One of the most important roles of an early childhood professional is to support students in their path to development. While parents are responsible to potty train their children, it is the job of the teacher to support those efforts in the classroom. Potty training can be a long and messy process. Teachers play a very influential role in helping parents train their children in areas both in and out of the bathroom.
Here are some tips that will help you encourage and guide your students through potty training in the classroom:
Reading the Signs
There is no definitive age at which potty training starts or even when it should end. Each child is unique and learns and develops in his or her own way and speed.
At the beginning of the year, ask the parents where each child is in their potty training stages and how they are handling the training at home. This will help you be on the same page with both the parents and students.
If a child begins showing signs in the classroom that they may be ready to potty train, communicate this to the parents. This is shown in many different ways. Some students will seem super interested when other classmates are using the bathroom. Some will discuss the desire to wear big boy/girl underwear. Some will show a general curiosity about the subject and may begin to ask you questions about the process in class. Make sure that the parents are clued in and not missing any first signs that the child is ready to begin this milestone.
As with any classroom and teaching tip, this subject is no different. Practice patience and extend this to the child and the parents. Often times, pressure is placed upon potty training from the parent to the child and from others pressuring the parents to get their child potty trained. Rushing a child who is not ready could lead to further setbacks in the potty training process.
No one is perfect and mastering new subjects or tasks can take time for children and adults alike. Expecting accidents will catch you less off guard. Don’t expect the child to be great at potty training in the beginning. They may be fearful or even excited, but the full process takes time. Each student learns at his or her own speed as well. Stressing about accidents will cause undo strain to you, the child and the parents. Stay calm and patient. Most of all, stay positive and encouraging.
Have the parents of any child that is potty training bring in extra clothes for class so that you are prepared to make the child comfortable after an accident without having to send the student home.
Keeping Communication Open
It’s a good idea to frequently ask the children throughout the day if they would like to use the potty. Using the restroom is not the first thing on a child’s mind while in class. Asking regularly reminds them that it is available for their use. Most toddlers will go to the bathroom every two hours and preschoolers stretch this out even less frequently.
Give them extra time. Let the child sit on the toilet a bit longer even if they have gone pee. This will allow them to get used to the idea that they sometimes need to stay there until they can go. Don’t rush them off the toilet right away.
Creating New Habits
Do not use force. If you know a child is going to the restroom in their clothes in the corner of the class, it is best to encourage the child to walk to the restroom. Help them clean up and wash their hands and be positive and encouraging. Remind the child that they need to do this in the bathroom each time they need to go. You can offer that they move to the restroom each time, even if they are not ready to sit on the toilet. Let them know all functions need to be done in the bathroom even if they want to stand. This will move them to the next stage by showing support rather than scorn.
Other ways to help them to remember to use the toilet is to keep picture books in the classroom for the children to look through or read with them and keeping that focus on potty training.
You can also encourage and allow parents to take the children to the bathroom in the classroom at drop off and pick up. This helps the child become familiar with the classroom bathroom and having their parent accompany them may also offer additional security.
Remember, all children develop at different and unique speeds. Encourage any and all efforts to help support the child developing successfully.
Each child is truly an exceptional individual with unique needs. Professional early childhood teachers will be successful if they apply this thinking to any task their students are learning. This includes potty training.