Toddler Playing with Poop? Stop Poop Painting, Smearing and Other Fecal Fun 6

“How did he get the brown finger paint out of the tub?” I thought before approaching closer and realizing that my toddler was not finger painting with paint– it was poop. This was not first and has yet to be the last time one of my toddlers has removed or simply reached into their diaper to smear, paint, and plain out play with their poop. Poop smearing certainly isn’t the most common toddler behavior in the book, but it’s not exactly uncommon either.poop painting

Why in Clorox’s name would my toddler be playing with poop?

 It’s kind of a could be one, the other, or both explanation here. Many toddlers start having fecal matter fun when they begin potty training. Your toddler has a great deal of focus placed on his or her butt and what comes out of it at this stage in life. As a result, something your toddler likely never really paid much attention to is suddenly a highlight of their day. Curious about the brown excrement, many toddlers poke a finger in and find it sticks and then can be smeared and wiped all over the place. This leads to the second possible cause.

Some toddlers also discover poop smearing behavior before potty training simply from putting their hands in their diaper or mastering the diaper removal art. Curiosity brings them to wipe and smear, and toddler appreciation for messes and “art” prompt them to continue. You could see how both could factor into the “why?” answer most parents search for upon finding a poop masterpiece fresh completed, but this still does little for the “why me?” sadly. Pain in the butt aside, this is a normal albeit disgusting toddler behavior and is almost always short lived. Thank the horrible smell for that one.

Is poop playing dangerous to my toddler’s health?

 It could be. Urine is a sterile substance, but fecal matter is far from sterile. The average poopy diaper is about ¾ water, 1/3 decomposing dead bacteria, indigestible substances (like corn skin), live bacteria, fats, dead cells, intestinal mucous and other bi-products of the digestive tract. It’s the 1/3 that presents the danger of bacterial infection if your toddler gets it in their mouth. Many forms of food poisoning, for example, are a result of improper hand washing after bathroom breaks. In most cases, the worst you could be facing if your child places poop covered fingers in their mouth, besides a severe desire to puke yourself, is food poisoning like symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea 12 to 48 hours after).

What can you do to stop poop smearing, painting and other diaper content misuses?

What not to do:
I was pretty shocked to find how many parents resort to the cold-shower method with poop smearing toddlers. This would entail rinsing the poop off your toddler in a cold shower. This falls majorly under the do-not-do category. First off, a mom who recently made the mistake of making her use of cold shower discipline public was charged with child abuse. Second, cold showers can have negative psychological effects on the child, especially at the toddler age, on top of the fact this method only teaches the child poop painting comes with punishment, not why their behavior is unacceptable or what they should do instead.

This is also another situation where as hard as it is, you have to save your OMG-seriously?-That’s-disgusting reaction for when your toddler isn’t around. Shock value goes a very long way with many kid’s this age, and they will do it again just to see your reaction if it amuses them.

What to do:

When poop happens:
When you catch your toddler mid-smear or admiring his/her work simply calmly pick them up and carry them to the tub. Explain that this is a no-no, because poop is icky and goes in the potty or our diaper and rinse them clean with WARM water. You don’t have to give a warm, comfy, or fun rewarding bubble bath, just a suds up-rinse off clean. Then a short time out often helps so you can clean up the mess, and they can think about the mess.

To avoid future fecal fun:
Prevention is the most useful tool in a poop-painter’s parent’s world. You can start by eliminating the ability to remove diapers if your child is not potty training. A single piece of packing tape does the trick. However, many kids will still stick hands into their diapers even if they can’t fully remove it. This does limit poop level access but doesn’t eliminate it. One piece clothing such as jumpers, overalls or jammies work the best to cut off access to the diaper entirely. You can also use toddler sized onesies (shirts that snap at the crotch) with pants; this will make it obvious when your toddler is trying to get a finger in there. If you aren’t potty training, now may also be a time to start as you can praise pooping in the toilet, giving your child a more rewarding alternative to poop smearing.

Finally, finger paint, the real stuff, by allowing your toddler to make actual messes that aren’t of the stinky variety and don’t come with a time-out, you give them another acceptable outlet for their desire to make messes and art.

In an effort to slay the spam monster and ensure no comment is left unread, your comments are moderated and won't appear until approved. Sorry about that, and thanks for reading!

6 thoughts on “Toddler Playing with Poop? Stop Poop Painting, Smearing and Other Fecal Fun

  • D

    The western world is seriously gone bat crazy. Charging someone criminally for giving a cold shower to a kid as punishment? The real criminal act here the folks humiliating a frustrated mother and possibly wrecking her family. The fruit cakes have taken over.

  • Selena Mack

    I have a friend who’s son was diaper diving
    and fecal smearing for a little over three years (the extremely long
    duration for him was directly linked to his developmental delays). In
    hopes to help her sanity, I developed a garment to help keeps hands out
    and diapers on! It is discreet and can be worn alone or under clothing.
    It can even be used with swim diapers (and the fabric even has UV
    protection!) It can also help with kids that strip at inopportune times.

  • unwirklich admin

    It is possible she got the idea from the internet yes. Whenever I write a post I do research beyond my own personal experience, and on this topic cold showers did come up. That’s why they were included in my piece as a what-not-to-do, and why.

    As far as getting her to stop, you only have two options really. You could turn her in, as I also mentioned there was a huge deal a few years back after an AK mom turned a video of her using cold showers into a TV show asking for help. She was charged with child abuse. Second, you could help her beat the poo-problem so it’s no longer an issue, assuming that’s the only thing she usses cold showers to try to stop. If the kiddo doesn’t do it anymore, poof, problem gone.

    I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. It’s hard when we see someone we love doing something we don’t like to someone else we love, that’s for sure.

  • dad

    I have a daughter, one of several, that has an attitude problem that never outgrew from a teenager. She is now late 20s and has several kids and has and is still resorting to cold shower discipline. I’ve seen the 2 year old shiver for over an hour after the event. My daughter says it works. If it did I wouldn’t be seeing my grandson shiver. And btw, the 2 year old is now fearful of running water. Works well? Obviously when the kid out grows the stage and will think it worked. I am debating on calling children’s services or sticking her in an ice cold shower till she shivers. Either way I may loose seeing my grandkids. I told her I used onesies to help me and after a couple of failed attempts to get in the interesting brown paint they all gave up and returned to normal. I never gave them a time out either. I adjusted myself to not react at all. I just cleaned up the baby, placed then in a play pen and cleaned the room. By the time I cleaned up, they already forgot about the event. Getting mad or disciplining The kid was more retaliation and self gratification then effective prevention of future behaviour. All 5 of my kids did it. Never got mad just did what I could to prevent it and cleaned up. Being a parent means you have to out up with the shit as well as the smiles. My daughter concerns me. I’m not smiling, neither is my grandson. He is just freezing his butt off. The only grin I see is my telling me it’s an effective method. I said a 2 year old doesn’t know what water-boarding is as much as cold water showers are and what they mean. He’s only 2 for God’s sake! I would like some feedback regarding my daughter. I figured out years ago how to handle shitty artwork. Shitty attitudes are more challenging and btw, handling shitty attitudes is harder than the bad artwork materials. I am sure my grandson will have a bad attitude when he gets older as a result. Being that I never condoned cold showers or practiced it, leads me to believe she got the idea from the internet. Sometimes freedom of speech and expression has an adverse effect. Whoever published this form of abuse as remedy deserves a very long cold shower. More than 1. More. Than a few. A pissed of grand dad.

    • Kimberley Menz

      I agree she must of read it on the internet I have just read it myself and I would never put my 2yr old son in a cold shower no matter how desperate I am, I am guilty of reacting though and getting mad but that’s not working so I’m going to try keep calm and tell him no we don’t do that it’s yucky poo is for the toilet and hope to god it works as I am desperate, thank you for the comments reading through them all has helped me understand a lot more