This is a forward
BETHESDA, MD (Feb. 18, 2015) — Toileting is a task that most people do each day without a second thought about how they learned this important skill. Pediatric occupational therapy practitioners say that while achieving this milestone can be stressful for parents and caregivers, the benefits of having a toilet-trained child can simplify daily routine.
“Just like other daily skills, children with and without disabilities need to practice to learn how to properly engage in toileting,” says pediatric occupational therapist Joy Doll, OTD, OTR/L. “It’s important for caregivers to be consistent and supportive as children learn this task.”
The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) offers some tips for establishing toileting routines for children.
1. Identify when the child is ready to toilet train. Signs of readiness can include interest in visiting the bathroom, pretending to use toilet paper and flushing, wanting to observe others using the bathroom, reporting to a caregiver that they have soiled their diaper, and getting upset when a diaper is soiled. Children typically begin to express these behaviors between 18 months and 3 years.
2. Set up a successful routine for potty time. Consistently encouraging toilet use at established times such as when waking up, before a meal, before leaving the house, and before bedtime, encourages routines. “It’s important to allow the child to initiate potty use,” says Doll. “Asking a child who is squirming, wiggling, or grabbing their clothes if they need to use the bathroom is OK, but it’s important for children to learn to recognize the cues their body is telling them and to go on their own.”
3. Make toileting easy for toddlers. Dress the child in clothing that can easily and independently be removed and put back on. Go for elastic waistbands and avoid snaps, buttons, and overalls when potty training.
4. Provide a comfortable environment. Keep toilet paper within easy reach and provide a stool near the toilet to help the child feel secure and confident. Address the different noises your child will hear and explain how a toilet works to calm fears. “The bathroom can be a scary place for toddlers,” says pediatric occupational therapist Bonnie R. W. Riley, OTR/L, BCP. “Include a favorite book for fun and use fun-smelling soaps and brightly-colored towels to make hand-washing more exciting.”
5. Be patient. Children may need to sit for a while, run water, sing a song, or look at a book to help relax and initiate toileting. When in a different bathroom, the time to use the toilet often takes longer because of fears or curiosity about their foreign surroundings. “Remembering all the steps of using the toilet can be tricky for little ones,” says Riley. “Post a series of pictures in the bathroom of the tasks they need to complete as a reminder.”
6. Encourage positive behavior. Reward children for their participation with lots of praise. Remember that toileting accidents are part of the learning process.
“Just as using routines and emphasizing what the child is doing well can really help when learning something new, positive reinforcement can also help when toilet-training,”