Your toddler tells you when he needs to pee, but what can you do to teach him to take himself to the potty? In today’s episode, Nicole shares some helpful tips to get your LO moving in the right direction.
You Will Hear:
- Steps to take if the pee isn’t making it into the potty
- Tips for combating distractions when it’s potty time
- How to help your toddler bring more awareness to their body
- Strategies to make the toilet easier to get to (and get onto)
- Why it’s important to give your kiddo more independence in the bathroom
Links and other resources mentioned today:
Download the Transcript
If you can't listen to this episode right now (um, sleeping baby!?)...download and read the transcript here:
EPISODE 216: Teaching “Get to the Potty!”
Hello, and welcome to The Go Diaper Free Podcast. I am your host for today's episode, Nicole Cheever, Go Diaper Free Certified Coach and mama of three kiddos who all did EC and potty training at different ages and stages.
Hello again. This is episode 216, Teaching “Get to the Potty!” You can find the show notes over at godiaperfree.com/216. Leave a comment, ask us a question, and find all of the links to everything I mentioned in today's show. Today we have a question from Kristin, so let's take a listen.
Kristin: My name is Kristin. We have a six year old and an 18 month old, and we're wondering if there's anything we can do to teach or encourage the 18 month old to be able to spontaneously get himself to the bathroom when he needs to go.
Thanks so much for the question, Kristin. I'm not sure whether or not you're dealing with wet pants or if you're just really wanting your child to initiate moving to the bathroom themselves just because you're having to bring them or remind them or whatever it may be.
If you're dealing with wet pants or wet floor, that means that there is a connection missing. So your child is 18 months and it sounds like you probably EC'd with your child up to this point. There is, in the Go Diaper Free book, an optional hybrid plan for toddlers 12 to 18 months, and then there's also a section in the book called the Building Blocks of Potty Independence. Both of those are going to give you the steps to getting your child to be going to the bathroom on their own and not having those accidents on the floor, and they're going to go through the instructions for naked teaching.
For those of you that are listening that your child may be 18 months or older, that's a slow and elongated potty training experience that we have in The Tiny Potty Training Book. So either of those will really work for you, Kristin. I would err more on the side of the potty training, the quick and simple naked teaching, maybe one or two days. So if you're dealing with wet pants, that's what I would recommend.
If you're just wanting to get your child to the potty because you're feeling like you're having to do a lot of prompting and reminding, but you don't have a lot of wet pants or misses to deal with, then we're just going to focus on that one step and we're going to ease in.
There are a few ways you can go about this. One of them is I would say bring a little potty into the play space. You will eventually be having your child go to the bathroom, but to start with, this may help because your child might be really focused on playing and that potty is out of sight out of mind. Bringing the potty into the play space, even if he's not going to use that potty, it's just there where he can see it as a visual reminder. That can actually help him initiate.
If he's not wanting to leave play to move to the bathroom, having that potty there in the play space can really help him not feel like he's having to completely leave play. This is very common, especially in young toddlers. My son would actually start to make a grunting sound while he was playing. He wouldn't really do a physical pee pee dance, but he'd start to grunt with effort like he was trying to hold his pee in, and that's when I knew I had to remind him. So one of the things we did was either have the small potty right there, the Mini Potty right there in the playroom, or we started making a habit of bringing whatever he had in his hand, if we could, if it was small enough, to the potty with him.
All of these things, having the potty in the play space and bringing the toy, you're going to wean off of, but at least right now to start making that connection, you can use that as a tool.
Another thing you can do is make it a game. Make it fun. "Hey, who can race to the potty?" You can play hide and seek with the potty, just suddenly at one point during the day go, "Where's the potty? Mama can't find the potty. Can anybody find the potty?" And have your child go look for it. That will start to really build that neural connection of, "I'm in the living room or wherever I am, and if I want to find the potty, I have to move my body over to the hallway, down the hallway to the bathroom…” Wherever that may be. Repeating that process again and again will help them build that connection and help them remember it.
And at 18 months, they are building long-term memory right now, so try not to get discouraged if it looks like things are backsliding a little bit. Sometimes when they're building that long-term memory, things can start to get a little bit out of order, so having patience for that and having patience for the fact that you're probably going to need to prompt him most of his life. Your six-year-old, you probably still need to prompt, but you can get your six-year-old and the other members of the family involved as well in making this a game, or in just modeling it.
I used to get a little bit irritated with my older two. They still, at three-and-a-half and five years old, will announce every single time, "I got to go pee pee." And my response usually is, "Okay," and I just wait and they say, "I'm going to go to the bathroom," and I'll say, "That's a good idea." But my youngest is growing up hearing them announce every time, "I have to go to the bathroom, I have to go pee pee, I have to poop," and then watching them move to the potty.
So if you can do that, it might sound funny and feel a little awkward at first, but if you can do that, your spouse or partner can do that, your six-year-old can do that. If you can get everyone in the family involved with, "My belly feels really full of pee pee. I think I'm going to go to the potty. Here I go," and your child is, hopefully their attention is drawn away from what they're doing and they're hearing you say that and thinking about their own body. "Oh, does my belly feel a little bit full of pee pee? Oh, mom said hers does. There she goes, walking to the bathroom." We're modeling that, if I have this feeling in my body, here's what I should do about it.
If you can enlist everybody to help with that, again, it's something you can wean off of. Might take a while. My five year old is still announcing every time, but it's helpful, especially for his younger siblings.
Pointing out, when you notice your 18 month old doing the pee pee dance, is also very helpful. Rather than just taking them yourself if you want them to initiate, you can just say, "I noticed you're doing your pee pee dance. I notice you're grabbing your crotch. Oh, I hear you grunting. It sounds like you're trying to hold in your pee pee. Let's go ahead and go to the bathroom and let it out." But don't lead the way. Just make a short statement like that and wait and see if they will go, "Oh yeah, I have to go pee pee," and move their body.
If they don't, then you help them with that next step, but little by little you back off to where you can just say, "I see you doing your pee pee dance," and they know the routine now. They'll go, "Oh, I have to pee," and they will move themselves to the potty.
We have to lay a trail of breadcrumbs, in a way, very similar to how you wrapped up. We're just using these little building blocks, these little steps along the way, and little by little, giving them the reins to it. You show them the whole process and then you start handing off the pieces of it bit by bit.
We do have the digital program, Passing the Baton, if you need a little bit more concentrated help with these steps. Maybe your child is not self dressing or doing clothing manipulation by themselves yet. You can have a little bit more of a deep dive into how to build each of those steps in that program.
And then finally, capitalize on the, "Me do it," phase. Your child, if he hasn't already, is likely wanting to do a lot for himself, so you can throw out that little piece of bait in a way. "I see you're doing your pee pee dance," and then give them maybe a challenge. You can say, "I wonder if you can find the toilet and go put your pee pee in there." You are giving them an observation and then saying, "I wonder if you can do this task on your own. Let's see."
You can also try to make the whole potty routine in general, a little bit more independent for them. Maybe they're waiting for you to initiate because they're just so used to you doing everything for them, or they don't quite have the confidence yet that they can do it, so you can do things like get a stool, get faucet extenders so that they can wash their hands independently. They sell these little duck bill looking things you can put on the end of the faucet so that the water comes out a little further so they can reach it easier. They even sell little handles, like a handle extender, so they can turn the water on and off.
Be prepared for a normal amount of playing with that once you install them. But you can even get a light switch extender, so it brings it down to their level, and so they can do every piece on their own. We took the handle spinners off the doors when we were potty training so the kids could open the door on their own, they could get on the stool and turn the light switch on. If you capitalize on this phase of development where he's really driven to do everything for himself, the more you hand over, the more you might see that he's really wanting to go to the potty on his own, to practice that and to show you that. And you can encourage him along the way like, "I noticed you turn the light off. Great job. Thank you for doing that." Whatever kind of encouragement you want to give them.
All right, so those are the tips I have for you today. Hopefully, that was helpful. Head on over to the blog and let us know: How did you teach your kiddo to get to the potty? What worked for you? Leave a comment, ask any questions you have, and that's godiaperfree.com/216. We'll see you there. Thanks for listening.
Thanks so much for listening. This is the Go Diaper Free podcast at godiaperfree.com. We'll see you next time.
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