Potty Training through the Eyes of A Nursery Teacher

by Venusz Vidak on April 2, 2014

The transition from nappies to toilet use is a big milestone in the life of the whole family. It is one of the most longed-for and daunting periods for parents. The road can be bumpy, messy and frustrating, so I would like to give you a few tips on how to make the potty training period as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Potty-training-imageThe first step towards potty training is observing your child closely and looking for signs of readiness. For successful potty training it is vital that your little one is ready, both physically and emotionally. You should never try to hurry potty training even when your child is ready physically but you are not sure if he or she is ready emotionally. If your child strongly resists giving up nappies, it is better to wait a little because forcing the issue results only in frustration for everybody involved. There are certain signs that indicate whether you toddler is ready to go on a potty. If after you try our tips, you are still having issues then read the in-depth guide by Toiletable, but for maybe these simple tips might get them little ones going.

Signs of potty training readiness

1. Your child is over 18 months of age. Research shows that children cannot voluntarily use the muscles that control their bladder and rectum until they are at least 18 months old.

2. Your child’s nappy is frequently dry when you get him up from a lunch time nap. A dry nappy a couple of hours after his last nappy change would also be an indicator that he is getting some bladder control.

3. Your child is aware when making a poo or pee. This occurs approximately between 18-24 months, or later in some cases. He can tell you in advance that he will be urinating. He becomes uncomfortable and complains about dirty nappies.

4. Your child can understand and follow simple instructions such as sit down, stay there.

5. Your child can take off his own clothes and needs minimal help with it.

6. Your child has the ability to sit still for a couple of minutes.

7. Your child is developed physically, able to walk and sit down on the toilet without help.

8. He knows what “pee” and “poo” are. You should talk about it when changing nappies and even show it sometimes so it won’t be the first time he sees it in the toilet.

Your child doesn’t have to show all the above signs, but the more there are, the more successful your mission will be.

You have to consider your child’s gender as well. Research shows that boys tend to be a little slower to gain control of their bladders and bowels then girls. The reasons are:

  • Boys’ nervous systems mature later
  • Women still tend to be the main carers of children, so boys do not see same-sex role-models as often as girls do.
  • Boys tend to be less sensitive to the feeling of wetness against their skin.

Potty or straight to the toilet?

Before you start training, there is one more thing you have to decide: potty or straight to the toilet.

Many families find it easier to go straight from nappies to toilet and in many ways this makes perfect sense. However you have to keep in mind that some children may find the toilet intimidating and frightening; it makes loud noises, it is huge in the proportion to the toddler, and even with the adapter ring they might be scared that they could fall in and get flushed away.

You can make it less scary if you take your child with you when you go to the toilet to show them how you do it. You can also put your child on the toilet with the nappies on just to sit for a while so he or she try it out without any pressure of „performing” and when it is time for toilet training it will already feel safe and familiar. A stepping stool or a stepladder and an adaptor ring can ease their anxiety too since their feet will not dangle in the air but are placed on a safe base and they can hold on to the sides, which gives them the feeling of security.

If your child is not attending nursery then there is only one more question left: whether you choose the „taking it easy „ or the „crash course” method. We will come back to it shortly but first I would like to talk about potty training in the nursery. You can make life easier for yourself and for your toddler by making use of the following tips:

Talk about potty training with the nursery staff

Before you start the potty training process, it is worth talking through the nursery policy with staff. It is essential that you know how we do it and that we understand your feelings and preferences for your child.

Questions you might want to ask:

When do the nursery staff like to potty train?

The most common request I hear when parents bring their child to nursery is that they would like to start potty training right away, since their child is big now and going to school he shouldn’t be in nappies. This is the worst time to start. Your child has to adjust to his new circumstances, new people, new place, probably first time away from parents. Let him settle in and be happy at school and then training can start.

There are certain times in the life of the family and in the calendar when a good nursery teacher will suggest not to start potty training. These include when a new baby is due within a couple of months, or a new baby has arrived within the last couple of months, if you have just moved or about to move to a new house, if your child has recently recovered from an illness, if you or your husband are experiencing stress at work, if siblings are going through sleep or behavioral problems, or during holidays such as Christmas when lots of social events are planned.

Does the nursery staff prefer children in underwear or in pull-ups?

For example, I personally do not believe that pull-ups are useful at all; in my opinion and experience they just hinder the process, but other teachers might think that is a wonderful idea.

Will your child have a special carer in charge of the potty training process at nursery?

If so, who will it be? How many children are starting potty training the same time as yours? If there are too many children starting the potty training process at the same time at the nursery, the staff won’t be able to attend all your child’s needs. What do they do if your child has an accident? Please specify what you would like them to do with dirty clothes, make sure that they never scold him or show their dislike for not making it to the toilet.

Suggestions for sharing potty training with a nursery

  • Let the nursery know as soon as you start to think about potty training. They can help you in making the decision.
  • Aim for consistency. Potty training is a shared job and it is important that your child gets the same messages at home and at the nursery. Communication is the key: Make sure that the nursery staff knows what you are doing at home and vice versa.
  • Provide plenty of changes of clothes!!!!! That is very important since accidents happen and your child shouldn’t feel bad that they have to wear somebody else’s clothes. At that age they prefer things that belong to them and it frustrates them if they have to wear something that they do not want.

So after you have determined that your child is ready for potty training, that there are no other disturbing factors in your life, have decided whether to use a potty or the toilet, and have discussed potty training with your child’s carer at nursery, training can begin. You can either follow the “take it easy” or the “crash course” approach, as I mentioned earlier.

Take it easy: the relaxed approach

Start by taking off your child’s nappy and putting him on the potty for a short time every day. Gradually increase the time your toddler spends without a nappy over the next few weeks.

After a meal is a very good time to try to go potty since the bowels are often stimulated to make a movement when the stomach is distended after eating and the chance of catching something in the potty is greater. If he is not happy to sit still, don’t worry and don’t force him. You might be able to entice him to stay a little longer by reading a story or looking through pictures together. If he does anything on the potty, give him a cuddle and praise him.

If he didn’t make it on time, do not scold. They need constant reminders in the beginning, especially when engaged in play they tend to forget about not wearing a nappy.

Crash course

This approach will suit you if your child is older and shows lots of signs of readiness.

Choose a time when you can clear your diary and devote yourself to it because your toddler will need your constant attention and encouragement during these days. Prepare yourself for not being able to leave the house for a couple of days.

Put potties all around the house, encourage him to sit on one if he needs to go. Congratulate any success, and try to clean away any dirt with a smile.

Be consistent. Nappies are only for sleep time. It won’t work if you give in.

If things aren’t going well after a few days your toddler is still struggling or you are at a breaking point, take a break. Reassure him that he has done well and that you will try later. You can both try again in about a month or whenever you see more signs of readiness.

I wish you lots of patience, funny memories and success with your potty training!

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Venusz VidakVenusz Vidak is a kindergarten and nursery teacher, a Montessorian, a baby massage instructor, baby-mommy yoga instructor and a yoga teacher for children(3-14).  She has almost two decades of experience in childcare and worked in several international kindergartens and nurseries abroad and in Budapest. She feels extremely lucky to be part of hundreds of families throughout her teaching carrier. Her new adventure and passion is a new Baby&Me-Baby&Toddler Club that she hosts every Thursday. If you have any child related questions don’t hesitate to contact her.

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