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Let's Talk Toileting

Toileting is a huge part of self care and independence that we can start between 15-18 months. Through my own experience as a Montessori Toddler Guide, there is a sensitive period for toilet learning, and that starts before two years of age. If you're starting a little later than this, no worries. You might be met with a few more power struggles, but that's okay. We can follow these steps all the same to start preparing yourself, your home, and your child for this journey in toileting!

How can we achieve stress free toileting?

The short and long answer to this question is to be prepared ourselves. Our toddlers require a lot of patience in general, and toileting a toddler requires a bit more patience on our part. The first thing we recommend when working on toileting is realizing that it is a process. Some toddlers take two weeks, some take 3 months or more! That’s ok. I've seen it all! There’s no rush, and there is no timeline we need to adhere to. The only things we must be are patient and consistent. When we learn to be patient with this process, and we redefine our ideas of success, your child’s toileting journey will become a normal part of your family's routine.

How to we set up a consistent routine?

Consistency is of the utmost importance when it comes to toileting. When we are not consistent, we send confusing messages to our toddlers. The best times to establish a routine are during your normal household transitions. These include:

  • Leaving/arriving home or somewhere else.

  • Coming and going to meals.

  • Any time you go into the bathroom to wash hands/get ready for school/bed, etc.

We also recommend using a timer. Phones are great for this! Set your timer for every 45 minutes, and when that timer goes off, it means it is time to try the toilet. It’s pretty hard to argue with a clock! This works as a great reminder for our toddlers, as well as ourselves.

Consistency is not just meant for when to try the toilet, but how we try the toilet. When it is time for your child to visit the toilet, we do not pose it as a question or suggestion, but simply state that, “it is time to try the toilet.” It is so important to be clear and to the point.

Start toileting independence with confidence!

How to set up your bathroom:

When setting up your bathroom, it is important to anticipate your child’s needs for a smoother, more relaxed toileting process. Choose either an insert for your toilet seat, or a small portable toilet (a good tip for these toilets is to add a cup of water in the basin for an easier clean up!).

Purchase an ample supply of padded training underpants (Gerber makes these). Training underpants can be found in the infant section of Target, or online.

Have a hamper for wet clothes, and some available clean clothes for your child to change into. Have some towels for clean up, wipes for messes, and access to a sink for hand washing. Allowing a child control over cleaning up wet clothes, or accidents that end up on the floor provides opportunities for independence and self-care. Obviously, bowel movements require adult help, and if met with a power struggle over it, simply let your child know that you are, “...there to keep their bodies safe, and therefore, you will help them clean up.”

Toileting on the go:

Our daily lives are busy, and it can seem nearly impossible to add the stress of toileting to an already hectic schedule. But it is doable! Just taking a few extra steps in preparedness can lend to an easier toileting process, even on the go! Put together a car kit for toileting, and if that soccer field lacks a restroom, keep a portable toilet in your trunk.

What should you keep in your toileting car kit?

Spare pants and underpants


Disposable bags to contain wet or soiled clothing

A timer for every 45 minutes!

Talk the talk:

Language is very important. Here are some phrases to help model respect for your child’s body, convey a relaxed attitude, and set clear limits:

  • “We put our pee and poop in the toilet.”

  • “I see you have wet clothes. Let’s get some dry clothes.”

  • “The clock says it’s time to try the toilet!”

  • “We’ll be ready for snack after you try the toilet.”

  • “May I help wipe your body?”

  • "Your work will be available to you after we try the toilet."

Avoid terms such as “messy,” “dirty,” “naughty,” or “stinky.” Using the bathroom is natural and nothing to feel ashamed of.

If you have any concerns or questions, please feel free to contact me! I have helped many children achieve toileting independence, and I am happy to help families gain confidence during this transitional time! Diaper Free Before 3 by Jill M. Lekovic, M.D. is another phenomenal resource. Stay confident and calm. You can do it!

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