Toilet training is a significant part of a young child’s development. It’s also an ideal time for early childhood educators and parents to work collaboratively to monitor the child’s progress and provide positive encouragement as the youngster transitions from nappies to the bathroom. Once mastered, toilet training helps a young child’s self-esteem and independence. Naturally, it also makes life a lot easier for those caring for the child.
When does toilet training start?
The age at which toilet training starts varies for each child: there is no “correct” age to start. Children should not be forced into toilet training, no matter how much a parent may want their child to accomplish this feat faster than anyone else.
Children will indicate that they are ready to start using the toilet in several ways. A dry nappy for long periods of time indicates that the child’s muscles are maturing and they are developing bladder and bowel control. A toddler may also start to talk about going to the toilet, and show interest in bathroom activities like sitting on the toilet and washing and drying hands. Some children start to become more aware of their bodily functions, including talking about what they are doing during and after – which may seem a bit icky, but is a good sign that toilet training can soon begin!
In the day care setting, it is the carer or educator’s responsibility to take note of any signs of readiness and communicate this to the child’s parents. This will ensure a collaborative approach to encouraging the use of the toilet, and moving the child successfully on from nappies.
Consistency between home and care
Once it is established that a child is beginning toilet training, it is helpful to work together with the parents whenever possible. Consistency is the key to a smooth transition. A discussion about the rewards and encouragements used at home will help establish what can be done in the child care setting to support the same objectives.
Sometimes it may not be possible to use exactly the same encouragements as the parents use at home – especially if there are food treats involved. However it is usually possible to come up with alternatives. For example instead of treats, a sticker chart could be used. The child accumulates stickers on the chart for that week for using the toilet or agreed activities building up to using the toilet, with the parents deciding what type of reward can be offered at the end of the day or week if there are enough stickers. This way, a consistent approach to toilet training at home and in care is maintained with the parents in control of the rewards process.
Supporting children with toilet training
As a trained child care professional, don’t be shy to make positive suggestions to parents to assist with the toilet training process. Politely discuss your ideas, indicating how they will support the child’s progress. For example, you may want to encourage parents to dress the child in clothes that are easy for them to pull on and off in order to avoid any unfortunate mishaps.
Some day care centres use a whiteboard to monitor the progress of a child’s toilet training. This visual representation can help parents to understand the stage that their child is at, such as how many times the child actually sat on the toilet, or managed to use the toilet in a day.
Remember when working with the children to always be positive about toilet training, reinforcing the idea that it is a natural, normal process that is not dirty or bad. Be encouraging with progress and patient with any failures. It is important to let the child master the skill of using the toilet independently at their own pace. Some people are of the opinion that children pushed into toilet training too early take longer to adapt while those who progress at their own pace complete the process quicker.
More helpful tips for toilet training
- Having books to read to children about toilet training at the day care centre will be helpful for getting the young ones ready for the process.
- You can also role-play the activity with toys or teddy bears, living out the toilet training experience.
- Reward the child with stickers or stamps for positive toilet or potty training experiences. Make them feel proud of their achievement and that it is an exciting stage in their lives.
- The use of pull-up nappy pants that they can ‘graduate to’ is a great way to make children feel like they are becoming more grown up.
- Giving a child a large drink of water approximately 40 minutes before a visit to the potty or toilet can help. Allow them to sit on the potty or toilet and stay with them, reading to them or chatting until they follow through with a “wee”, followed of course by praise and reward.
Above all, keep your cool, stay patient and positive – and remember that consistency and communication with the child’s parents are the keys to success with toilet training.
Sage Institute of Child Care – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.
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