This is the letter I give to parents who are interested in beginning potty training their child in my home. I thought it would be something readers may be able to use for their own business to explain the process and some of the difficulties in working with parents to get on the same page.
Potty Training in the Daycare
I have had a few questions recently from parents of children two and up regarding their child’s readiness to begin toilet training. I have shared some of our ideas and routines with some parents but thought it would be easier for all if I wrote down a few power points regarding training so we could all be on the same page.
I think it’s a common misconception that most children potty train during the twos. In my experience with children in the day care and children entering the day care it is usually around the age of three for girls and three and a half for boys. Some kids do train earlier or later than that. The youngest kid I have ever trained was 22 months and the oldest was four. It’s a pretty wide range of “normal”.
If you feel your little one is ready, I would like to share with you some ideas and experiences to help the process. We have some basic policies when the time comes to begin training. I’ve put in bold the most important points. This may sound awfully official but honestly this is all to help make this go easily for everyone.
Let’s define a potty trained child:
A potty trained child is a child who can do the following:
1) Be able to TELL the adult they have to go potty BEFORE they have to go. They must be able to say the words “I have to go potty” BEFORE they have to go.
2) Be able to pull down their underwear and pants and get them back up without assistance.
3) Be able to wipe themselves after using the toilet.
4) Be able to get off the potty by themselves.
5) Be able to wash and dry hands.
6) Be able to go directly back to the room without directions.
7) Be able to postpone going if they must wait for someone who is in the bathroom or if we are outside and away from the house.
The first one is the number one key to successful training. Children who are ready to train have the ability to perceive events that are going to happen before they happen. Because we cannot allow children to just go in and out of the room to freely use the potty they MUST learn they have to tell us so that we can accompany them into the room and supervise them. At home you can allow them free access to the bathroom if you choose but we are prohibited by our regulations to allow them to go unaccompanied. Because of this they need to learn that they must tell the adult they have to go BEFORE they have to go. We do not accept signs that the child has to go or nonverbal behavior. It must be the words “I have to go potty”.
Is your child ready to begin training?
Sometimes parents feel that if their child is able to actually pee on a potty at home when the parent places them on the potty that this is the sign they are ready to train. From my experience this is not necessarily a sign. I have seen many children who are able to do this who actually trained more than a year after they were able to do this. I always say that potty training is five percent ability to get their clothes on and off, five percent ability to go pee or poop in the potty and NINETY percent being able to identify when they have to go and telling the adult BEFORE they have to go.
Another misconception is that if a child tells you that they have peed or pooped in their diaper that it’s a sign that they are ready to train. I haven’t seen ANY correlation to a child’s awareness AFTER they have gone to their ability to recognize and act BEFORE they have to go.
Some things we do to get kids ready to train:
1) We start reading potty books and talking about going potty in the big girl or big boy potty during changing.
2) We have them sit on the potty during natural transition times (before and after meals, before and after naps, and diaper changes)
3) We practice with them getting their pants up and down on their own and hand washing.
4) We will supervise them and watch for signs that they have to go or are going and get them off to the potty.
5) We keep close communication with the parents about any indicators suggesting the child is ready.
Some things we don’t do:
We do not put kids on a potty schedule where they go every half hour or hour. It’s very time consuming with little to no benefit. From experience we have seen this cause many problems with children not being able to hold much urine and having to constantly go to the potty further along down the line. They are able to settle down at nap because once they relax and have a little bit of pee they have to get up and go. They can’t do walks because they can’t make it very long without having to come back to potty. The day pretty much centers around the potty which just isn’t realistic in this setting.
We don’t limit food or drinks to only be given at certain times. We maintain the same food and snack schedule during training.
We don’t clean out poopy underwear. We will bag pee soaked underwear and return it to the parent at the end of the day but we will not do this with soiled underwear. We must dispose of that immediately into the garbage. We don’t do laundry of any soaked or soaked or soiled clothes. They are bagged, put outside, and returned to the parents at the end of the day.
Some helpful hints to help you at home:
There are some easy daily things you can do at home that will really help your child’s progression. Some of these may sound silly but trust the ole Fat Nan… they REALLY work.
1) Be cheery about the potty. A happy experience each time they are on the potty will translate into quick training at home.
2) If there are two adults in the house have each adult “ask” the other adult if he/she can go to the potty at least four or five times a day. Your child seeing and hearing you “ask” if you can go will get the idea in their head that they need to do that too.
3) Praise the child on success for every step of the process but do not overdo it. You don’t want them trying to do the potty thing fifty times a day to get your attention or get rewarded. A “way to go” or a “thumbs up” and big smile will let them know you are proud. We use the phrase “you go potty like the BIG boys/girls do!!!! They love the idea of being BIG.
4) Bribery can be a good thing. Use stickers or small treats (like gummies, jelly beans, teddy grahams) ONLY after potty success. Have the child give the same treat to everyone around him that can have the treat. Passing a treat for his success will make the child happier that getting the treat himself. Every person receiving the prize says “Good job little buddy… you go potty like the big boys do”.
5) Let the child in the bathroom with you when you are going potty. This is really important for the same sex parent. Let them see how it works and you washing up afterwards.
6) Don’t let them play toilet paper. If they are infatuated with toilet paper give them a couple of generic cheapo rolls to play around with in the house to get it out of their system.
7) No punishment or consternation for accidents. Just talk to them about them needing to ask to go to the potty next time. We say “next time you will go potty like the BIG boys do… okay?!!”
8 ) If you see them mid way trying to poop or pee scurry them off to the potty to finish up.
9) Give your child three or four minutes to get the job done. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Don’t let it turn into an attention seeking time where the child gets you to one to one them. It’s only about going potty. If they don’t go in a reasonable time tell them it’s time to get off and we will try again another time.
10) Don’t allow potty time to be a stall tactic to avoid doing something the child doesn’t want to do. We see this here at toy pick up and nap time. Some kids will claim they have to go potty to avoid having to go to bed. If you see a pattern of avoidance have the child do the potty a little bit before you want them to do whatever they are avoiding so it doesn’t interfere.
11) I don’t encourage any toys or books during the training time. It really can backfire on you. Potty time will quickly turn into one to one attention and play time for the child. After a child has been trained for a few months you can add a book for them to look at if they are having a hard time going poop.
12) Keep attention and interaction during potty time to a bare minimum. If your child is generally doinking around during the time he/she is sitting on the potty then turn away from them and keep the eye contact down. Keep the atmosphere calm and focused.
13) We train boys sitting down first. We switch them to standing up when they are tall enough to reach over the seat and adept enough to aim.
14) Be careful of public automatic flushing toilets. The noise of the flushing will scare them. If you bring a little post it note with you when you go out you can put it over the sensor so the toilet doesn’t automatically flush right when your child gets off of it.
15) Have fun. Stay cool. It will all work out.
Please don’t expect the same performance here as at home:
I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum with kids ability to be “trained” here and not at home and vice versa. I’ve had kids who have been successful at home and are unable to do it here for a number of reasons:
1) Kids are not trained at home to tell the parents they have to go BEFORE they have to go but rather are allowed free access unsupervised to the bathroom in their home. Again, here they must tell us BEFORE. They can’t leave the playroom without an adult and go into the bathroom without supervision.
2) There are many more distractions here with a larger group of kids, toys, and bustling activities.
3) They need one to one attention throughout the day in order to keep up with the toileting. Here we have multi-level aged children who have various needs and supervision requirements. We can’t focus on one child but must divide our attention with all the kids. This is another reason your child must tell us he/she has to go. They need to bring it to OUR attention. We can’t focus only on them to pick up cues, sign language, or specific behaviors to tell us it is time.
4) Parents are putting the child on the potty in small time increments. We don’t do this here so the child will wet themselves many times throughout the day if this is being done at home.
5) Parents are over exaggerating and sometimes purposefully deceiving the child care provider into believing the child is completely trained at home so they can avoid bringing diapers. There is also an element of the parent population who believe that early training is a sign of giftedness and want their children to be advanced. Potty training has nothing to do with giftedness regardless of the age of training.
We have also had kids who are successful here but will not do it at home. This can happen if:
1) The child is on the go a lot in the evenings and weekends making it difficult for the parent to do toileting practice at home.
2) Children are with different caregivers on the weekend who don’t continue the practicing.
3) Parents want the training to be done at day care during the day and do diapers and pull-ups at home on the weekends.
We have had a number of children who train a full year at home before they train here or train here a full year before they train at home. It is best when it is done at the same time but don’t be worried if the child is successful only with you.
We don’t put children into underwear until they have been COMPLETELY accident free HERE for two full weeks.
This is an absolute non-negotiable policy. I have potty trained many children over the years and have found that once a child is successful for two full weeks HERE it is rare if not unheard of for them to have accidents thereafter. We haven’t had a potty training accident here in over five years. This is because this policy is strictly enforced.
The reason we have this policy is because over the years we are training many kids. We have to set up policies that maintain infection control standards for the child care and protect the carpet, furniture, and inventory of the day care. We a have to have higher standards than a parent has at home to avoid having to do frequent carpet and furniture cleaning and replacements. The entire day care portion of the home is carpeted.
Often when kids have accidents it isn’t discovered immediately and they end up wetting down their leg and soaking their socks. We are not literally keeping our eyes directly on just one child every second so it could go unnoticed. Once the child sits down or walks around a bit in the playroom you quickly have an entire room with urine soaked footsteps and big soaked spots from the child sitting. It only takes a few minutes of free playing to cover the room completely. The babies and toddlers play and lay directly on that carpet.
Once it’s discovered we have to have the entire room cleaned. Once urine gets into the carpet paid it is nearly impossible to clean it down to the pad with regular carpet cleaners. Having the carpet done professionally is very expensive and hard on the carpet.
When children soil their underwear it is a very big mess to clean up. Often the poop will soak thru their clothes and cause the same problems the pee accidents cause. It can require professional cleaning and takes more staff time to deal with then the cost of diapers for a week.
Sometimes kids nap train right away when they are awake time trained. Most children are not able to do this and it is many months and sometimes years before they are nap trained. We require nap diapers until the child has slept through nap for one full month without a pee accident.
What to wear during training:
Children should wear easy on and off pants during training. We prefer sweat pant like bottoms until they are physically capable of doing snaps and buttons. Please don’t send them in anything that requires us to remove the top to get to the bottom. We don’t allow overalls, kid costumes, union suits, one piece jammies, or shirts with snaps at the crotch. Belts and suspenders are never allowed in the day care for safety reasons.
Diapers and pull-ups are okay for training. We do not use pull-ups until the child is at the one week mark without accidents. We do not do cloth diapers or underwear with plastic pants. If you have had great success at home we can do the training with the underwear and a pull-up over the underwear during the training. If the child has regular accidents in the underwear we will switch them back to regular diapers and try again at another time. We use regular diapers at nap time.
Finally, I have found that a number of kids are easily potty trained during long vacations and holiday breaks. The parents have the time to do the intense work and supervision. Parents can allow the child to be in underwear for many consecutive days. If they are successful at home they still must remain in diapers and be accident free for two weeks HERE. They can come in underwear with pull-ups when they return. That way they will have a protective layer over the underwear to protect the carpet should they revert back to accidents. I will let you know how they are doing every day.
Thanks and let me know if you have any questions or want to discuss it further. If it’s done at a time when they child is truly ready it should go very easily and quickly.