As teachers, our job is not to potty train our students, but our job is to support our students where they are at in their development. That means supporting them if they are learning letters, supporting them if they are learning about friendships, and as they potty train. In my years of teaching preschool and working in childcare centers, I have heard far too many fellow teachers express anger about students having accidents or at parents who aren’t doing their “job” by potty training their two-year-old. That’s not OK. Our job as teachers and caregivers is to support every student’s development, not just the parts that aren’t stinky. Here are some things to remember as you help support potty training at preschool.
- There is no “right” age for a child to be potty trained. Every child has a unique experience some potty train very early, and some are just not ready.
- Check in with parents often. Ask at the start of the year what stage of potty training their child is in and how they handle potty training at home.
- Communicate to parents about any signs that the child is ready to potty train. Such as being interested when classmates use the bathroom, talking about wanting big boy undies, and general curiosity about the process. Supporting the child also means making sure that parents aren’t missing the signs of a child who is ready.
- Be patient and express this to the parents. Parents feel incredible pressure to have their toddlers and preschoolers potty trained and that stress trickles down to the child. Help relieve that stress by being patient and positive. Your students will have their own timeline. Rushing a child who is not ready is not helpful.
- Have picture books about potty training in your classroom for children to read with you or look through alone.
- Expect accidents and don’t make a big fuss about them. Be positive. When you hand the parent the wet clothes in a bag, make sure you are stressing that it’s no big deal, the child is watching and listening to this exchange.
- Have extra clothes on hand. If a child has just transitioned to underwear make sure you have multiple changes of clothes.
- Ask children often if they would like to use the potty but never pressure them. Most toddlers will go to the bathroom about every 2 hours; preschoolers can usually stretch that out a little more.
- Never force a child onto a toilet. Ever. Even if you know, the child in the corner is pooping do not force them into the bathroom. Instead encourage them to walk to the bathroom, help them clean up and wash hands. While cleaning up, I would say something like ” Next time when you need to poop you can come in here. Even if you aren’t ready to sit on the potty you can stand in here to go poop. Then when you are ready you can try the toilet.” No judgment just encouragement and support to get to the next stage.
- Allow children to go to the bathroom with a potty trained friend (and a teacher of course) to see how this potty thing works.
- Give them time to sit on the toilet even after they have peed, don’t hurry the child.
- Allow parents to take the child to the bathroom at drop off and pick up. This helps children get more comfortable with your classroom bathroom.
- Praise all efforts, not just success. Be sure to share this with parents at pick up as well. ” Hailey sat on the potty today, nothing happened but she is getting more comfy with our class toilet. I was very proud of her for trying.” It’s that easy.
When it comes to being supportive of a child’s development the most important thing is to look at each child as an individual. When we do that as teachers, we truly provide a developmentally appropriate experience for our students.