How to Make a Family Bathroom Work

When my kids were still very little, too young to take baths on their own and still in diapers, I was the proud owner of a lovely home with two bathrooms. Then, as children do, they began to grow. My clever decorating scheme gave way to bathtub crayons, cartoon characters, and toothpaste from floor to ceiling - don't ask how the little darlings managed that last one, because I couldn't tell you.

As a family of five, we've had to make our shared bathroom work for us. In short, I learned all about sharing a bathroom with children. Happily, I discovered a few things along the way to make the entire adventure less painful and more productive (and even kind of fun) for everyone.

A Place for Everything…Including the Duckies

Strictly speaking, the basic bathroom supply list for most kids includes soap, towels, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and little else. I have yet, however, to encounter a parent who hasn't also tried to find room in the bathroom for countless rubber duckies, special washcloths, age-appropriate safety gear for the tub, a potty chair (or two), a kid-sized step-stool, and at least one of those bug- or animal-themed towels with a hood. As a result, the typical family bathroom is chaotic and crammed full of stuff, most of which doesn't belong to mom.

The most important thing to remember in a shared bathroom is safety comes first, followed closely by function. Limit the number of bath toys out at any given time, and make sure they are kept in a well-drained spot that allows air to circulate. Mildew is neither fun nor healthy. We keep a few special toys in a plastic basket that drips into the tub, and rotate them as needed.

Make sure soaps and shampoos are out of reach of little hands. If your kids are older, make sure they have their own kid-friendly bath products, and have a specified spot just for them. Keep mom's razor, small mirrors and any cosmetics, cleaning supplies, and medicines well out of reach.

Keep Decorations Kid-Friendly

I know that beach-themed décor is lovely and makes you think wistfully of those days spent with your toes in the sand. However, it will take approximately three seconds for your kids to disassemble the gorgeous, tranquil still life, or to decide that the painted model boat makes an ideal bath toy. The glass fish you found at the art festival? Forget about it. Instead, consider making decorations together. If you've got your heart set on a beach theme, frame some photos of the family at the shore and have them help you pick some pretty shells to glue to the frame.

Bathroom organizers are super-handy for shared bathrooms; just make sure it's bolted to the wall. Wicker baskets make great organizers for extra washcloths and rolled towels, and they're pretty enough to be left out in plain sight. Keep non-skid rugs in wet areas and make sure the kids don't leave puddles (of any kind) on the bathroom floor without cleaning it up or, with the little ones, letting you know.

Routines that Work

In order for a shared bathroom to work, you must develop a routine and stick with it. Everyone has a set bath time, limits on the time they're allowed to spend getting ready for school and for bed, and, most importantly, shares part of the responsibility for keeping it clean. For the youngest, this means not leaving clothes and towels on the floor. For the oldest, it means wiping down the sink when he's done using it, and replacing the toilet paper roll.


Sharing a bathroom with the kids also meant making a few concessions on my part. For example, I've learned that by allowing my children to choose the hand soap, they're more likely to use it consistently. In our household hygiene hierarchy, fruit-scented soap is currently very popular.

As far as the shower curtain goes…well, pick your battles.

With a little organization and care given to safety and sanitation, make the most of a bathroom shared with your kids. Lose the chaos in favor of organization and order - your whole family will enjoy the space, and, as a mom, you'll appreciate the results.

Content by Kimberly Morgan.