The toddler years, are often known as the potty training years. Typically, families will begin toilet training while children are between the ages of 18-36 months. Parents and caregivers both want the experience to be a positive one.
Because toilet training is a complex and fragile process, there are many issues families and caregivers must consider and plan for before the process begins. The first thing to decide is whether or not the toddler is ready to begin toilet training. There is no magic age for children either to begin toilet training or to master the routine.
As with any learning experience, this process should be individualized for the skills and abilities of each toddler. The caregiver should be involved in the decision making process regarding the toddler’s readiness for toilet training. Toilet training is a team effort with parents and caregivers working together.
Once the decision has been made about the toddler’s ability, families and caregivers can develop a plan so that everyone is consistent with the toileting process. There are some signals to watch for that can help you and the parents determine if a toddler is really ready for the process. Does the toddler:
- Have the ability to follow simple directions?
- Show a desire for clean diapers? Is she uncomfortable in wet/dirty diapers, and does she ask you to change them quickly?
- Stay dry for at least two hours and have regular bowel movements?
- Show you that he needs to use the bathroom by squatting, holding his private parts, or pacing around?
- Go off to a private area to fill her diaper?
- Understand the meaning of the words you use regarding their bodily functions (for example, wet, b.m., etc.)?
- Ask to use the toilet or potty chair?
Sanitation and Safety
Cleanliness and sanitary practices are important factors to a smooth toileting training process in the childcare setting. The type of equipment used for training the child is critical for the toileting process, as is the proper maintenance and sanitation of that equipment. Children need to be able to reach the toileting equipment easily.
Child-size toilets, modified toilet seats, or potty chairs are the most common equipment used with toddlers. Whatever equipment is used, it should be cleaned and sanitized after each use. Remember, cleaning and sanitation are two different processes.
Cleaning means using soap and water to remove any type of soiling from the toilet area. Sanitation means using a bleach and water solution or other sanitizing product to disinfect toilet seats. Once the solution is applied, the seat should be allowed to air dry. Using the bleach solution alone will not thoroughly disinfect the area and it must be cleaned with soap and water first.
Child-sized toilets or modified toilet seats are recommended in childcare settings. Use of potty chairs in out-of-home care settings is strongly discouraged by health authorities such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Association, mainly because sanitary handling of such chairs is difficult. However, some parents choose to use them at home.
For those who choose to use potty chairs, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommendations on the type of potty chair to use. These recommendations include:
- Chairs must be made of plastic or other non porous material (not wood).
- Chairs should be easy to clean and sanitize.
- Chairs should only be used in a bathroom area.
- Chairs cannot be emptied or washed in the same sink that is used for handwashing.
After each use, the chair should be emptied into a toilet, cleaned in a utility sink, and sanitized. Children like to help, and many parents allow children to empty the potty chair at home. However, toddlers should not empty the chair in childcare. Tell the children that in childcare you empty the potty chair; they can assist by telling you when to empty the chair or helping to flush the toilet.
Wet clothing should be rinsed and placed in a plastic bag. Soiled clothing should also be put into a plastic bag but should not be rinsed. Parents should send extra clothing to childcare to be used in case of accidents.
Handwashing and Personal Hygiene
It is important for both toddlers and adults to use proper handwashing techniques throughout the toilet training process. Handwashing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of disease. Adults and children should always wash their hands after using the toilet. Children should wash their hands even if they did not actually urinate or have a bowel movement. Remember that the best way to wash hands is to use warm running water and soap (liquid soap is preferable).
Handwashing is an important way for parents and caregivers to maintain consistency between home and childcare during the toilet training time. Sharing your handwashing policies with parents will let them know to use the same at home.
Adults also should wash their hands after completing the sanitation process. Make sure you wash your hands after each contact with the potty, toilet, and wet or soiled clothing. Single-use gloves should be worn when assisting children or handling contaminated items.
Proper wiping can help toddlers with the toilet training process as well as sanitation. Teach children how to know when are done wiping; when there is no brown on the toilet paper, they are finished wiping. Girls should be taught to wipe from front to back.
Having clearly written policies on toilet training can help you communicate with parents as well as inform and support staff. Written policies also help reinforce any state childcare regulations that might impact your program. The basic program policies should be ones that help toddlers master toileting in a non stressful experience.
If families and caregivers work together and maintain appropriate hygiene practices through the toileting process, toddlers will have a more successful learning experience and potty training will be another positive achievement for the growing toddlers.