Should Kinders Ever Walk Alone?


The Question:

I need a pulse check- How many K teachers allow students to move about the school independently (use a rest room outside of the class, bring something to the office, use the water fountain, return a book to a nearby classroom, etc.)?

When I started 20 years ago I only accompanied kids to the rest room at the beginning of the year to see they could handle it appropriately. My messengers worked in pairs until I knew they were able. Typically by this time of the year they were cleared for take off to do these simple things, but this week I was told by administration that it is not developmentally appropriate for me to expect a child to use a bathroom outside of the class without supervision.

Is this the new norm or am I nuts?

The Answers:


First we had helicopter parents, now we are getting helicopter teachers! We can’t take every iota of risk out of a child’s life and expect to have a happy and independent child.


My kinders move about the school independently. They travel to the office, nurse, library, intervention rooms, and bathroom by themselves. I will sometimes accompany a student to the nurse depending on circumstance.


You can’t stop class every time someone needs to go to the bathroom. I have a repeat kinder that I call my personal assistant and she can take those that need help to wherever they need to go.


My little ones move about independently as well. If someone is nervous they take a friend.


I’m right with Andrea, by now, they can go most places themselves. I let them take a friend if they’re unsure, but most know how to get everywhere they need to.


We go lots of places alone. Office, nurse, back from specials…I also have this on the report card. They need to be able to find their way.


I do exactly as you do! They have to learn independence.


I have found that when administrators start using the words “developmentally appropriate” they usually have no idea what is actually appropriate for the age. Stick to your guns. You know what is right.


Mine travel independently…at the beginning of the year we take lots of walks around the building and point out the office and other important rooms. Within a couple of weeks I’ll send them on errands. They usually take a friend- probably more because they want to than because they need to!


Mine have to travel in pairs for safety/security reasons but I am almost never the partner. There’s nothing developmentally inappropriate about being independent. That is a strange way to label it.


Many times no adult but you in the class to take them anyway! Each child is different and many are very capable to go alone. If you trust them and you know they know the way I don’t see the problem.


All kids at my school must take a buddy when traveling outside the class (K-6). Early in the year, my IA or I will go along, but now the partners go independently. I think building that responsibility and independence is a big part of kindergarten. As with all things, some kids need more scaffolding, but that is the whole point.


As a safety measure, all K and 1 students in my school have to travel in pairs.


Depends on the child, but many are able to go by themselves.


Mine like to go outside of class with a friend. But by now some of them say “I can do it myself.”


Mine travel in pairs (it’s a school safety requirement) but I’ll send them anywhere inside the building together.


Only accompany them for 2-3 days. I have the aide walk 2-3 responsible kids to the office a few times and they become the helpers until I can trust them to go alone.


We have a separate K building, so anywhere outside of there (specials, cafeteria,office) students are walked by an adult. We have bathrooms in the building, so after a while students can go by themselves.


Mine go by themselves or some with a friend. No problems!


If you are walking the kids to the bathroom, who is watching the class?


Mine are independent. I usually let them go in pairs.


I let mine go on their own after the first few weeks of school.


It’s NOT developmentally appropriate for them to use the restroom alone, but it IS developmentally appropriate for us to test them like we do?! We aren’t not allowed to take whole group restroom breaks as we lose instruction time doing so. I’m lucky enough to have a bathroom in my classroom, but last year I did not and had to send kids out alone from day one.


I hope they provide you with a full time para educator to escort them to the bathroom. My kinders go by themselves or with a buddy all around the school.


After the first few weeks of school, I allow my students to walk to places around school on their own or with a buddy. I’ve had some students who cannot handle it, so I come up with alternatives for them.


All the time. We usually use the restroom as a group, because they have automatic sinks and the temptation is powerful! Ha! But sometimes nature calls.


Always with a buddy in case there is a problem and they can problem solve together.


All my children travel in pairs.


Mine travel alone or with a friend depending on the situation. With a friend is when they are truly unsure or may be about to puke (with trash can too). I have a bathroom in my classroom but when someone is taking a long time, I will send students to the hallway bathroom.


Most of mine are independent. However, I have a few that still need some guidance to make it to the right place.


We have bathrooms in our class, but in a pinch, I’ll send kids alone to use the one down the hall. If they don’t know where it is, I’ll send a friend. I almost always send a buddy when they go to the nurse, and I always have 2 messengers.


I send children alone or with a buddy depending on the situation/ student. We also have a bathroom in our classroom so that helps too. Our K classes are also connected by a door so we even will send kids into other classrooms if our bathroom is occupied and someone else needs to go really bad. Our K students are equally comfortable being in any of our K classes as we work so much together. So they walk the hall to other classes freely.


We have our own restroom in the classroom, so going to the restroom down the hall isn’t an issue. Our primary school (pre-k through second grade) is comprised of three separate buildings with a courtyard in the middle. We all send our K-2 students in pairs for safety. I’ve sent students in pairs for all of my 37 years of teaching. It just makes sense, safety wise. I’m kind of surprised that primary students would ever be sent out into the hallway alone.


Mine travel about going to the bathroom and as messengers in pairs since late fall. I have a bathroom in my room but we mainly use the bathroom down the hall because they want a drink too. I have about 5 that I don’t let out of the room unescorted, but the other 15 are fully capable and trustworthy to have a bit of independence in pairs. They always ask to take a friend.


Mine travel all over our building if I can trust them. I do let them take a friend most of the time. But they can definitely use the bathroom independently.


Upon reading all of these responses, I’m wondering if Miss Bindergarten’s definition of “independently” means without an adult or completely alone.


My situation is a bit different, in that I work in preschool/childcare center. The group I work with mostly are the Pre-K children who either missed the cut off date for K, or their parents kept them back a year for whatever reason. Many of them have been there since they were two and half, and could go anywhere in the building alone. However state regulations say that until they are actually in school, they must be in our sight and hearing at all times. This class is the only one some distance from the bathroom, and the only one that only has one teacher, which means that if one child has to go, the whole class has to go, because we can’t send them alone. The max they have is 12. I can imagine how well this would work in a public school setting. I did read an article recently where two older girls forced a six year old to perform sexual acts in the bathroom. I don’t remember where it was. Perhaps that is the kind of things the administration is looking at, but then at what age is “old enough?”


At this point of the year I send them alone, they end up getting into trouble if I send them in pairs. Beginning of the year it’s whole group, then to pairs, and now independent. Isn’t Kinder there to help build independence?


In our district standard procedure is k students always travel in pairs for safety. If going to nurse or office for early pickup send 3 so 2 can return together. I think all primary does this.


You have got to be kidding me….sending them to do errands in teams of 2 is a great idea, as is expecting independence with self care in toileting. They are six and can do this. Your admin is probably worried about the “what ifs” that never happen. You can’t be in two places at once!!!


My students have gone to run errands to the office in pairs since September. I tend to pair a retained student at the early part of the year to show them where to go. If I do not have a retained student, then I have my para train 2 students that seem responsible. Now it’s more difficult to send them to other classes outside our hallway. I have, with the room number written down, but its rare. As for bathroom, depending on where your bathroom is located, they can go in pairs.


I teach in a K-8 building so it has more to do with safety than independence. We go to the restroom and other places in the building together. If they need to go to the office, nurse , etc I have them put their magnet up so I have a visual where they are and I send them with a proctor or a buddy. Our building is very large and sometimes my kinders get turned around, even at this time in the year. As far as the developmental thing goes, we ask kids every day to do things they aren’t develop mentally ready to do like standardized test. I think going to the restroom alone is the least of our worries.


Send alone! We are not allowed to take whole class bathroom breaks unless it’s after lunch.


My assistant will walk with them for the first month then they go in pairs most of the time.


It all depends on the student. We have an in-classroom restroom but occasionally we need to send kids to the hallway. If I have an adult body I will have them monitor small groups for the hallway restroom otherwise I will send them 1 or 2 at a time, depending on the situation. Depending on the errand or the child in question they can go alone or in pairs. I have never considered it unsafe to allow my kinder out of the room. I have only worried about them finding their destination or their way back to the class.


My kids can go to bathroom on their own as well as take our lunch count and attendance down and go down and get their own bagged breakfast if they are late. We are a small school of close to 200 kids.


At our school all students I grades K-5 always travel in pairs. For a student dismissal or nurse they go in 3’s so the buddy doesn’t return to class alone. It’s for safety as our building is very large.


I always sent my students in pairs (two students were always assigned as the messenger job for the day). They dropped off lunch count, attendance, and escorted students to the nurse/office, etc. I am a firm believer of safety in numbers.


Don’t most kids at this age go to the bathroom independently on their own at home? so why not at school? it’s about fostering independence and teaching them how to be responsible!


They are nuts, not you!


My kinders travel everywhere in the school independently. Sometimes when going far (like the nurse) they’ll ask for someone to go with them but they’re allowed to go anywhere by themselves. We don’t have a buddy rule– although with certain kids we always send a buddy. I agree with all the other posters— we can give them crazy tests and have insane academic expectations with very little playtime but we can’t send them to the bathroom alone????


That’s crazy! We let our kids go independently or in pairs from the 1st week of school. Once we give them a tour the are off. I usually pair them with a child who’s more familiar with the school due to having an older sibling at our school. Children are so much more capable and resilient than people, especially those who don’t work with young children, give them credit for. How will they learn to be independent if we don’t allow them to practice that skill in a safe environment?


Mine are independent. I will only allow 1 boy or 1 girl out at a time normally. I still have a few who will play if I let them out as 2 boys or girls.


Perhaps if your admin is so worried about it being developmentally appropriate, they need to be available every time a student from your room needs to use the restroom, go to the nurse, take something to someone, or leave early. The last time I checked, kindergarten was about fostering independence. If a 5 year old is going to be expected to take assessments and be a reader by the time they leave kindergarten, they should be perfectly capable of doing these things with a buddy or independently.


My students are allowed to maneuver the building as long as they have a buddy with them. They love being independent!


How many days has that administrator taught in kindergarten? If the answer is several…. Maybe they know something we don’t. If the answer is zero…. There’s your answer. (This has become something that eats at me: having someone tell me how to do my job that has never done my job- at any grade level!)


I think it depends on the size of the school and the students. Our school is an open campus so we have to travel in pairs everywhere. We are a k-8 school so we have middle schoolers there, but we have restrooms in our classroom, so the only time they have to go out is to the nurse, or office. It is a safety issue.


2 thoughts on “Should Kinders Ever Walk Alone?

  1. I have a kindergartener who was sent alone on day three and became lost. What everyone forgets is that it’s a new building, a new bathroom with new doors latches, etc. not only is it a strange place, but is used by older kids. I was livid!
    Anything could have happened. To those who comment about how they use the bathroom at home, this is their home without other adults or other children whom may enter the school bathroom at anytime. If she fell, I would hear her cry for me.
    Why in the world would it bother you so much to send a pair and call it safety measures? Why does everyone feel we need to create so much independence with a 5 year old? What has happened to the logic that they need to feel secure right now in this world, not a lesson in leaving a room to find their own way back. They are still only five! I am so amazed at the responses!
    My child was scared and now cries every morning to return. Does that feel like learning independence to you?

  2. They can’t go to the bathroom alone because it “developmentally inappropriate”, yet they are expected to achieve some difficult standards that are even more “developmentally inappropriate”.

    4. Read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.

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