By Rosanna Dude
Toilet training is unique for every family, and for every child within a family. If you’re worried about toilet training before the start of preschool this fall, don’t throw in the Charmin. Two local preschools — ABC’s Childcare Center at New London Hospital in New London, N.H., and the Children’s Center for Creative Learning in Bradford, N.H. — offer a few tips to make the process a bit less daunting.
Tina Walker, director at ABC’s Childcare Center at New London Hospital, says that when a child is ready he or she will do it without any prompting. In fact, at ABC’s Childcare Center they believe this so strongly that they don’t require a child be fully toilet trained before they enter the preschool program. Instead the teachers work with the parents and caregivers to help it happen naturally when the child appears to be ready.
At this point the parent or caregiver has to be ready to commit, because toilet training does become a constant focus. All experienced parents and caregivers are familiar with limiting those long periods of time in the car because you know your child is going to say, “I have to go to the bathroom!”
For a period of time, it will mean scoping out the nearest bathroom during every outing. One solution is to keep a portable toddler toilet in your car. Even having a toddler-sized toilet seat on hand can be useful so that the child feels comfortable and familiar enough to use any bathroom.
Samantha Palmer, lead preschool teacher at the Children’s Center for Creative Learning and a student in early childhood education at Granite State College, says that the philosophy at the Children’s Center is to go straight to underwear and never look back.
“We don’t mess around with pull-ups for daytime wear. It takes the average 2½ year old about five days to be accident-free if you go straight to underwear,” says Palmer. Persistence of the parent and caregiver is a key component. There will be accidents and that’s OK — just don’t give up.
Some say accidents can be a sign of not being ready yet. Walker of ABC’s Childcare Center says that often if a child has three accidents, they should go back to diapers, and parents/caregivers will have the most success if they let it be for a period of time; there should not be any stress or pressure. She emphasizes that toilet training is something that parents cannot control, and that they should be confident that eventually it will just click and happen.
ABC’s Childcare Center finds that gentle and positive peer pressure is a helpful tool as well. The preschool children are all given the opportunity to use the bathroom before recess, and this seems to help enforce the desire to use the toilet.
With all children, rewards are a huge motivation. This might be as simple as buoyant praise and excitement (think dancing up and down with joy after your child urinates in the toilet). Other kids are more responsive to little tokens like chocolate chips, M&Ms or stickers. As the toilet training progresses, less rewards are necessary and often approval alone will suffice.
Parents, perhaps the most reassuring fact to remember is that although toilet training feels endless while you are in the midst of it, as with most things child-related, it is just a phase. It does happen, and it is a big milestone for both you and your child!
Here are some signals that your child might be ready for toilet training:
- Your child is dry in between diaper changes.
- Your child goes to a specific location to urinate or have a bowel movement.
- Your child is able to verbalize, and does verbalize, that they have gone to the bathroom in their diaper.