Washing hands at sink



When we think about toilet training our toddlers it can seem like a daunting task. Particularly when we live such busy lives and the amount of time and consistency needed for this task is not always possible. However, as many parents are currently working from home due to the covid-19 lockdown, it might just be the opportune time to think about toilet training your child.

When is the right time to toilet train?

One thing that I cannot stress enough is that all children learn and develop at many different rates. This means that some children may be ready to toilet train by the time they reach 2 years of age, however some children may not show signs of readiness until 3 and ½ years of age. It is imperative that you follow the signs and cues of your child when thinking about toilet training your child. There are usually some indications that they are ready, for example….

Displaying adequate self-help skills, for example, the ability to physically pull their pants down and back up again.
Your child may start showing an interest in the toileting process, for example, watching and possibly wanting to imitate Mummy or Daddy going to the toilet.

They might begin to dislike the feeling of a soiled nappy and they may try to take it off, or they might start to tell you they have wees or poos in their nappy.

They may start to have dryer nappies, meaning that they are consciously holding on for longer periods of time and waking up dry after a nap.

They will start to become more consistent with the bowel motions, perhaps only going once a day.

Simple tips for success

If you think that your child might be ready to begin the toilet training process, there are some things that you can do to make this process easier and more successful, for example…

Start your child in pull ups. This enables them to become accustomed to pulling their pants down and back up again when going to the toilet.

Dress your child in comfortable, stretchy clothing, such as tracksuit pants, tights, or anything with an elastic waistband. This enables them to pull their pants down and back up again with ease, setting them up for success. Clothing items such as overalls, jeans, button up pants or long dresses/skirts can often prove an added challenge for children when undressing to go to the toilet.

Provide a small stepping stool so your child can climb up to the toilet with ease and If your child feels a bit scared when sitting on the toilet, perhaps you can try a using a potty or a toilet seat insert (a smaller toilet seat that slots into the big toilet seat). This enables them to feel more secure, thus eliminating the fear of falling into the toilet.

In the beginning, make sure you are sitting your child on the toilet regularly, possibly every 30 minutes to 1 hour. Not only will this be great practice for your child, it will also give you a better indication of your child’s toileting routines (how often they need to go wees or have bowel movements). Over time you will become in tuned to your child’s routine and you might be able to confidently extend the period between each try on the toilet. Ensure that you are allowing them enough time to go, be patient and try not to rush them.
If your child is going to the toilet regularly and their pull up is dry for long periods of time, it might be a great time to try them in underwear. Initially you could put them in undies for 1-2 hours at a time, ensuring to put a pull up on for nap time. Be prepared for some accidents…. It is an important part of the learning process as they quickly learn that soiling their underwear is a rather unpleasant experience, thus prompting them to want to use the toilet next time.

Make it fun! Children can become easily bored of having to sit on the toilet so regularly and it can start to feel like more of chore than an achievement for them. Sing their favourite song, or perhaps even make up your own special song or rhyme to use when your child is going to the toilet. A sticker chart can also be used as an incentive tool, adding a sticker to the chart after each successful toileting experience.

Keep the mood light- hearted and use plenty of praise and encouragement. It is imperative to ensure that the toilet training process is a positive experience for your child. Be understanding and patient with your child if they have a toileting accident as any negative comments, anger or punishment can be particularly damaging to their self-confidence. This may even have an adverse effect on the toilet training process.

What about wiping?

Teaching children to wipe their bottom is quite often an overlooked part of the toilet training process, however it is equally as important as successfully going on the toilet. Firstly, show your child how much toilet paper to use and demonstrate the correct technique, first, how to fold the paper (rather than scrunching it up), then wipe, fold the paper in half, then wipe again, repeating until the paper is clean. Encourage your child to have a go first then you can follow up afterwards with a quick wipe to ensure that they are clean. Remember practice makes perfect! For girls, it is important to teach them to wipe from front to back to prevent infections.

The importance of hand washing!

Given that we are in the midst of a global pandemic, teaching our children proper hand washing techniques is incredibly important. After your child has been to the toilet, ensure that they are washing their hands with soap for 20 seconds, making sure that they scrub their palms, the top of their hands and between their fingers. Perhaps use a fun song or rhyme for hand washing time, such as “This is the way we wash our hands, wash our hands, wash our hands…. This is the way we wash our hands after we go to the toilet” (X2).

It's okay to admit defeat!

Keep in mind that your child is working towards an important developmental milestone, just one of many that they must overcome within their incredibly young lives and sometimes it does not always go as you had envisioned. There are many reasons for a child to have a regression during toilet training, for example… if you or child become ill, if you are having family difficulties or perhaps if you have some disruption in the family such as a the arrival of a new baby. In such cases, there is absolutely no harm in taking a break from toilet training and start again fresh when you and your child are in a good space. Just remember, good things take time!

Sarah O'Regan, Head Teacher at Our Kids Early Learning Glendene.

Sarah O'Regan

Bachelors of Education (ECE)

Head Teacher at Our Kids Glendene

Sarah has been a member of the Our kids Glendene teaching team for over 5 years. She is passionate about working within a mixed age setting and she believes that forming strong, reciprocal relationships between kaiako, tamariki and their whanau is foundational to achieving the best possible learning outcomes for our tamariki.

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