How old should a child be before they're able to go to a public bathroom alone?

public washroom

We’ve all been there.

You’re out with your young child and all of a sudden, he/she announces “I have to go pee!!” You know that this type of warning means that time is of the essence and that a toilet needs to be found, now.

If you’re the parent of a child that is the opposite sex from you, you have a problem, especially if that child is “of a certain age.” In some cases, this can mean over the tender age of six. Yes, six.

Recently, a sign was seen warning parents to leave their boys who were over the age of six out of the women’s bathroom and to let them go alone to the men’s facilities.

To say that this is a problem is an understatement, at least in my opinion, and in the opinion of the many other parents who helped to make this image go viral. Here’s the offending sign:

boys over 6 sign

As a parent of young boys (twins), I know them well and know that my comfort level in allowing them into a public bathroom without me is not there yet. There are the practical problems: they may need help wiping or washing their hands, or even reaching the sink. I want to make sure they don’t touch too many things in the bathroom. They may need me to undo and do up their pants.

Then there are the more disturbing potential problems: what if there is a questionable person or persons in the bathroom who may pose a threat to my son(s)?

As a parent, I can’t help but feel that erring on the side of caution is best in these instances and therefore, my child will stay with me if they need to go to the bathroom, at least until I feel comfortable enough to let them go in on their own. At the end of the day, parents know their kids best and should be the ones making the decision about when their kids are ready to confidently venture into a public bathroom without their parent. An arbitrary age shouldn’t be dictated to determine bathroom abilities or the lack thereof.

On a related note, for those insisting on a specific cutoff age for going into a public bathroom with an opposite-sex parent, I would ask them the following: How do you determine a child’s age? Do you ask for a birth certificate? What about those kids that look older or younger than they really are?

In case it’s not clear, I think that six is much too young to be going into a public bathroom alone. I accompany my kids at this age and will continue to do so until I feel that they can handle things by themselves. As a mother, I will not be told that I  have to leave my children alone in a potentially vulnerable situation. And clearly, based on the response to this topic, I’m not alone in this sentiment.

Check out the Huffington Post Live segment below on the subject where I weigh in and provide my perspective, along with other parents:

VIDEO: The Public Restroom Challenge For Parents

So what do you think? How old should a child be before they can go into a public bathroom alone? Would you feel comfortable letting a six-year-old go into a public bathroom without you? Why or why not? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.


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How much freedom should a child be given, and at what age?

Where do we draw the line?

Where do a parent’s right to making a decision about their child or children end and the rest of the world’s responsibilities begin?

Working from the assumption that most of us have the best interest of children in mind, does that give us the right to butt in where we don’t belong?

I wish the answer to this question was simple but recent headlines and a growing trend towards “Helicopter Parenting” doesn’t give me much hope.

You may have heard about this story:

Maryland Family Under Investigation For Letting Their Children Walk Home Alone

The crime? Maryland parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv allowed their children, aged 6 and 10, to walk home alone from a playground, not far from their home, in the middle of the afternoon one recent Saturday.

 child walking home

For many who subscribe to the philosophy of “Free-Range Parenting,”  it was seen as the most normal thing in the world: an opportunity for these parents to teach their children a bit of independence and self-reliance in what they felt was a safe scenario. For others, many whom may be considered “Helicopter Parents,” it was cause for considerable alarm and for some, enough for them to call the police and child protective services.

Both camps believe that they’re in the right - and that the other is woefully misguided. Each camp believes that the other is doing irreparable harm to the children due to the choices of the children’s parents. Sadly, the kids are often the ones who suffer as they are either monitored so closely that they never gain the confidence required for true independence, or they are left to their own devices - too much so - which in itself may lead to trouble.

Is it okay to let a child walk to the park and home alone, or with a younger sibling? How old is it when it becomes okay? What age is too young?

For the record, I think that the treatment of these parents is beyond harsh and alarming. If anything, they are doing what we all try to do as parents - teach their children to have confidence in their decisions, to be fearless and to be independent. Isn’t that what we all want for our kids?

Now, perhaps my perspective is coloured by the fact that I was also raised by “Free-Range Parents,” except they didn’t know that that’s what they were doing.

As a child of the ’70’s, I spent many a day, evening and summer vacation going to the park by myself or with friends, walking to the corner store alone, riding my bicycle without a helmet (no one else wore helmets, either) and coming home after school alone, with a key to let myself in. Yes, I was alone, in my home and no, I wasn’t a teen yet. I had to call my mother (who was at work), from our landline (there were no cell phones, email, texting or Google then and we all managed to survive) and I watched the Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island until my parents got home from work. I even made myself snacks and used the stove. I was a responsible kid and my parents trusted me. Oh - and all of my friends were “Free-Range Kids” as well, as raised by their parents. The “Helicopter Parents” of later decades had not yet made their mark.

Nowadays, I’m sure my loving parents would be reported as being negligent, and perhaps be arrested for their perceived neglect. Yet they were anything but. They loved and cared about me and were able to gauge my maturity level as they meted out a bit more responsibility and independence to me every time I proved that I was worthy of their trust. They provided me with the tools, skills and independence I needed to become a fairly confident and well-balanced adult. This type of parenting isn’t neglectful; if anything it shows a keen desire to help a child to gain the skills that they will need as an adult.

Yet we are now in a different era and parents like Danielle and Alexander Meitiv are under the spotlight for their perceived neglect.

I had the pleasure of participating in a Huffington Post Live segment on this very topic that featured Ms. Meitiv herself, along with Julie Gunlock and Lisa LaGrou, both moms who, like me, were united in our thoughts surrounding how Ms. Meitiv is being treated regarding her decision.

You can watch the full Huffington Post Live segment below.

Huffington Post Live - Under Arrest For Letting Your Kids Be Independent?

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you believe in “Free-Range Parenting?” Was it necessary to call in the authorities on this parent regarding her decision to let her children walk home alone? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Top 5 Tips For Kids’ Snow Safety

by Samantha on February 8, 2014

How to keep your kids safe in winter weather

vintage kids in snow

With the winter season, snowfall can mean just one thing to most kids: fun. To a child, nothing can be more enticing than piles of snow, taller than they could imagine, beckoning them to start the festivities of snowman-making, fort-building and igloo assembly. Unfortunately, these piles of snow can be deceiving and in some cases, downright dangerous. Snow banks that have accumulated at the sides of roads as a result of ploughing are particularly unsafe. They are also one of the first places that kids go to build tunnels and forts. Between the danger of cars, snowploughs and not being seen by passing vehicles, it’s imperative that parents talk to their children about this potential danger and others that come with a buildup of snow.

Here Are 5 Tips For Kids’ Snow Safety

1) Set Clear Rules - Kids should know what the rules are before they head outside to play. Take a few moments to discuss the “do’s and don’ts” of snow play. Remind kids to play in open areas that are free of cars and traffic and to stay away from snowbanks (roadside or otherwise) and snow ploughs.

2) Dress Kids in Bright Colours - Stay away from the light or white clothing when sending the kids out to play in the snow. They have to be seen in case of an emergency, from a distance and when visibility isn’t great. Dress them in bright and colourful outerwear to assure that they can be easily identified.

3) Use the “Buddy System” - There is safety in numbers. If kids are going to play in the snow, make sure that they’re doing so with at least one other friend so that they have another set of eyes and backup in case of an emergency.

4) Daylight Play Only - Snow play in the dark can be dangerous, as visibility is limited and there are more opportunities for accidents to happen. Make it a rule that the kids only play in the snow when it’s light outside, so that they are able to be seen clearly.

5) Supervised Fort and Tunnel Building Only -  Building snow forts and tunnels are some of the most fun activities for kids during the winter season. Unfortunately these are also opportunities for kids to get hurt, or for accidents to happen. Caution children that these types of activities should only be done under the supervision of an adult.

I provide some related snow safety tips in this Global News video as well:

Global News: Keeping Kids Safe in the Snow

 What other snow safety tips do you have? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Meltdown in Aisle 5: Top Parenting Tips From Multiple Mayhem Mamma



Social media and kids. Two topics that evoke lots of emotions, particularly for parents. Following my article Social Media and Kids: What Parents Need To Know I was invited to be interviewed on CKNW AM 980 to talk about some of the issues and my suggestions for parents. It was a great discussion and I covered some of the key points outlined in the article. You can listen to the full interview below.


Protecting Your Child on Social Media - CKNW Newstalk 980 Interview

What do you think? What other things can parents do to protect their kids who may be on social media? Leave me your answers in the comments below.

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Top 5 Summer Safety Tips For Kids

by Samantha on July 23, 2013

Girl smiling

School’s out and the kids are antsy. Is it any wonder that parents worry about their children getting into trouble during the dog days of summer?

I recently had the opportunity to provide some simple yet important advice to students who were just heading out of class for their summer holidays. During the last week of school, Toronto Hydro reminded kids about some of the things that they should consider during their time off. While some things may seem obvious to us adults, kids will be kids, and their curiosity is often the cause of their behaviour - good or bad. For this reason, I was thrilled to be part of a fun but educational event that provided kids with the opportunity to learn about electrical safety both indoors and outdoors, as well as some simple do’s and don’ts.

In order to engage the kids in the safety discussion, Toronto Hydro provided a multi-stationed, hands-on, interactive display which included a number of items that were not surprisingly of great interest to the kids. All of the items on the display were scaled to miniature yet proportionate size so that the kids could get a realistic idea about the items. Included in the display was a transformer and power station, a miniature swimming pool complete with a woman cleaning it with a long metal pole (guess what this part of the display was supposed to represent) and many more items that kept the kids interested.

All in all, it was a great day out and the kids left for their summer vacation with the knowledge of how to be safe during the summer holidays.

Following are the Top 5 Summer Safety Tips For Kids:

1) Look Around - It’s easy for kids to forget about their surroundings in the excitement of playing in the warm summer sun.  Before starting any type of outdoor play, remember to remind kids to put an imaginary spotlight on their surroundings. This means looking up, looking down and all around their play areas in order to make sure that the coast is clear for play.

2)Go Fly a Kite - But Look Up First - Before kids let loose with that kite make sure to check the sky for power lines. The last thing that they need is an accident because they forgot to check the sky above them. Kites are great but unfortunately, they can be dangerous if they get caught up in power lines. The string may conduct electricity right through you to the ground, causing what could be a severe accident or, in worse case scenarios, fatalities. Teach kids that if their kit becomes entangled in overhead power lines, that they should not attempt to remove it under any circumstances. This is the time that they should leave it be and let an adult assess the situation. The idea of looking up also applies to trampolines. Parents - remember to never set up a trampoline with overhead lines close by.

3)Stay Away From Electrical Equipment - As tempting as they may seem to kids, those green transformer boxes located down the street aren’t to be played with. Little do kids know, they house potentially dangerous electrical equipment inside. For this reason alone, kids need to be taught to steer clear and stay far away from these boxes. On a similar vein, teach your kids that they are never to poke sticks or wires into the enclosures. If  for any reason, the kids  come across any unlocked or damaged equipment, teach them to tell an adult who should call their local electrical utility company  immediately.

4)Water and Electricity - A Deadly Combination - We need both of these things to function but kids often don’t know that mixing the two can be dangerous. Most household electrical accidents involve the inadvertent connection of these two items. Kids need to be taught that anything electrical should be kept well away from water. Remind them and double check to make sure that electrical devices such as radios, electric lawnmowers and trimmers should be always a fair distance away from the swimming pool.

5)Parents Need to Stay Safe Too! - It’s not just the kids who are prone to trouble; parents can find themselves in hot water as well, if they’re not mindful. Between climbing ladders to clean the eavestroughs, or digging in the backyard while gardening, it’s important for parents to check out the lay of the land before proceeding. As always, remember to call before you dig.

For more tips and advice on safety for families around the home, go to

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May 10, 2013

Following my post regarding best practices for families about Emergency Preparedness, I was asked to return to the Global Morning Show to discuss. Armed with an Home Emergency Kit based on the information found at Toronto Hydro’s site, I was ready to go. Watch below for tips and advice about what all homes should have […]

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An Emergency Preparedness Checklist – Top 10 Tips For Families

May 4, 2013

An Emergency Preparedness Checklist – Top 10 Tips For Families Emergency preparedness is particularly important in families with children in the home. Not only should parents make sure that their kids know fire drills and how and when to act in emergency situations; they should also make sure that kids are well-versed on where certain […]

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The Top 5 Things About Parenting That You Were Never Told

April 19, 2013

**You can get the full podcast audio of this blog post at the end of this page** ————————————————————- Parenting advice is a dime a dozen. Everyone has their opinions on what you should and shouldn’t be doing in order to be a great mom or dad. Do this, don’t do that. Is it any wonder […]

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