Friday, July 24, 2015

Potty Training: Each in Their Own Time

We have entered an exciting phase in Cohorts 7 + 9:  everyone is very interested in the toilet and all of the other interesting things that go along with toilet use: taking clothes on and off, wiping, flushing, undies, etc.  As a teacher, it's amazing to see children take ownership of this new stage of independence in so many different ways, and as a teacher in a child-led environment, I have been particularly impressed by the ease with which children let us know where they are in the potty training (or toilet learning) process.

After peeing or pooping in the toilet, you get to flush!
As with any learning process at Tumbleweed, using the toilet is something that we have been scaffolding toward for a long time.  You can read about a respectful approach to diapering infants here .  We believe that beginning by talking children through diaper changes as infants sets the stage for them to take ownership of their diapering, and then toileting processes, which is really the long-term goal of potty training.  We want to help children to be independent and have the ability to take control of self-care activities such as using the toilet.  We also make sure to use clear language and the real words for body parts and what comes out of them.  This helps children to be confident that they understand what we are talking about, and is part of our value of anti-shame: our bodies are amazing, and we can talk about them with clarity and without embarrassment.

As infants become wobblers and then toddlers, there are all sorts of ways that we encourage them to take over more and more of the diapering routine.  They choose their own diapers, they get their own wipes (and eventually wipe themselves), they pull their pants down and off and then on and up again.  They wash their own hands, and once they are standing and walking, they are offered the use of the toilet at every diaper change.  The message is never that they must sit on the toilet, but rather that the toilet is available.  We don't have any problems drumming up interest in the toilet among toddlers - it is an interesting thing (it's full of water and grownups use it!).

So what does all this child led toilet learning lead to in our classroom of 2 - almost 3-year-olds?

Working on many different tasks in the bathroom.
 Children who are all at the exact right place for each child - across a wide spectrum.  Some children in our group are wearing undies to school every day, pee and poop on the toilet regularly, and have few accidents at school.  Some children are in diapers, and choose to sit on the toilet at every diaper change, often peeing in the toilet, and peeing and pooping in diapers as well.  Some children are in diapers and occasionally sitting on the toilet and peeing and pooping in diapers.  Some children are in diapers and haven't yet started sitting on the toilet regularly.  All of these stages are perfect for the children who are in them.

Here's what everyone in the group does in the bathroom:

  • Takes off his/her own pants
  • Takes off his/her own diaper or own underwear
  • Makes his/her own choice about whether or not to sit on the toilet
  • Gets his/her own wipe
  • Chooses his/her own diaper/underwear
  • Puts on his/her own pants
  • Washes his/her own hands.
Picking out her own diaper.
Each step in the process is owned by the child.  Most importantly, to me, is that sitting on the toilet gets to be each child's choice, each time we are in the bathroom.  Getting to make that choice (even if the child chooses not to sit on the toilet!) is part of toilet learning that will continue to give a child confidence in and ownership of their toileting experience for years to come.

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