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How to send your young toddler to preschool or daycare, without diapers

how to send your young toddler to preschool without diapers

One of the biggest questions that can trip up your Elimination Communication or Potty Training efforts is:

How do I send my toddler to daycare or preschool without diapers?

Hands-down.

Toughest. Thing. Ever.

Today I'm going to share with you what we did, provide you with some tips, and give you a few handouts that will help you make the same steps with your 1 year old to 3 year old child.

Day One: How we sent Branson to preschool without diapers

Our kids returned to preschool on September 4th - all 3 of the youngest - and we sent Branson, 18.5 months, to school without diapers for the first time.

Before summer, we sent him to preschool in a disposable diaper backup even though he was out of diapers at home.

I did warn the teacher at that time that there would be no more diapers come September, and now the time had come!

Day 1 was a huge success.

packing training pants for preschool
3 backpacks, 3 preschoolers in our home! The red bag is our wet/dry bag with B's backups in it.

Preparing for the Transition

I did a few things to help make this a smooth back-to-preschool transition. I hope these can help some of you, too.

1. We took him out of diapers at 12 months old.

One of the biggest indicators of success is taking your child out of diapers early.

If you're reading this and your child is still less than 18 months old - great! - start Elimination Communication in some small way, today, if you haven't already.

With my 3rd child, Cooper, we waited to take him out of daytime diapers til 17 months, even though he hadn't pooped in one since he was very small (see when we took each of our kiddos out of diapers here in this blog post).

I knew that this was why Cooper resisted so much at preschool (and was a pain to night train, too).

So, with B, we did something dramatically different (and more in alignment with what we did concerning our 1st and 2nd children).

We took B out of diapers at 12 months old during the daytime, at home, and on some outings - he's had plenty of practice, and we've worked a ton on his communication.

2. I communicated with the teacher before school started.

I spoke ahead of time with his teacher about the class' daily schedule (9am-1pm) and we decided on some easy transition times that worked for B's usual timing, some good transition times when they change diapers anyway, and what worked best for her ease as teacher.

As time has gone on, we've adjusted that schedule based on the actual day-to-day reality, and things have stayed steady.

3. I sent the proper back-ups + provided a toilet seat reducer.

I filled his wet/dry bag with 3 pair of TinyUps (pull up cloth covers) and 3 pair of Tiny Trainers (both my own creations, sprung from our EC needs), plus an extra pair of pants.

Our wet/dry bag filled with TinyTrainers and TinyUps.

I also gave the teachers a new toilet seat reducer that matches the one we have and use at home (the WeePod by Prince Lionheart).

4. I did a foundational pee + provided an update.

Upon arrival today, we pottied B for his "foundational pee" and updated the teacher that he'd already pooped this morning.

I also showed her the extra backups and gave her the choice of what to use (she chose just TinyUps with pants over).

5. I pottied him at pick-up + got an update from the teacher.

Upon our 1pm pickup, the teacher and I briefly reviewed the day and what worked/what didn't.

It was a success in that, although he did have one "miss" or accident (she was unable to wrangle class well enough to do the pre-playground pottytunity), he went through an entire day of preschool without diapers at 18 months old.

However, I have to admit something to you.

FULL HONESTY: Yes, I almost did the easy thing that morning! I almost sent him in disposables along with a pack of diapers to make it easier for Ms. Laura. I felt like I was asking too much (even though she had also ECed Cooper in her class 18 months ago).

But, I chose to be BRAVE instead.

Point is: It doesn't matter how many wet pants you have in the day...what matters is that your baby is learning...and that you are following your values system when it comes to diapers or not.

Day Two: Disaster

On day two of coming back to preschool, things did not go as well.

Apparently Branson resisted the potty and screamed and the teachers backed off, and he had a ton of wet ones all day.

But the resistance scared the teachers and they were at a loss about how to go forward.

Here are the modifications we made based on what they told me had happened:

1. I told them to take his pants and undergarments off COMPLETELY at every pottytunity.

Branson often dislikes having his pants and undies on his ankles as he sits on the toilet. So, I offered this modification, having known his tendencies at home.

2. I demonstrated how I give "privacy" to Branson while he goes.

Often our babies will resist the potty when we do not give them privacy. Remember, this is their deal, not ours! Their body, not ours.

So, I showed them how I pop B onto the toilet and then I move away from him, talking to the others inside the classroom (his bathroom is at the end of the classroom, with a closing door between), not paying attention to B, occasionally grunting a little cue in case he has to poop.

As I spoke to them outside the door, B peed.

I told the teachers that he (and most kiddos) does not like when someone is sitting right next to them, holding them or protecting them on the toilet. Most prefer you to turn your back, wash your hands, talk to someone else, etc.

3. I advised that they do not talk to B about pottying...at all.

When taking B to the potty, I asked the teachers to not say where they were going ("we're going pee"), and to not say anything about it when they set him down on it.

I advised that they matter-of-factly just take him, with not conversation, just as we do at home.

The outcome? It worked!

Day Three: huge success

On day 3, the teachers were able to adjust the above 3 things and they had zero misses the whole day.

The modifications we made, which stemmed from open conversation (and my awareness of his potty rhythms, behaviors, and preferences at home), clearly worked.

(Had they not worked, I would have made more suggestions the next day.)

They worked SO well that...this happened:

asleep on the potty at preschool
Sooooo relaxed and comfortable...that he fell asleep on the potty at preschool!

The Weekly Challenge: Dealing with different teachers every Friday

We used to only have Mon-Thurs care at our preschool, but a lot of us work-at-home-moms requested Fridays and our generous director granted it!

But...it's a mixed-age class (15 months to 5 years old) and the teachers rotate through every week.

What does this mean for being diaper-free at preschool?

Well, that you can't just rely on working with your one or two teachers...that you actually have to train THE WHOLE STAFF.

I have to be honest: I was scared.

But, I stuck with my values and our plan and I came up with a simple way to teach the teachers every Friday morning.

How I taught the teachers, weekly

Here's what I did:

1. I demonstrated pottying Branson during our foundational pee, upon arriving, to one or both teachers.

I told them about taking his pants off completely, how to give privacy, and to just not ask or talk about going to potty beforehand, ever.

2. I told them to take him at transition times, as if he were a 2 or 3 year old who was potty training still.

Because most of the teachers were not from B's usual class, they all dealt with diapered and potty-training 2, 3, and 4 year olds every day.

So, I made it very relevant to them, explaining that they can take him just like they'd take an older child who is learning the same thing.

Examples of transition times include before going to the playground, after lunch, etc.

diaper free at preschool
The perfect pottytunity is before and after playground time.

3. I told them that he will not normally signal, but to stick to the transition times.

Most teachers think that the child is not trained if they don't tell them every single time that they have to go. (Most parents do, too!)

(Some even think early potty training is harmful, especially if the child doesn't signal willingly. That is BS.)

But, honestly, does your child tell you clearly every time she is ready for a nap? How about a snack or water?

Nope...usually these unspoken needs translate into erratic behavior, and we parents eventually catch on (esp with sleep!).

With pottying, it is important to tell teachers that the lack of signals doesn't mean he isn't aware, he's just got a lot going on right now (especially at school - hello distractions!).

Since B sometimes tugs at his butt, and sometimes says "poopoo," I told them that these occasionally happen, but not to count on it.

Luckily, the teachers at our preschool are fairly open to early potty training - due in part to the fact that I've been having them EC my babies there for the past 3 years. :)

4. If he starts to poop, tell him "wait" and take him to the potty.

I had a babysitter a few weeks ago allow my son to finish pooping before she changed his cloth training pants.

(Um, I was VERY UPSET. She clearly didn't listen to the training I gave her just that morning!)

She was kindly and promptly asked to never, ever come back.

Many teachers will also wait for your child to poop, then change them. It's not their fault - just an ingrained habit!

So, I made it clear that, if they see him start to push, they should say: "Wait." Then transport to the toilet.

5. I told them that it didn't matter how many wet ones he has, but what's important is the learning he's going thru.

Since he's been out of diapers at home since 12 months old, he's used to being in a cloth backup (ie: undergarments).

But, it's not perfect, and there are distractions!

So, I make it very laid-back...it's not about the # of wets, it's about the learning, which we are dedicated to continuing at school and at home.

6. I showed them his back-ups inside his wet/dry bag.

Quick overview of the tools of the trade, and what to do with wet ones...and we were done with the quick 5 minutes of mini-training!

7. I followed up with them upon pick-up to see how everything went.

It's always nice to thank them and ask for feedback of how he did...so we communicate when I pick up and offer the final pre-car-ride-home potty.

The results of training different teachers every Friday?

Every single week since school started back up (that's 5 so far!), he's done GREAT with all the other teachers.

Seriously. Amazing.

Like, sometimes even better than he does in his regular Mon-Thurs class.

(So, if you're wondering how something like this can possibly work...it can! We are proof.)

Now let's discuss a few...

Our Improvements: Little tweaks along the way

Every day we do the foundational pee, the check-in, and upon arrival, the final pee and the check-out.

We check in with the teachers before and after school, and we adjust the gameplan when necessary.

We've found that he had hand, foot, and mouth disease (thanks to EC...the spotted butt was discovered!).

We've also found out that he was majorly constipated another day (causing him to have non-stop accidents for two days, then a huge poop at home).

We've taught B how to sit on a big public toilet, unassisted, and told the teachers they can now easily potty him while at the gym.

We've continued to send back-ups and to be encouraging and positive with the teachers.

Branson has absolutely done wonderfully! And the teachers feel great, too.

Some tools for YOU.

Ok. So, I don't have a minicourse on Daycare and Preschool yet...that is in the works!

But I don't want to leave you hanging.

You can grab my TWO tips handouts (one for you, and one for your teacher) here:

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

I hope those of you who don't have these handouts yet will find them useful.

Now I want to hear from you! In the comments, please share what you will do today to become (more) diaper-free at preschool or daycare.

I look forward to hearing from you in the comments. (This is a safe, safe space, so feel free to be transparent!)

xx

Resource Recommendation

Getting EC Back on Track: a minicourse that walks you through observation, logging, and getting back on the EC wagon

Potty Time Mastery: a minicourse that helps you get extremely good at detecting the 4 ways to know the baby has to pee

Go Diaper Free: my popular EC book that simplifies EC, beginning to end

Andrea Olson

About Andrea Olson

I'm Andrea and I spend most of my time with my husband and 5 children (newborn to 8 years old) and the rest of my time teaching other new parents how to do Elimination Communication with their 0-18 month babies. I love what I do and try to make a difference in one baby or parent's life every single day. (And I love, love, love, mango gelato.)

11 Comments

  1. Avatar shanit on October 2, 2018 at 9:50 am

    I send my 2yr to Montessori School and they encourage potty training from 2yrs old. But mine was out of backup since he was 16m so I explained and I send lots of extra clothes. So no worries. Sometimes his wet bag is full sometimes it’s empty but I know he is learning to speak up ( yes they take him at regular transitions but he drinks lots ). So it’s very doable,and better for the environment.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on October 3, 2018 at 12:18 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Shanit! Funny that Montessori schools are supposed to being in the 12-18 month class, but many are adopting the conventional toilet training methods that start late (2 years old is definitely “late” in my book). I’m so happy yours are accommodating!!! :) xx Andrea

  2. Avatar Floc on October 2, 2018 at 11:07 am

    I send my 14m daughter to daycare giver (we call her nanny) who has 2 other kids (20m and 24m). She’s the only one who uses the potty ;-). She has been out of diapers at home since she was 3m, it was a success this summer (she was 12m), during our holidays at home. She wears cloth diapers at daycare. We have explained to her nanny that she does control her sphincters and she has decided to potty every time she changes the 2 other kids’ diapers. She pees/poops every time her nanny proposes. In the wet bag we often have only one wet diaper, sometimes 2. That’s all! Her nanny is impressed, she has never seen that before.
    I pick up a good idea here : potty her upon arrival. Maybe it will be enough to avoid a wet diaper.
    thank you Adrea for all your work and communication around EC.

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on October 3, 2018 at 12:20 pm

      Hi Floc! I’m so happy to hear about what you do with your nanny, and that it works for you. Yes, the foundational pee and the pick-up pee are often great to provide seamless transition between you and the nanny, and also familiarize the child with that toilet by your presence there…but also can definitely avoid a wet one! :) Glad to help and I am glad you are here. xx Andrea

  3. Avatar Julianne Treadwell on October 2, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    I was nervous about bringing my 19 month old to day care without a diaper…and totally chickened the first 2 weeks and sent him in disposables. I did use those first couple weeks to talk to the teachers and let them know I was already working on potty training at home and that I would be sending him soon in underwear. THEN…after a long 3 day weekend at home with 0 misses, I decided I would bring him in undies and a humongous bag of backup clothes. He did great! I also did the ‘foundational pee’ which gave him (and the teachers) a good 45 minutes before another need might happen. They took him with all the kids in the 2-3’s class…and we had a lot of misses the first 2 days. That is when i learned they were trying to get him to pee standing up. He still sits at home and thus was very confused. When I told them to have him sit–BOOM! Dry days! Only one miss at school since. Now on to nighttime training….

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on October 3, 2018 at 12:23 pm

      Hey Julianne! Wow, what a great story!! It can be one super-tiny thing that causes probs, and just talking about it with the teachers can solve so much. What a joy that your LO gets to be diaper-free at school, just like the big kids. Such a boost to his self-confidence. :) Best wishes with nighttime training – my Tiny Potty Training Book – http://godiaperfree.com/potty-training-book – does cover this in case you haven’t referred to it, or search for “nighttime” here on the blog. And I have a nighttime course – http://godiaperfree.com/minicourses/nighttime – but you probably already know that! :) Great work you guys!!!! xx Andrea

  4. Avatar Kristie on June 2, 2019 at 12:17 am

    Hi Guys, I have done Ec with my girl since she was 4.5 months, with huge success, but didn’t have as much luck at daycare with her. She started daycare at 6 months, and it took me 3 months to get the nerve to speak to them and bring in my own toilet seat reducer. They were fairly shocked at first which really put me off, and they said she got upset and cried whenever they tried to put her on the toilet (which had never happened at home, or with my 1 day a week nanny, or with her grandparents.) I was too embarressed to ask them to continue if she was upset, so let her use diapers at daycare, which didnt affect our EC at home (I always used cloth nappies at home). When she started attending daycare 3 weekdays instead of 1 or 2, it did start affecting her at home. She was about 14 months old, and I decided to get my act together and introduced undies at home during the day, and asked daycare to start offering her the toilet again. With renewed confidence it worked great – she had no poo misses at all, (never had) and minimal wee misses at home and at daycare for about 2 months. The last couple of months (she is now 20 months old) have been really tough. Since getting sick with two ear infections and a bad chest infection, she has regularly been pooping her undies, pooping on the floor, resisting the toilet (in both a behavioural way and due to being distracted) and has multiple accidents (poos and wees) at daycare. I know they are getting frustrated, and its been hard to not get really frustrated myself. After a week of bad days but completely dry nights (very confusing) we decided to lock in and try potty training with her to see if we could get back on track and be done with nappies for good. So I read the second book in Andrea’s series, and I’m so glad I did. Although I (naievely) expected very fast results and its been much slower than expected, we are doing ok, but I was SO nervous about how to ask them to begin again at daycare on Tuesday. Thank god I found this post! It has given me so much renewed confidence, and I have a list armed with tips to give to them, to hopefully help them make her feel more comfortable! Thanks so much Andrea for the first book, the second book, these blogs and advice. You are a life changer for sure! X

    • Avatar Andrea Olson on August 11, 2019 at 10:36 pm

      Hi Kristie! It sounds like you have done a fantastic job! I’m so glad you were able to communicate with daycare. With a plan and everyone on board your daughter will get back on track. xx Andrea

  5. Avatar Rose on August 6, 2019 at 2:14 am

    My daughter was out of diapers during the day around 2, with maybe 1-2 misses a day but when she started preschool at 2.5 I was worried at a new environment she may have lots of misses and didn’t want the teachers to have to clean up too many accidents so I decided to put her in diaper just for the first week. Since their school didn’t allow cloth diaper I had to use disposable. When I was dressing my daughter into the disposable on her first day of school she looked at me with the strangest look and asked me why she is wearing diapers again. I told her just in case she has an accident it’s easier for the teachers to clean up. She came back dry the first three days, and on the morning of her fourth day I told her that will be her last day in diapers if she comes home dry that day. Then for whatever reason she came back a little wet that day…so to keep my words I put her in disposable again on the fifth day. Then she came home from fifth day with a full diaper…and it was downhill from there. For the next half year she came home wet every day, what’s worse is she got so used to peeing in diaper again that she would pee right through her pants all the time at home. She used to wake up dry on some nights before starting preschool, then after that she was always wet. I thought she was just adjusting school so didn’t want to pressure her too much, then I got pregnant and didn’t want to pressure her, then baby was born so that’s more adjustment for her…there didn’t seem like a good time to stop her wearing diaper at school!!

    Then one day I read Andrea’s potty training book for 18+ months, the part about day care and how the parent is the one paying and it’s the teachers’ job to clean up misses anyway, so I decided to communicate NICELY with the teachers, telling them how my daughter was out of diaper for half a year before starting school, and asked for their opinion on how they can help her to be out of diapers again. To my surprise they suggest I put her in undies because then she’d probably want to use the potty more!! And after 2 or so accidents in the first week she always comes home dry!!

    I thought I was being thoughtful for the teachers by putting my daughter in diapers when my she started school but really what I did was showing my daughter I don’t trust her. I wish I had the conversation with the teacher earlier, or even better, I to have sent her to school the very first day in undies! Anyway, the good news is it made me get Andrea’s book, which helped to solve my nighttime training dilemma—funnily enough it turned out to be the same problem….I just needed to trust my daughter and put her in underwear (and brace myself for a few big loads of laundry!) and after 2-3 accidents she has been dry all night ever since! Andrea’s so right in saying it’s the adults that need protection not the children!!!!!

    • Avatar Rose on August 6, 2019 at 2:24 am

      I also want to share that her first night in undies she had the bestest sleep because she was so comfortable in undies, while me and my husband tossed and turned in our bed thinking maybe she wetted her bed every time we heard the smallest sound from the baby monitor. But we were determined to not go into her room unless she cries to be changed or to be taken to potty, that night felt like an eternity! My daughter was so proud to wake up dry the next morning it made her feel so grown up sleeping in undies:)

      Needless to say having come across EC and Andrea’s books before having number two I started EC as soon as I got home from the hospital with baby :) and now enjoy spreading the existence and joy of EC amongst my fellow mommy friends.

      • Avatar Andrea Olson on August 11, 2019 at 10:39 pm

        Hi Rose! There were a few bumps in the road but you got things back on track, way to go! I’m so glad your daughter’s school was willing to help get her out of diapers. It’s wonderful that she’s rocking it at night time too! Congratulations!! xx Andrea

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