You may have noticed that many of the Toddlers in our Young Children’s Community spend their mornings in the classroom without pants on. This is because it is easier for these young children to manage the physical tasks of Toilet Learning when they have fewer garments to grapple with, and it also puts a limit on the laundry pile!
Our Toddler guides can ideally begin supporting children through the Toilet Learning process between around 16 to 18 months. At this age, children are physically capable of the ups and downs required for using the toilet, are more aware of the sensations of feeling wet and dry, and, most importantly, are not yet in the phase of their “Oppositional Crisis,” which occurs between about 18 months and 2.5 years. (You may be more familiar with this as the time in which your toddler learns the power of a brand new word: “No!”). Though it may seem early to begin, this is the perfect time for Toddlers to start to understand the signals of their bodies in this natural part of life.
IN THE CLASSROOM
Just like all other elements of the Toddler environment, toilet learning is prepared so that there are as few obstacles as possible to help the child practice successfully. Beside the toilets, we have chairs in which Toddlers can sit to change clothes, baskets for soiled laundry, and cubbies of clean changes of clothing.
Using the toilet is part of the work cycle in our Prepared Environment, just like Polishing or Banana Slicing. This allows the child to opt into practicing any part of the process (from changing clothes to actually sitting on the toilet), because any repetition supports the child’s gain of comfort and knowledge in using the toilet.
As already mentioned, the Toddlers are also free to move around the classroom in their cloth underwear; this avoids the challenge to move around in bulky diapers and allows the Toddler to explore as freely as he is able. Throughout the day, our guides invite the children to use the toilet during transition periods, as well, so that it becomes a part of the rhythm of the daily cycle.
Especially for a process as important as Toilet Learning, it’s critical to have consistency for the young child at home and at school. To continue our work with your child at home, we have a few tips. First, be aware of the language you use when you invite your child to sit on the toilet. Are you asking, “Do you want to sit on the toilet?” This allows for the toddler to quickly say, “No!” Instead, try: “Do you want to sit on the toilet before or after your snack?” Rephrasing from an if to a when invites cooperation and ultimately will yield better results and fewer battles of the will.
Whether the child is “successful” with going on the toilet or not, limit praise, prizes, or expressions of frustration–this keeps the process as simple and as natural as possible. What we’re hoping to encourage in the child is the recognition of his body’s needs in this natural part of life.
Second, swap out diapers for cloth training underwear (and pull-ups for nighttime until the child is more consistent). Because we are fostering the child’s independence through Toilet Learning, it is important to give them clothing, especially underwear, that isn’t too tight or has difficult fasteners. The child should be able to easily remove and put on the clothing by himself.
Third, try to maintain this even when you’re out of the house. Switching back and forth between diapers and underwear is inconsistent and confusing for the Toddler. Portable toilets, extra clothes, and a bag of wipes make it easier to continue Toilet Learning anywhere. This frees up the feeling that you need to stay home during a phase of Toilet Learning and also maintains the routine and consistency you’ve worked so hard to gain.
Toilet learning is such a critical way for the very young child to express his independence and better understand his body’s signals. Remember that this is something that can’t be held to a timeline, and your guides are here to support you and your child in the Toilet Learning process!