If your child is not in infant daycare, chances are, you’ll be doing most of the potty training at home. And, this will need to be done before your child enters any daycare or preschool that starts at age 2.5 years. While we have an infant program at our Coquitlam daycare, our North Vancouver and Langley locations have pre-k child care programs that start in the toddler years (i.e. group daycare). If your child is gearing up for preschool, especially an all-day preschool, we thought these tips on potty training would be helpful.
Get all caregivers on the same page about a toddler’s potty training routine and tactics
Whatever potty training method you decide to go with, it’s important that all the adults who are responsible for raising the child in question are on the same page about potty training. If a child lives part time with one parent, and part time with another, this is especially important. And, if a child has a nanny, or other caregiver present in their lives, they should also be kept in the loop.
The last thing you want is to confuse your potty training child with mixed messages. You’ll all need open lines of communication. For example, how will we all react if the little one pees their pants? What will we say? Do we all have back-up clothes in case of accidents? If one person is acting like it’s no big deal and just goes back to diapers, when another person freaks out, and a third person is taking the ‘let them feel wet’ approach, the child will, no doubt, get confused. Same goes in a scenario where one caregiver is using pull-ups, but the other claims to not believe in them. And so on…
Here, it’s not about the right and wrong way to potty train a child. It’s about the child. Potty training is a big deal enough as it is for a two or three year old toddler. When they enter daycare or preschool, that’s going to be a huge change to their life, too. The child will pick up queues about their commendable behaviour from the adults in their life. So, it’s best when the child gets consistent feedback about their potty training happenstances.
For instance, if they’re going to be rewarded with M&Ms, everyone should know which potty task deserves one piece of candy, versus two. If the child is kicking and screaming about going to the toilet, everyone should be willing to collaborate on a solution. It may be that the child is constipated. Or afraid of the toilet. So, all the grown-ups should come together to find a solution, like feeding the child more fibre and water. Or taking time to tell the child the same story when it’s potty time. For example, “the toilet won’t eat you, let’s try making the flushing sound together!”
If your child has been in an infant daycare, where early childhood educators are helping with potty training, the situation may be a bit different. Since the daycare will be doing most of the potty training work during the day, they may have a set of standards that you’ll need to stick to at home too. If they are willing to accommodate special requests for your child that you do at home, great. But, it’s best not to expect that they’ll customize potty training routines for you. They’ll have too many kids to worry about, to then also keep your methods consistent. So, be ready to adapt to their modality, if necessary.
Take it slow, don’t rush, and wait until your child is ready to potty train
While some kids can come in ‘feisty’ form, little ones are, for the most part, fragile creatures. Their world is small – remember that. The concept of peeing and pooing in a toilet may not be super foreign to them, since they may have seen others do it by this age. But, applying that principle to themselves is an acquired thought. It may not come naturally for all kids.
Some blogs on the Internet will talk about the time a child is “ready” to be potty trained. This is key. Children start to feel their ability to pee and poo at the toddler age. But they reach that point at different ages (even among sibling groups). Some parents give birth to the kid that wants to go pee in the toilet at 18 months. Others have the kid that drags it on till age 4. Either way, it gets done eventually. This is because the child’s development catches up with the desire to keep things ‘clean’ down there.
The only dilemma for you, of course, is that they need to be potty trained for preschool readiness. Daycare educators won’t do this for you. So, the solution here is to start instilling the concept early. Get the child exposed to this potty business at around 1.5 years old (or whatever suits your kid – remember, they’re all different).
Show them how you go potty. Let them hear the sound that pee pee makes in the toilet. Get them to watch ‘cool,’ big kids go potty. Let them associate the bathroom with where the pee and poo goes. And, if you can, teach them early on that the toilet is not that scary. Maybe even let them flush it for fun sometimes. Let them sit on a kiddy potty before bath time, when they’re already naked.
Other practical things you can do to start potty training early include:
- Showing them how to pull down and pull up their pants. These should, of course, be easy-to-pull-down, elastic-waist types of pants. Girls can learn how to take off their skirt, or hold it up, too. We’re not just talking about pull-up diapers here – but the clothing they’ll have to remove when they do this eventually. Buttons and zippers are just harder.
- Taking them through the routine of flushing toilet and washing hands with you (whether it’s by putting their diaper contents into the toilet and showing them, or by you, or a ‘big kid’ doing business in there).
- Repeatedly letting them sit on the toilet for a while, just to know what it’s like, with their clothes on.
- Getting them excited about wearing underwear one day. Having their favourite cartoon characters on them has been testified to help here! You can take them shopping, let them pick them out, and even try them on. Some even suggest letting them wear underwear beneath diapers, so they’ll start to feel more wet when they go. It’s not a great feeling, obviously. So this may be a motivator for them to want a solution to that problem.
- Asking them frequently if they went potty, and if their diaper is wet, so they can get all cleaned up. They should understand, eventually, what you’re asking them about. They should learn to feel it, and prefer being in a clean state.
- Showing them how to wipe ‘down there’ and wash hands after.
Of course, these are general ideas. Other people will do it differently. And, we totally get that some parents find it weird to have their kid watch them go to the toilet. Obviously, we’re not saying to tie them down and make them watch in an awkward way. And, they don’t have to see everything, if you know what we mean. But they do need to model this behaviour somehow. So, if siblings, cousins or neighbourhood kids aren’t available to be the ‘cool’ person they want to copy, it might have to be you. If that is totally not up your alley, try YouTube potty training videos or potty books!
One very important thing to NOT do, is to make them feel gross, or guilty, for peeing and pooping – whether or not it’s by accident. Remember, they may not be able to control this aspect of their body yet. And it’s a new feeling for them. Don’t do this, even if they can feel it, and even if they’ve gone in the potty before (children can regress in this regard). If they feel guilty by your reaction, next time, they may try to hold it in, or hide it, or avoid it – all of which will make the problem worse. It will backfire. Your potty training days will then last way longer than need be.
If accidents happen, stay calm. Don’t act annoyed, either. This is not about you being inconvenienced. It’s about them feeling comfortable to do the deed, without it being an issue with you. Mistakes are ok. Give this process time, by starting early.
You can’t really rush a child who is not ready for potty training. It won’t work. Even the ‘potty train in a weekend’ tactics still require some foundational basis. It takes weeks or months of building up your toddler to that point.
Make potty training fun before kids go to preschool or daycare! Here’s how:
This is probably the most important aspect of potty training. Making this a fun thing to learn can determine the success and length of time that potty training requires.
How do you make potty training fun? Two words: “bribes” and “games” – ha!
While potty training bribes are debated on the web, our stance is: do what works for you. Yes, it’s true that some kids will outsmart the bribery system. Or it can burn holes through your pockets. But many will testify to its effectiveness. That said, if you have one of those kids who wants to go potty, and initiates that process, you can probably skip the bribes. Don’t bring in the concept of rewards if you don’t need to. The pee pee and poo poo dunked in the toilet, and your gratified reaction, will be all the reward they need!
Games are another story. Kids play by nature. So, it makes a lot of sense to give them positive associations with something like potty training. Especially because it’s scary for some kids. They may feel like parts of their body are falling into the toilet when they poo, or that the toilet has the ability to swallow them. So, here, you’d do the parenting trick that calms nearly all kids down when they’re irrationally scared or sad: make it funny.
Here are a few ideas to make potty training fun:
- Use food colouring or a agent in the toilet that interacts with pee to change its colour. Let them see the after-effects.
- Set a timer that goes off every 30 minutes to interrupt their play for a potty break, and let them know it’s coming. Play a game to see who can go potty on demand – whoever does, wins!
- Sing a song when going to the toilet or washing hands.
- Read a favourite book on the potty (hey, maybe even a potty training book!)
- Let them aim at cheerios in the toilet (especially for boys learning to pee standing as a second step).
- Give them pennies to save up for their favourite toy after each potty success.
- Use a sticker chart to track their potty victories, and make it a reward system.
- Use the M&Ms trick – one piece of candy for pee, and two for poo.
- Get a portable potty or toilet seat adjuster with their favourite cartoon characters on them.
And so on.
Remember, the daycare or preschool staff can’t really do all the fun things you will have time for at home. So it’s best to do the bribery and games of potty training well in advance. Eventually, the kids should, of course, learn that rewards won’t always be there for this life duty.
Potty training for preschool readiness can be a breeze, if parents are ready when kids are!
Believe it or not, potty training is probably not going to be as daunting as you may think. Even the kids that take longer than others will eventually get it. While it’s true some kids aren’t able to go to the potty until 5 or 6, those cases are really rare. And, they usually have some explanation behind them – such as a major change in a child’s life. So if you’re worried, don’t be. It will just make things harder.
Generally, a child will desire using the potty when their developmental formation is ready for it. It’s a natural way of doing things. It’s something they can learn how to do. The key is picking up on the clues of when they’re ready to get on this bandwagon. If you’re ready when they are, it should be a breeze. And if you want them potty trained for preschool, start sending those clues their way early on, as mentioned above. Making it fun helps too!
See related articles on our blog:
- How to know if your child is emotionally ready for school
- What is social competence in the early years?
- What is experiential education in early childhood, and why is it important?
- 3 ways to build self-awareness in early childhood
- 3 ways to build confidence in young children
- 3 Key tips to understand and solve temper tantrums in toddlers and young children
- Does your child need an occupational therapist? Here is what to know