What is your policy on potty training? Do you insist that children are independent and potty trained before you accept them? Or do you only allow training pants until the child is potty trained? However you look at it, nurseries deal with children’s ‘nature calls’ on a daily basis!

When it comes to potty training, there is no magic ‘right age’; only the right time, which is when the child itself is ready. The NHS website page on potty training says that “children are able to control their bladder and bowels when they’re physically ready and when they want to be dry and clean.“ It warns against comparing one child against another but offers the following information as a guide:
“Using a potty is a new skill for your child to learn. It’s best to take it slowly and go at your child’s pace.

  • by age 1, most babies have stopped doing poos at night
  • by age 2, some children will be dry during the day, but this is still quite early
  • by age 3, 9 out of 10 children are dry most days – even then, all children have the odd accident, especially when they’re excited, upset or absorbed in something else
  • by age 4, most children are reliably dry during the day
  • It usually takes a little longer for children to learn to stay dry throughout the night. Although most learn this between the ages of 3 and 5, up to 1 in 5 children aged 5 sometimes wet the bed.”

Many parents feel that the summer is the perfect time to begin potty training and you can often assist them by offering practical support and advice.

Benefits of summer potty training

  1. In the summer, little ones tend to run around outside more, in less clothing. Weather permitting, some parents may also allow their youngsters to go bare-bottomed in the garden (wearing a longer t-shirt to cover their modesty!) to help with potty training.
  2. With less restrictions on clothing, many children become more acutely aware of their need to pee, especially if they are wearing training pants or a swimsuit, as accidents are more obvious to them.
  3. If accidents do happen, it’s often easier to rinse out a swimsuit or pair of underpants than heavier winter clothes.
  4. Parents often have more holiday time so there are less distractions and more time to allocate to potty training.
  5. A full bladder (and consequent peeing) can be encouraged by getting children to drink more water, juices and popsicles.

Training pants or no training pants?

There’s no doubt that nappies are undergoing a fundamental change – and we’re not talking ‘poop’ here either! We mean the increasing awareness of both nurseries and parents of the impact of single-use nappies on the environment. Last month we reported on the launch of the GECCO real nappy amidst concerns that disposable nappies were adding to global plastic pollution.

Training pants are a half-way house between a ‘soak-up-all’ nappy and conventional underwear. The benefit is that children get to practice at pulling them up/down when using the potty, but they can catch any ‘mistakes’ if the child doesn’t get there on time. The child will also feel the wetness more easily in training pants than nappies.

Both reusable cloth training pants and disposable ones are available. The question of whether to use them is really a parent/nursery decision based on several factors including the nursery policies/resources, parent preferences and the needs of the child.

Top tips for summer potty training

  1. Recognise the signs. The main aim is to get the child to recognise when they need the toilet and to let you know beforehand, so help them to recognise their own ‘toilet dance’ and remind them of what this means. When they are wet, explain that this is a result of them peeing, so they can begin to recognise the signs themselves.
  2. Stay calm, stay patient, be prepared. Toilet training needs compassion and understanding. Accidents will happen but it’s just part of the learning process. Stay positive and be prepared for a few clean-ups. In the grand scheme of life, they’re nothing.
  3. Praise where possible, ignore any ‘mistakes’. Children respond much better to praise than punishment and want to get it right too, so praise them when they do, and forgive them if they don’t. Be positive - there’s always next time.
  4. Buy some character undies! If children love their underwear, they will be less inclined to get it wet, so parents may want to invest in some underwear that has pictures of the child’s favourite character on it.
  5. Make some ‘potty time’. Many children need to go to the toilet after eating or drinking, so encourage them to use the potty after lunch or a snack to see if they need to go. Don’t sit them there for more than a few minutes, but it could be just the trigger they need.
  6. Use a toilet trainer seat. Children love to be like their older siblings and adults, so allow them to use the toilet with a trainer seat too.
  7. Keep a potty handy. Keep enough potties on hand so that you can get your child there on time. It’s no good if the potty is upstairs, outside or in the car!
  8. Consider the child’s individual needs. Everyone is different – treat them as individuals. If you have a disabled child, the NHS recommends looking at the charity, Contact, and downloading their parents’ guide to potty training a disabled child.

What to do in the event of problems?

Occasionally, children will suffer problems when toilet training that are related to other physical or mental issues. If you or parents are concerned about a child, there is a lot of information and advice at ERIC, the Children’s Bowel and Bladder Charity. Their helpline is available on 0808 169 9949 (Monday to Thursday, 10am to 2pm) or by email via a webform at www.eric.org.uk/helpline.

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