Potty training

Parenting tips: Transitioning from nappies to underpants

Sat, January 04 2020

One of the more common questions in our toddler program is when do I know my child is ready to transition from nappies to underpants?

What it is always important to remember is that elimination is a natural function that the child is in control of. The parent needs to be aware that just like eating and sleeping, the only thing that they can control with elimination is themselves and the set up of the home. Lots of things can get in the way of a child moving out of nappies and into underpants. The fact that we might be renting, have carpets, have only one toilet that is situated upstairs, have a new baby on the way. The list goes on. Instead of asking if the child is ready, we often ask the parents if they are ready. If you are, then it is time to look at our home and see what we can do to help the child be successful in this transition.

The first step is to allow plenty of nappy free time. This allows the child to connect the sensation with the product. Modern nappies are often too good and do not allow a child to have any sensation of being wet or uncomfortable. There is a disconnect. Nappy free time will allow this connection to occur.

Once the child has made the connection, there are four main stages that the child goes through:

The child tells/shows you that they have eliminated after the fact.

The child tells/shows you that they are eliminating while they are doing it.

The child tells/shows you that they are going to eliminate, just before, but often with not enough time to get to the toilet or potty.

The child tells/shows you before they eliminate.

Once you are ready to start, go out and purchase the underwear together. Terry towel undies are good because they allow the child to feel the sensations, but still, give a little bit of support while the child is learning. Then when you are comfortable, give the child a choice - ‘Would you like a nappy or underwear today?’

The next step is to set up the bathroom. It is best that children associate everything to do with this process with the bathroom area as early as possible because children of this age have a very strong sense of order. Look at the size of your bathroom and be creative. The idea is to think of all of the things that a child needs to use the toilet successfully and try to put these things in place so that when they are ready, they can use it without your help.

Ask yourself:

Where will your child do their business? This could be a potty or a toilet with an insert. If you have an insert how will the child get up to the toilet? Remember the child is not very good at walking backwards, so use a step stool that allows the child to walk up to the toilet, and turn around.

Where will the child remove their underwear? Often young children prefer to remove everything off their bottom half before they use the toilet. It is nice if there is a place to sit to do this. It is also easier to put pants back on if you are on a stool than sitting on the floor.

Where will the child put soiled underwear or nappies? Learning to use underwear is a process, so it is best to be prepared. Having a plan helps the child feel comfortable in this process and you calm because you have a plan.

Where will the child find clean underwear? A small basket with two options is all you really need. The main point is to have all of this close at hand.

What will you use to clean up anything that did not make it to the toilet? Have it all together in a basket ready to go.

Where will the child clean and dry their hands? Can they reach it without your help?

Children will not get this right straight away. They will make mistakes. They will not get there in time. They will forget. It is our job to help them learn. Be patient, be calm, be helpful.

For more resources for children under 3, we recommend https://aidtolife.org/

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