STOP! Is that bathroom occupied?

Today I was reminded of just how amazing kids can be! Let me explain. For our current round of V.I.P., students were asked to create a sign that we could use in our indoor or outdoor classroom. Today’s V.I.P. created two signs, and he also thought about the best uses (and locations) for these signs. 

The funny part about this presentation is that B.’s mom mentioned to us that he thought the stoplight would be good for the bathroom. We all wondered about this. But as he was presenting today, and then after he shared his thinking, the stoplight really did seem to be best-suited for this bathroom area. 

Incredibly enough, after B. hung the stoplight by the bathroom, all of the stress around if the bathroom was occupied or empty, seemed to vanish. Children immediately knew to press the “green light” if it was free, and press the “red light” if they were going inside. A couple of children pressed the “yellow light” when they were washing their hands “because then it will be free really soon.”

Not only are children making sense of text — in this case a stoplight — as they use it, but the creator of this sign solved a big Kindergarten classroom problem: the bathroom conundrum. If you haven’t spent time in a Kindergarten classroom lately, you may not be aware of this problem, so let me explain. Three-, four-, and five-year-olds often struggle with knowing when to close and open the door of the bathroom. They leave the door open when it should be closed, and vice versa. Many children have become used to this now, and adjusted, but for some children, this is incredibly stressful! Some students don’t want to go to the bathroom without an adult keeping guard at the door for fear that somebody will walk in on them. But with the use of the stoplight, the problem disappeared! Students remembered to press the “green” and “red” buttons as needed, and both educators and fellow classmates knew if the bathroom was free or occupied. 

Seeing this problem solving unfold today made me realize that we can never underestimate what children can do! One of the frames in our Kindergarten Program Document is “Problem Solving and Innovating,” and I think that this stoplight usage today was a great example of both! As much as we, as parents and/or educators, may attempt to solve problems for kids, often, if given enough time, children have the best ideas of all. For 11 years, I’ve taught Kindergarten and dealt with these bathroom woes, but a working stoplight with a few instructions from our V.I.P., changed everything today. What have you learned from a child lately? Listen closely. If you’re like me, every day will lead to some new learning!


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