Monday, March 12, 2012

Gearing Up for Toilet Training (i.e., Toilet Awareness/Learning)

Montessorians believe that the sensitive period for helping children use the toilet independently is 12-18 months (according to the book Montessori from the Start). The author cites studies that indicate that in the 1950s, ninety-two percent of babies were using the toilet successfully during the daytime by 18 months of age.

We've done a little Elimination Communication with Henry from early on to help him associate diaper changes with the toilet (and we've always set up his changing area in the bathroom), but we honestly didn't have much success with it. Even though I was home with him full-time for the first year of his life, I was never adept at reading his cues. We have accidentally caught several pees and poops, but the ratio of caught to missed has not been favorable.

In anticipation of the 12-month mark, coupled with the fact that we moved to a new house and were therefore setting up a new environment, in addition to the fact that Henry had a really bad diaper rash for a long time, we started gearing up for toilet awareness. Here's how we did it:
  1. We purchased cotton training pants from Hanna Andersson. They are expensive, but luckily we caught a 20% off deal. The other training pants that have been recommended to me are Under the Nile Organic Cotton Training Pants (although I've heard they run small), Potty Patty's or Potty Scotty's, and the ones at Target. Henry will need these training pants when he starts Montessori school in the fall (he's at a Montessori daycare right now which isn't an authentic program).
  2. We put a basket in the bathroom to hold his underwear, right next to his Baby Bjorn toilet.
  3. We created a spot for Henry to sit while he's putting his underwear on and taking it off (simply by flipping a basket over).
  4. When Henry is home with us, he only wears his training underwear and a shirt. For the most part, the underwear will hold one pee or poop (the one exception to this was when Henry was on a play date at a friend's house and for some reason it leaked and he peed all over their floor. Oy.) We make it a point to make frequent trips to the toilet to give him the opportunity to try and go to the bathroom. We let Henry choose between a book and a toy when he sits down on the toilet.
  5. When he does go to the bathroom on the toilet, we say something neutral like, "You did it. You peed in your toilet," rather than conditioning him with external praise, like "Great job!" Then we dump it in the big toilet and give him the opportunity to flush the toilet.
  6. We put his cloth diapers on him when we're going to be away from the house for an extended period.

Our current process is working out well. The training pants help us immediately recognize when he has gone to the bathroom. He can feel the wetness very easily, and we are getting a better understanding of how frequently he actually urinates. With pooping, it's getting easier and easier to notice his little grunts, so we are actually able to get him to the toilet quite a bit for that process.

It still feels too early to actually expect him to internalize this process, but it feels like the right time to start. His ability to understand language and the world around him astounds us on a daily basis.

We still need to get a small stepping stool for the bathroom, so he can reach the sink and we can start associating using the bathroom with hand-washing. We also need to hang a towel at his level for hand-drying (I think we'll sew a wooden ring onto it, so he can easily hang it back on the hook).

Good times at the Cotner-Bradford residence!

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Today on 2000 Dollar Wedding: My idea to create a new ritual for Henry's birthday.



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8 comments:

Kristy said...

Hi Sara,

I think that statistic at the beginning is really an eye opener. With my older son, we made a few unsuccessful attempts at toilet training before he was actually successful (just before three years old!). My mom made several comments about my sister and I being trained far earlier and herself and her own siblings were likely closer to the 18 months statistics. However, most of my mommy friends - even those practicing Montessori - haven't been successful with their boys until around the 3 years + mark. I found close to 3 years, the process was quick and there were few accidents as my son had a better awareness of his own body and better understanding of using the toilet all together. I wonder if training too early goes against the natural development of children since it is more forced and whether this training takes away from time for the development of other critical skills and abilities. I'd love to know a bit more about the reasoning for this timing from the Montessori perspective.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Kristy! If 12-18 months really is a "Sensitive Period" like Montessorians say, then it should actually be easier during that time. A sensitive period is a window of time during which children are naturally interested in and ready for a particular form of development. I have no idea if it's actually a sensitive period for Henry. I don't feel like we're really toilet training him right now; it's more like we're setting up the systems and structures and starting to use them a bit. I really like the little cotton training pants when we're around the house because I can change him right away when he's wet (in his cloth diapers, it was much more difficult to tell when he was wet). When he's been dry for a while, it's a reminder to me to take him to the toilet and see if he has to go. It doesn't seem to take much time away from the development of his other skills.

But who knows. I might get tired of it! He'll definitely start toilet learning when he starts his Montessori school at 18 months. He'll be around older children who are modeling how to use the toilet (the toilets are pretty public in his classroom), so I think he'll be even more motivated at that time. I guess we'll do it in earnest then.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! It's great to hear from you.

Maureen said...

Sara -
Did you have any problem with Henry refusing to sit on the potty? I've been trying unsuccessfully to just sit her on the potty first thing in the AM and right before bed, but she refuses to let it touch her butt - the closest I can get is her straddling the thing, standing up! She won't bend her legs to sit on it. Any ideas? We have the small baby bjorn potty.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Maureen! We do sometimes have trouble with Henry wanting to sit on his toilet. He especially doesn't want to sit on it when he just wakes up. Have you tried offering a toy or book? I let Henry choose between one toy and one book and that helps a lot. Also, it can help to get behind them to place them on the baby bjorn. You can make them feel more secure. We did that when he was a little younger.

Definitely don't force it. She might not be ready yet.

Best of luck to you and your little girl!

Kristy said...

Thanks for the info Sara! I'll be looking forward to reading about your experience with Henry. No doubt the modelling will help. Maybe they had the timing right on all those years ago and parents today have just become more lax, thinking that they are honouring the child's pace of development.

Rebecca said...

Thank you so much for this post. I'd not yet considered HA unders during my eternal quest. For the price, absolutely unbeatable. most organic unders I find are upwards of $16/pair!! I immediately drove to y nearest HA and bought a three-pack and signed up for the email. two days later, I received a welcome email with a 20% coupon. I now own 15 trainers and two camisoles for my toddler. Anyhow, thank you so much! You've saved me hours from making my own...now I just need to whip up some wool soakers. :)

Irene Tan said...

Hi, I've been toilet learning with my son, been sitting him on potty since 6 months old but really ramped it up the last few weeks. Sometimes he won't sit and I just encourage him to go but if he won't just move on, no stress. Bowel movement 100% in toilet, voiding around 50%. Put him in trainers all the time at home but still a nappy at night and out and about. Finding he is more receptive to going if I call him to remind him it is toilet time (no questions or pleading, just matter of fact) and let him walk himself to the toilet. He is almost 15 months old. Just thought I'd share as someone above said they had issues with child not sitting on the toilet.

Irene Tan said...

Hi, I've been toilet learning with my son, been sitting him on potty since 6 months old but really ramped it up the last few weeks. Sometimes he won't sit and I just encourage him to go but if he won't just move on, no stress. Bowel movement 100% in toilet, voiding around 50%. Put him in trainers all the time at home but still a nappy at night and out and about. Finding he is more receptive to going if I call him to remind him it is toilet time (no questions or pleading, just matter of fact) and let him walk himself to the toilet. He is almost 15 months old. Just thought I'd share as someone above said they had issues with child not sitting on the toilet.

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