My daugher is a poop player
September 17, 2008 6:51 PM   Subscribe

I need to know if my daughter is exhibiting normal behavior, or if she's going through some sort of psychological thing. It all started when my 5 year old ran up the stairs screaming, RUBY is playing with her poop!

Our 3 year old, playing by herself in the playroom in the basement, had a field day with her poop. She must have been playing with it for 10 minutes. It was everywhere and disgusting. She is potty trained and has been for quite a while. It was EVERYWHERE. Mushed into the carpet, all over her body, on the television, etc.

She didn't seem to be phased at all.

She has been having more accidents recently, so maybe that's part of it.

I think we were more disturbed by her LITERALLY PLAYING WITH IT, than with her having an accident. She's intelligent, very verbal, everything else seems to be fine. The 5 year old never had such an issue.

Is this normal? If anyone has any, "My kid played with their poop and they're now a successful lawyer" stories, I would really appreciate it.
posted by allthewhile to Human Relations (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I believe that you are worrying too much—it sounds like your toddler was just having fun. She probably doesn't have the association of poop with "dirty and disgusting" ingrained in her young mind as deeply as you and I.
Relevant anecdote: last week, my colleague's husband walked into his 2-year-old daughter's room to get her after an afternoon nap, and found everything within her reach smeared with poop, including walls, windows (with their blinds), and the floor. Reportedly, the kid was having a blast!
posted by halogen at 7:04 PM on September 17, 2008

when i was 2 1/2 my aunt found me in my bed, poop everywhere my little arms could reach. i had drawn on myself, my bed, my walls. i was apparently the foulest thing her or my mother had ever laid eyes on.

that i know of, it was an isolated incident.

chances are, she doesn't have any barriers about poop being gross or bad or dirty and it was something she could play with. to her it was probably no different than finding an open paint can in front of a white wall, except even cooler because she made it herself!

i wouldn't worry unless it's a regular thing. make sure she's not eating it. watch that she's not eating other things (unrelated to the poop playing, i think, but i also started having my first pica experiences around then and that's something i've yet to shake). make sure she has artistic outlets, and maybe some that she doesn't have to get mom for first (those crayola magic markers come to mind).

i'd also look into why she's having more accidents. did her clothes get more complicated (my favorite pants at that age were overalls, but the shoulder straps were tricky-i hear it led to a few accidents)? does she get too focused in her play and doesn't want to interrupt it? does she need some retraining? "girls who go to the bathroom in the toilet get to wear the pretty dora panties, but girls who don't will be in the boring white ones" - something like that.
posted by nadawi at 7:05 PM on September 17, 2008

It's perfectly common (google search "toddler" "playing with poop").

Several parenting books I've read also mention poop playing as a toddler pastime.

My daughter isn't quite that age, but she often wants to "see" her poop in the diapers.

It's really not that hard to figure out, this is the age when they are first getting a handle on their identity, who and what they are. Here's this stuff they make, that comes out of them, so they are fascinated by default.

Your definitely worrying too much asking the "is it normal" question, but it sure is. How do you stop it? Be cautious, don't come down too hard and associate a bunch of shame around poop. Dr Allen Greene (from my google search) says:
Many kids do go through a phase of finding poop fascinating. The goal is not to make it more so by reacting too strongly to it. Usually, the best way through this phase is to smile and say, "Poop is yucky on the hands," and then take him and wash his hands right away.
posted by malphigian at 7:10 PM on September 17, 2008

I know a guy who works for a toy company and he claims that for toddlers the key design issue isn't to prevent choking, but actually to prevent kids from sticking them up their butts. Apparently there's a phase many kids go through where they are fascinated by their rears and the number of calls they field from parents who have children that happen to fall just-so is staggering. They've actually had to build some toys to be less sturdy so that it would break from a child sitting on it because the too-sturdy version would result in penetration.

In that context, playing with a little poop doesn't seem so bad.
posted by hindmost at 7:13 PM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

You say she has been having more accidents recently - I really, really don't want to be one of these people that makes sweeping diagnoses on AskMe (and I have no experience raising children), but is it possible that this could be a sign of Encopresis? If it continues to be a problem, it might be worth talking to your pediatrician.
posted by Dasein at 7:13 PM on September 17, 2008

My friend played with her poop once as a kid (drew on the walls with it, etc.) and is now a successful nurse (Master's degree).

Although I will say she was *really* excited the first time she was up to her elbows in some patient's poop.
posted by sarahnade at 8:09 PM on September 17, 2008

My daughter did that once. I think she was about 2 and was playing with it while watching TV. We thought she was playing with a leaf or something. Then we noticed what it was and we all started freaking out. Everyone was yelling and panicking and stuff. I grabbed her and ripped off her clothes and just about threw her in the sink before the poo could get to her mouth. Then I ran her under warm water for a half hour or so. I think that pretty much cured her of wanting to play with her poo.

She is now in the Gifted and Talented Education program.
posted by Wayman Tisdale at 8:10 PM on September 17, 2008

I am not a psychologist, but I was learning about this the other day.
Anyway, this is normal. As the teacher told me, "Think about it. They see something come out of their body. just appear there in the toilet. A small child's reaction is That's mine! I want it back." That feeling makes them want to play with the poo.
posted by ooklala at 8:18 PM on September 17, 2008

Poop is amazingly fun stuff to play with, if you can get over the basic yuck response. It's soft, pliable, warm, you can draw with it, AND it grosses big sisters and brothers out. Our "yuck" reaction is a product of deep social conditioning, and your daughter hasn't had that conditioning yet, or hasn't taken it in. Believe it or not, it's quite likely that you, at one stage in your life, also didn't think that poop was gross. Ask your parents!

Early psychoanalysts believed that there was a psychic equivalence between poop and money, as in phrases like filthy lucre and such.

Be that as it may, what your daughter is doing could be quite normal for this stage in her development. It could also be a sign of some kind of regression, that again, is quite normal. You might wonder if there's anything that's causing this, if you think it's a regression - like has anything happened that's upset her?

The best book on the world of young children is Selma Fraiberg's The Magic Years. Highly recommended.
posted by jasper411 at 8:23 PM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks mefites. I think my wife and I have been stressed out lately, and we've over-analyzed this situation. I've given nearly everyone "best answer" just because they've all been so awesome.
posted by allthewhile at 8:45 PM on September 17, 2008

I need to know if my daughter is exhibiting normal behavior, or if she's going through some sort of psychological thing

False dichotomy. At three years old, her brain is changing so fast that her entire normal life is some sort of psychological thing. Just ride the bumps as best you can and try to relax as often as possible.
posted by flabdablet at 8:47 PM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Slightly off tangent, but maybe reassuring that parents and poop often come unstuck (as it were)? I've always remembered an oddly charming agony letter from a mother who was absolutely kicking herself for possible giving her infant daughter a lifelong complex.

She found her little poppet gazing very seriously down at the toilet bowl, with one hand hovering over the flush lever. The daughter was telling her poop "good bye" saying softly "now, don't you be lonely and don't you be lonely - bye bye all of you...".

The mother burst into tears - kind of a spontaneously sentimental reaction, and her daughter immediately developed constipation for a few days. (The advice was good - no need to beat yourself up - things will work out!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:20 AM on September 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yup, my oldest went through the feces as art medium phase. I called in a code brown on the monitor so Mrs. Plinth could run a bath while I tried to control the damage. Appropriate application of the words yucky/messy/dirty with appropriate facial expressions as well as positive reinforcement for the not playing with it helped limit recurrence.
posted by plinth at 7:32 AM on September 18, 2008

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