policy

From the moment that your students enter the classroom, you must have a classroom restroom policy in place. Whatever that policy is that you choose, whether it’s unlimited laminated lavatory passes, emergency passes, or just get up and go on your own, you must let the students know what your policy is on bathroom breaks. The sooner that you let students know, the easily it’ll be to manage.

A popular restroom policy that has been used for years is to simply have students write their name and time on a sheet of paper and place it on your desk before they leave the classroom to go to the bathroom. Only one student is allowed to leave the classroom at a time and they must only be gone for a certain amount of minutes before they get penalized. If you see that students are overusing this policy, then take them aside and tell them that they must see the nurse because they may have medical issue that needs to be checked out. This restroom policy is a great way to help you decipher if a student really needs to go all the time, or if they’re just using the bathroom to get out of a test or lesson, or as a chance to meet their friends in the bathroom.

Three Emergency Passes

Give each student three emergency restroom passes. These passes should be handed out each Monday morning and must last them until Friday of that week. These bathroom break passes are in addition to the regularly set restroom breaks that you already have implemented into your daily routine. For example, if you’re teaching in a 3rd grade classroom and have restroom breaks scheduled twice a day, these emergency passes can used in addition to the two breaks that you already have. However, each student only has three passes to use for the entire week. This strategy will help hinder students from trying to get up and use the restroom at various times throughout the day.

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To make this strategy work even better, try making a game out of it. At the end of the week, have each student count how many bathroom break passes they have left. For each pass that they didn’t use that week, they can choose a reward. This system helps eliminate a lot of students from using their cards to just get up and use the restroom as a break.

Distract the Student

If a student truly has to go to the bathroom, they will ask you again and again until you let them go. So when a student asks you to go to the bathroom, and you know they more than likely just want to get out of a lesson, try and distract them first. For example, tell them they can ask again after they finished reading a chapter or when they’ve completed their worksheet. When you do this, they often forget that they have to go, but if they really have to go, then they will not forget. Tell them to remind you after they have completed their task that you have given them. Only then will you really know if they were playing you or if they really need to go.

Take the time to create a classroom bathroom policy that works for you and your students. The quicker that you implement a bathroom break system, the less classroom disruptions that you’ll have and more time you’ll have to teach.

How do you use classroom management for bathroom breaks in your classroom? Do allow students to go as they please, or do you have rules to follow? Please share your ideas in the comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.