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Ask Sally : How to start toilet training

A question we get asked time and time again in our nursery is "when should we start toilet training?" So today, here is the approach I prefer which I will share with you - you can then consider when your child is showing interest in using the toilet.




1. A natural, gradual process Using the toilet is a very natural and gradual process that develops at the child’s pace, rather than when the parent decides the child is going to be toilet ‘trained’.

You can begin very naturally when the child is young, talking with them about their bodily functions as you change their nappy.

It is a normal process and It is also a good idea not to give them a negative feeling towards these bodily functions, for example, by making faces when changing their nappy.

A potty could be available from a young age so the child can sit on it and imitate others in the household, even before they have bladder and bowel control.


When your child becomes interested in dressing and undressing themselves, you can choose clothing they can manage themselves so they can learn to pull their own trousers up and down. Elastic-waisted trousers can be very useful at this time!

As disposable nappies are so good at keeping a child dry these days, it can also be nice for your child to wear underpants or training pants around the house as much as possible so the child feels wet and dry. They begin to learn that it feels nicer to be dry and begin to hold for longer periods.

After this very gradual preparation and when the child is showing more interest in sitting on the toilet or potty, you can slowly teach them how to pull down their pants, sit on the toilet/potty, use toilet paper, pull up their pants, flush the toilet and wash their hands.



2. Give independence Once your child is showing interest in using the toilet and potty, you should set your bathroom up to give them as much independence as possible.

If using a potty, it is a good idea to keep it in the bathroom rather than moving it around the house so your child can always find it and know where to go. If you have a basket of clean pants you can then include your child in helping by getting some dry pants and putting any wet pants in bag. This is not punishment - this is allowing them to take ownership and have involement in the process.


3. The adult’s role


It is best for the parent to support the child but not become emotionally involved. To assist the child in the process of learning to use the toilet, the adult can:


Find ways to make the child feel confident, for example, a step up stool for their feet when using a toilet.

Offer the potty/toilet at times when the child normallygoes, for eg, on waking, before going outside, after coming in from outside, after lunch/before nap etc.

Say “It’s time to use the toilet” rather than “Do you want to go to the toilet?” (the answer will always be no) or “I think you need to go to the toilet” (the adult becomes involved).

As the child becomes more aware of their body they will be able to tell you, “No, I don’t need to go.”

Never force a child to use the toilet or potty

Never scold or over-congratulate—going to the toilet is the most normal thing to do and we should keep it in its proper place, for eg, avoid clapping and celebrating


4. When they don’t make it in time… If a child becomes wet, stay calm and be reassuring. Do not make them feel ashamed. You may wish to say, “I see you are wet. Let’s go get some dry clothes.” Your child can get them from the supply in the bathroom and even help wipe the floor and wash their hands. Let them change at their own pace and give help if they ask for it or if they are overwhelmed.


Some issues can cause a setback to toileting, for example, the birth of a younger sibling, a divorce, or some other upheaval in daily life. The problem tends to resolve itself if the adult does not make a big deal about it.


Really the most important tip is to follow your own child and dont rush it!

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01430 828154

2 King St, Sancton, East Riding of Yorkshire, YO43 4QP, UK

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