We need to receive and understand sensory information from our internal body systems to know when we need to go to the toilet. This signal relies on Interoception and sensory information from the bowel and bladder, this is much subtler than from other muscles of the body, which can make recognising the urge difficult for some children. Signs a child might be ready to try toilet training are being dry for hours at a time or fussing when their nappy is wet or messy. In children who are under responsive or have poor body awareness, it is not unusual for them to experience delays with toilet training.
Ideas to support Toilet Training
- Ensure the child feels safe and secure on the potty or toilet. That is their feet are flat on the floor or a foot rest and they have a handle to hold onto if needed. A child sized toilet seat (padded or not) can be helpful to make the child feel safe and secure.
- Engage in movement and heavy work activities prior to toileting if sitting still for any length of time is difficult for your child
- Encourage crash-bang type play to support body awareness development
- For a child who is under responsive, try wearing pants under their nappy to intensify the feeling of being wet or dirty.
- Ensure your child is able to get their clothes off in time. Looser fitting clothing will be easier to remove in a hurry.
- Play relaxing music in the toilet to help the child relax or use ear plugs/defenders if they are sensitive to sounds.
- Turn off extractor fans, putting toilet paper in the water prior to going and flushing after the lid is closed can be helpful if your child is sensitive to sounds. You may even have to wait until the child has left before flushing.
- Read stories together about going to the toilet.
- Use a visual story with the steps to going to the toilet.
- Use soft toilet paper or washable toilet wipes as these can be gentler for over responsive children.
- Dim the lighting if your child is sensitive to lights.
- If your child is sensitive to smells, allow them to hold a pleasant smell to their nose when using the toilet.
- Include sitting on the toilet as part of your daily routine e.g. when the child gets up in the morning and/or as part of the evening wind down routine.
- Allow your child to practice and have patience. As with any new skills this will take time to learn so don’t expect your child to master it straight away.
- Break the task down into its separate parts and allow the child to master each step one at a time with you helping with other elements.