Setting the scene…
Ideally you begin the process before your child is 2 years old. It should start with role modelling – watching you go to the toilet. This means leaving the door open, so they can see the sequence of events, then washing your hands, to teach them healthy habits around hygiene as well.
Familiarise them with the toilet, the paper, the flush button as well as the basin, taps and soap.
Have your child wear underwear underneath their nappy. They need to gain an understanding of wet versus dry. Nappies are made from ultra-absorbent materials and often this means your child can have difficulties feeling when they are wet. Wearing underwear can assist them to feel when their pants are wet.
What do I need?
A toilet training seat with foot support – The toilet seems very high for a toddler and can even be slightly scary. Start them with a toilet seat insert with foot support. Using a potty can be difficult as you can’t take a potty with you all the time, so it’s best to get them used to a toilet. You can eventually transition to just a foot stool for them to step up onto and rest their feet on.
Underwear and change of clothes! You will need plenty on hand! Let them choose their new underwear to make it fun. Your child can also help choose the toilet seat insert and stool, for example, have them select one in their favourite colour – little things like this help to make the process less daunting.
For boys, a ping pong ball or cork to aim at. Usually, you will start your boys off sitting, however when getting them used to standing having something they can focus on can help with correcting their aim – this means less clean up!
The toilet seat insert needs to be comfortable and safe. You don’t want them feeling unstable and creating fear around falling in.
Practice dressing and undressing so they are independent in pulling their pants up and down.
Sequence of steps: Talk through the order of these with your child – pull down pants, sit down, wee/poo, wipe, stand up, pull up pants, flush and wash hands.
Standing versus sitting for boys: Sitting is often an easier place to start, but boys will watch other men and want to copy, it’s not a bad thing to have them practice standing, however if you feel they are not emptying fully, sitting is the best option to allow them to fully relax their pelvic floor muscles.
Make the toilet area a pleasant place to visit, maybe using charts or pictures and be aware that exhaust fans that may be scary for some children. Stay nearby to reassure them. Remember, we are trying to avoid any fear around toilet time.
Getting started with toilet training!
Here are a few points to help get you started with the process:
Pick a time when you can be around home for 2-3 days and start removing the daytime nappy for periods of time. Be ready with lots of pairs of undies and changes of clothes!
During the day, familiarise your child with the toilet and healthy toilet habits, as per above.
Be prepared – Make sure you have your toilet seat and foot stool ready to go, this is to avoid rushing to put things together when your child has expressed they need to go. Praising your child when successful is important. You can use a reward system such as a sticker chart.
Be patient – All children are unique in how they learn, and toilet training may be a long process. Reward the behaviour you want and try to never get angry. If it’s becoming too stressful, take a break and restart in a week.
Accidents will happen!
Accidents are part of the process, as they help our children identify that they need to go to the toilet. This won’t just happen in the early days, it’s common for accidents to re-occur. It can be frustrating, it’s important to remain calm, don’t create any shame or embarrassment and help your child understand that it is a part of learning.
To ensure that accidents are not major issues, put together an “accident pack” so cleaning up is easy. Make up little zip lock bags with wet wipes, tissues and a few pairs of underwear and shorts so changing is not a drama.
Stay tuned for more information regarding child continence throughout the month.
If you have a concern about your child’s continence, or you would like further advice, we offer assistance through our Children’s Continence Clinic. For more information or to book an appointment, please call our rooms on (03) 9822 4999.