Sensitive Period for Potty Training (Toilet Teaching, Learning)
When my oldest child was 18 months old, my pediatrician told me that the easiest time to start potty training was between the ages of 18 months to 2 ½ years old. I think that many toddlers are ready to learn at this age because they are becoming very independent people. He also told me if you introduce toilet training before the "terrible twos," the easier it is to potty train your child.
Dr. Bob had always encouraged his patients to use cloth diapers, even though disposable diapers were very easy to buy and use. He explained that cloth diapers show when a baby is wet and because of that, baby would notice and mom would change the baby into a dry cloth diaper. The feeling of dry diapers would become more of a constant as your baby matured. A wet diaper would eventually become more uncomfortable.
Dr. Bob even disliked anything plastic covering a baby’s bottom. So I would double the diapers at night. My Norwegian relatives sent me wool and cotton pants or soakers to put over the diapers, and I used these instead of plastic pants. I like the woolies the best because they keep a baby warm in cold weather and cool in the summer.
When my baby kept dry for several hours and showed an interest in the functions of the bathroom, I started toilet education. Children learn this by observation. Let boys watch their dads or male relatives in the bathroom. Also, encourage your toddler start slowly at first by sitting on the toilet for a few seconds or minutes at a time. Relax and take your time doing this. Timing can make this easier. Try letting your child use the toilet after taking a nap or after eating and drinking.
Here are some ideas we did to make it easier for the trainee.
1. Have potty-chairs or training toilet tops at every level of the house. I even had one in the back garden during the summer season.
2. Stay near home or a toilet during this transitional time. If you are not consistent you can slow the process to the point of regression.
3. Only introduce and do toilet teaching if your child is ready.
4. Read interesting and relaxing books while they are sitting on the toilet.
5. The control of error during this time is not making it to the toilet. Don’t worry about these little mishaps; just put new underwear on your child.
6. Let your child pick out his or her new “big” boy or girl underwear.
7. Teach your child how to unroll toilet paper and wipe. (Front to back for girls)
8. Teach your child how to wash his or her hands.
9. Let your child flush the toilet when finished. (I think this was the greatest reward for my children!)
10. Let your child brag! They will be ever so proud!
The next sensitive period for potty training is usually around age 3 to 3 ½.
If you don’t use a diaper service, make sure you wash cloth diapers in mild soap and very hot water. Dry thoroughly.