Children learn all new skills more successfully when they are not anxious, so although it can be a challenging and frustrating process to toilet train your child, especially when out and about, try to keep calm.
When to begin potty training?
All children are different, but a good guide that they are ready to become toilet trained is if they:
- can remain dry and clean for two hours or more
- are aware when they are emptying their bladder or bowels
- show an interest in sitting on a potty or toilet
- have a regular pattern to when they wet or soil their nappy.
Before you think about toileting it is important to understand the skills needed to be independent – and if these are not present think about how they can be adapted to meet your child’s abilities.
The “Building Blocks” For Toiletting are:
- Physical skill
- Sensory Processing Skill
- Concept Understanding
- Communication skills
Children all develop this ability at different stages and as a general rule of thumb you can tell if a child is struggling with this when
- They are not alerting an adult when they have wet or soiled their nappy.
- Struggles to undress independently.
- Is fearful to sit on the toilet/potty.
Where to start?
- Allow 3 – 7 days at home initially when you “drop everything” when the child has to “go” to the toilet
- A good way to prepare is to start a toilet chart to see how often your child might need to use the potty. A quick feel of the nappy at regular intervals will tell you if it is wet or soiled.
- It may take a week or two before you spot any pattern in the chart. If you do – for example your child’s nappy is usually wet between 12 and 2pm – you could try ‘catch’ that wet nappy by introducing ‘potty time’ just before that time.
- Keep the potty training routine structured for several weeks. If no success wait a few weeks or months and try again
There are some simple strategies that can be utilised to help develop these:
- Building blocks: Develop each of the four steps outlined above. This is a lot harder than it sounds. It may be necessary to get an OT involved to help with this if basic strategies have not worked
- The traditional routine in nursery and school is for children to be asked to go to the toilet and wash their hands before morning break, lunch time and before the end of the day. This is a good routine to aim for.
- Decide whether to start using a potty or to begin directly using the toilet. If you decide to use the toilet, a special seat to reduce the size of the seat may be helpful.
- Make use of visual schedule: Including the steps involved in toileting.
- Reward chart: For independent toileting (whether successful or not initially) or telling an adult of the need to go.
- Choose a rewarding activity for you and your child to do while they are sitting on the potty. For example, looking at a book or picture or listening to nursery rhymes or a story CD. When on the potty
- If using a timed program make sure it is consistent and reinforced with a sound, visual cue and verbal instruction (just the word toilet – sentences may be too much information) increase how often you have toilet/potty time. It is a good idea to start trying two hours before and two hours after a time that seems to be successful. Give extra fluids during the daytime so the child needs to urinate more often and therefore gets more practice.
- Give them lots of time. When on the toilet/potty Make sure you have plenty of time and do not rush your child. Give them time, but do not keep them there so long they get bored – ten minutes at the very most
- Talk to your child about what you are doing. For example, say that “we are waiting for a wee-wee” – it may be helpful to let them see other people in the house using the toilet so they can conceptualise that its nothing to be “afraid” of
- Games and activities that involve blowing, such as bubbles and whistles, will naturally encourage the stomach pushes needed to go to the toilet. A running tap might also be helpful
- Read books: Buy one of the many children’s books that serve as a social story about toileting (many books have the flushing noise maker in them!).
- Role play: Role play toileting with teddy bears.
- What to wear – Children may be more aware that they are wet or soiled if they are wearing pants and loose fitting clothes rather than nappies. Training pants can be helpful when out and about some sometimes the child will use them as a nappy (if they have the awareness of being uncomfortable) this can help. Wear loose elasticated clothes that are easy to pull down / up without fastenings.
- Physical setup:
- Be prepared with the right equipment in place. Ensure the toilet is free and if distraction is required – make sure that everything is there. smaller seat that.