Potty Training 101: Guidance from an OT

As an OT and a mother of two, I’ve been through the potty training experience more times than I can count. I know it can often be challenging and trying, but it’s also an experience you can help progress quickly through with some activities and an established routine. Here are the tips I stand by when potty training! 

First, let’s take a look at signs your child is ready for potty training:

  • Is your child interested in sitting on the toilet, trying to use the bathroom or wearing “big kid” underwear? 
  • Can they stay dry for at least two hours at a time? 
  • Can your child sense when they need to go to the bathroom?
  • Are they capable of reaching the toilet or potty in time (perhaps with your help)?
  • Can they undress and dress themselves? Or are they ready to learn?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, it’s time to get rolling.

Step #1: Set up the environment.

  • Take a walk through the house and the bathroom from a young child’s perspective and eye level. Most furniture and fixtures are intended for adult use including in the bathroom. Think about making the bathroom more kid-friendly.
  • Kid friendly items in the bathroom include things such as books, a few familiar toys and more child-height items, such as small plastic potties.
  • Many children have decreased body awareness and benefit from sitting on toilets where their feet can touch the ground. Use of little plastic potties or seat adapters can be helpful.
  • Also consider making it easy to access the sink to wash hands (to complete the bathroom routine) by adding a child-sized stool.

Step #2: Develop a routine that can easily be followed.

  • Try using the toilet at regular increments throughout the day (approx. every 2-3 hours). For example:
    • Before breakfast
    • Before lunch
    • Before dinner
    • Before bedtime

Step #3: Be aware of your child’s sensory processing needs and body awareness to help ease the process.

Sometimes children struggle with body awareness, which can make the potty training process more challenging. But there are plenty of ways to help support these situations. The key is to first to know what the roadblocks may be, and why.

  • Body awareness includes spatial awareness, tactile processing, balance (vestibular system) and how we integrate our visual input. Difficulty in any of these areas can greatly impact a child’s security when sitting on a toilet as well as transitioning and off the toilet. It can be intimidating sitting up on such a high surface!
  • Other children may not be able to sense when they need to go to the bathroom.  This sensory system is called interoception. It is our body’s ability to sense what is going on in our bodies such as knowing when we are tired, hungry, thirsty, sick, have to go to the bathroom, etc. Your child needs to be able to know what their body is telling them before we can ask them to potty train.

Once these areas are identified there are ways we can help address and make sure they do not hinder the potty training process!

Have questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly at jill@kidskillstherapy.com and we can set up an appointment either via phone consultation, home consultation or at our brand new clinic.