Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Toilet Learning

Over the last month I have come to realize how much time we are spending in the bathroom these days. Many of the children in Cohort 10 and 12 are in underwear, and it just makes me think so much about the process of toilet learning (or Potty Training). When does it start? When is the process complete? What skills are they learning that they use outside of the bathroom?
I took an online training course once specifically for Potty Training and in this course, they referred to the process as Toilet Learning. It really stuck with me and made me think that us helping children figure out how to control their bladder, bowels and about the toilet was a lot of work for them and not so much for us. They need to take their own time and go at their own pace to not only figure out the toilet (what it is, what we use it for, and why flush, besides it being fun) but recognize signals their bodies give them when they need to go. We’re not “training” them for toilet use but supporting their natural learning process.

With that being said, when does Toilet Learning start? At Tumbleweed we are constantly talking to them in the bathroom about their bodies, about what we notice in their diapers (Whether it be wet, dry or a BM), with infants we are commenting when we notice them looking at the toilet or touching it, identifying what it is. We also talk to the infants a little about what some of the older children are doing on the toilet and in the bathroom while they lay on the floor for their change. While it may not seem like this is part of Toilet Learning it is a foundation for future conversations. As infants progress to being wobblers there is a shift in gears… Diaper changes happen while the children are standing, and they have access to the toilet if they want to sit or just take a peak. Also as wobblers we encourage each child to work with us on their clothing (assisting us in pulling down their pants for a diaper change). All of this process is child led, as their carers we are just answering questions (even the unasked questions of infants) and offering opportunity for them to explore the bathroom. Now that Cohort 10 and 12 are toddlers so much has changed from the wobbler stage in the bathroom.

Every child is:

Taking off his/ her own clothes
Removing their own diapers/ underwear
Most are sitting on the toilet every bathroom break regardless if pee or poop come
Wiping their bodies with toilet paper
Putting their clothes back on
Washing their hands
We have a consistent bathroom routine and set times throughout the day that we go in to use the toilet which they have all become accustomed to. At this stage they have made my role more of a presence, as I am just available for support or any needed assistance.

As they continue with the Toilet Learning process I wonder when is it considered complete? When are they beyond the Potty Training phase? Is it when they are no longer in diapers through nap or overnight? When they are telling us when they need to use the toilet? I feel like it is so hard to pinpoint and honestly why would you want to? I think every child is different, accidents happen… That is why they are called accidents after all. I also feel like their bodies are constantly changing and that there is always more to learn. For example, a few weeks ago one of the children was pushing on the tank lid… This of course made me nervous and I jumped in to stop it from falling. I talked with everyone in the bathroom about how the lid is heavy, and if it fell it could hurt someone or break AND then I asked if they wanted to see inside the tank because we could look if they were feeling curious. It was a pretty amazing thing to look at, we talked about all the parts and how everything was attached and even got to see what happened when we flushed it.


While a lot of our time in the bathroom surrounds the toilet they are doing so much more then just going pee or poop. They are working on dressing and undressing themselves, taking care of their bodies and practicing good hygiene, and making decisions on their own. There are many times I notice children’s skills from the bathroom carrying over to other parts of our day… When we are getting gear on to go outside they need minimal assistance as they have lots of practice dressing in the bathroom. When there is juice on their hands from oranges or dirt from outside they notice on their own and declare they need to wash their hands. When they feel mucus running out of their nose they know just where the clothes are to wipe it. There is just so much body autonomy that grew from the foundation of communication we started during their first diaper changes at Tumbleweed!

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