Montessori toilet learning/potty training
If you look around on the internet you'll know there are hundreds, even thousands of different books and articles of "how to potty train". They are all varying from 3 day methods focused on rewards and shaming the child, to just not potty training them at all (yes it exists, and seems to work).
Montessori toilet learning is essential Montessori in the sense it is driven by guidance & support from the adult, but is mostly about preparing the environment for the child to achieve it independently in their own time and with observation of the child.
The first thing to understand is that you do not need to one day decide "We're going to potty train" because learning to use a potty is a very natural process for a child that happens when they are ready to do it. Children tend to go through a sensitive period for toilet learning between 18 months and 3 years of age. However children usually start to become interested in the toileting process from around 12 months old. My son trained at 22 months.
But like everything else in Montessori, there's a lot of preparation leading up to the actual time of learning to toilet in the potty.
The first is to be vocal about the childs bladder and bowel movements during diaper/nappy changes. It helps to be open about the fact we all do it, and where you do it too. Another tip is to change them in the bathroom for them to start to associate toileting with the bathroom.
Another way to prepare for when toilet time comes is to allow them to fully explore dressing. Undressing and getting dressed are something a child is naturally intrigued by before it comes time to learn to use a potty or toilet. It's also a skill they will need to acquire in order to achieve using the potty independently.
Letting them spend time in the home without a nappy on is another preparation. It doesn't need to be all the time or even everyday, but as much as you are comfortable with let them be without a nappy. You can have a potty out and encourage them to use it but the main purpose of this before being ready to actually use the potty is to increase their awareness and control of their bladder and bowel movements. Another key component to toileting.
With any kind of transition for little ones, always have books. Books, books and more books. It helps their vocabulary, language retention and overall understanding. I've linked the 2 potty books I recommend at the bottom of the post. One is boys/girls potty time because it has pictures of real kids doing all the potty steps. The other is pirate pete/princess polly. Not very Montessori but i love that there's no rewards or much involvement from the parents which there is in most kids potty books!
So when it comes time they are ready and wanting to learn to use the potty or toilet there isn't much for you to do. No sticker charts, or treats, or running them to the potty. The main part of toilet learning the Montessori way, is to prepare the environment for them to be successful.
You will want to set up a "potty station" for them wherever is appropriate in your home. Id personally say use the bathroom closest to where they spend most of their time, or have a potty in that room as well as in the bathroom. We want to set them up for success, not put obstacles in their way.
For a "Potty station" you will need:
Simple Potty/toilet seat
A basket for dirty pants
A basket with toilet paper and/or wipes, clean pants and some books (optional, but useful!)
The reason for the baskets, is so the child can have ownership and independence over the process. They can help clean up accidents, be involved in the process of getting clean pants and to have autonomy over the process.
When you set up the potty station you can explain to your child what it's for, how to use it and let them practice and explore as they want to. You will show them where the wet pants go, where the clean pants are etc.
You can start to make using the potty more of a routine. Before and after sleep, food and outings you can say "It's time to use the potty" and its important to listen to them, if they scream no accept it. Just let them know you trust them and you are there to help them when they do need to go.
Other times, are when observation will come into play. Over time you will start to see your child giving off some kind of bodily signal and a way their body communicates they need to go. You can say at these times "I can see it's time to use the potty" Weather they go or not isn't too big of a deal, you're making them aware of their own signals that they will eventually learn to listen to.
Do not interrupt them to go to the potty! We always want to preserve concentration, and interrupting them often leads to unnecessary resistance. Just wait for them to finish what they're doing them prompt them to go. Again, if they say no, accept it.
Now, I'm going to address success and accidents together as your reaction should stay pretty neutral for both!
When the child is successful you do not need to clap, praise, give stickers or treats or anything like that. You simply need to say something like "You put your pee/poop in the potty" or "I noticed you kept your pants clean"
When the child has an accident, you do not need to scold, shame, blame or punish them for it. All you have to do is say something like "You had an accident, let's get cleaned up" or "I can see your pants are wet/dirty, lets get some clean ones" Allow them to have as much input in the clean up as they want to, it's important for the learning process.
The Montessori way of toilet learning, is natural and on the childs timeline, not the adults or preschool or anyone else's timeline. Your role in the toilet learning is that of support and guidance. Not authoritarian or pressuring them. You've prepared the environment for their success and independence and now you just let them learn in their own time.
Bare in mind intrinsic motivation, as with anything in Montessori, is the driving force to success. Let the success be their own, let the accidents be their own. It's the most natural thing that every human being does and this is their exploration to learn it.
Many things can cause hiccups and regressions in the toilet learning process, be patient, be consistent and be supportive. The more emotional investment we have and the more pressure we put on a child to use the potty, the more problems occur. Just trust in the process and I promise they will get there (and it won't take very long!)
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I believe Montessori is for everyone, I want to help everyone bring a little more Montessori into their homes and lives.
Montessoraus mama. x