There is an optimal time to learn how to use the toilet. Using the toilet is a normal, healthy, necessary process.

From the very beginning of a baby’s life, his diapers should be changed as soon as they are soiled so that he absorbs the message that it is normal to stay clean and dry. He will soon come to feel uncomfortable whenever his diaper is wet or dirty. Babies typically need to be changed at least ten times per day. It is important to remember the baby’s gastro-colic reflex, wherein his bowels are stimulated whenever he is fed. He will probably have to be changed immediately after eating, even if he had just been changed before he ate. The baby should never be left any length of time with a soiled diaper.

 

For most babies, bowel movements soon become regular and predictable. If a pattern can be recognized and the baby can sit, it is possible and desirable to place the baby on a very small potty. It is extremely important never to comment on whether anything is deposited in the potty. This is simply an opportunity for the child to understand that urine and bowel movements can be held and released. Never pressure the child in any way or comment on “accidents.” These are normal functions, not accidents. It is important to use correct language for bodily functions; i.e. urinate, bowel movement.

When a child can walk independently, his myelinization has reached the point where he can have some control over his sphincter muscles. Toileting should be made as easy as possible for the child. His clothes need to be very easy to take off, clean clothes must be accessible for the child and the toilet needs to be small enough so that the child can get on and off easily. At first, the child will need a great deal of help taking off and putting on clothes. He will collaborate and then gradually learn to do it for himself. When a child first begins toilet learning, he will recognize when he needs to urinate just prior to urinating. So it is important to observe the child to know when a child is about to urinate, and then suggest to him to use the toilet. If the toilet and his clothes are easy to handle, he is more likely to be successful.

In the Pre-primary classroom, we have regular times when the children are asked to use the toilet. Such times are when the children enter the environment, before snack, before going outside, before lunch, before nap, etc. We do not force the child to use the toilet, we just state in a matter of fact way, "We are going outside soon, so it is time to use the toilet.” We are only making an offer, but are phrasing it in such a way that the child will not automatically refuse. If he does refuse, it is because he has made a conscious choice, and so we do not push the issue. He should be given every opportunity to observe other children using the toilet and taking care of their dressing. Eventually, the child will accept that using the toilet is a natural behavior in the environment, and he will no longer want to be in diapers.

Once a child is wearing training pants during the day, he should wear them at night as well. It is a good idea to use flannel rubber sheeting under the mattress cover to protect the bedding.