Potty Training Tips for Nannies
I have potty trained many, many children throughout my career in child care. I have tried quite a few different approaches and I try to stick with the methods that are the most successful. However, what works for one child may not work for another. Potty training takes a lot of time and even more patience! There will be good days and bad days, but you have to take it all in stride and stick with it. Results will most likely not happen overnight, but you can’t give up!
I believe that it is much easier to potty train a verbal child as well as one who has awareness when they are wet or dirty in general, as this will make it easier for them to recognize the feeling when they have wet or soiled underpants. For non-verbal children, I recommend teaching them sign language for “bathroom.” It’s a simple sign made by putting the thumb on your right hand under your forefinger (forming a sort of fist) and shaking your hand side to side. When you think that the child can understand the potty process and can communicate what they are feeling, here are some tips to help you ease into that transition.
6 Ways to Help Make it Happen
1) Intro to Potty. You will need to introduce the child to the potty as a starting off point. If they are your child, they can observe you using it. There are a ton of books you can read to them (Who can forget “Once Upon a Potty?”) as well. For some children, “letting go” is a hard thing. Show them that it’s ok to release and as silly as it may sound, bid your pee and poo “adieu” as you flush it down the toilet, but in an upbeat way!
2) A Special Potty. A grown-up toilet might seem daunting to a small child, not to mention it could be too high or too wide for them to use on their own. Providing the child with their own special potty or a potty seat that fits over the “big” toilet can make it a little less frightening for the child. There are some great models out there now from a plain potty chair to chair designed with some favorite children’s characters (Tinkerbell, Mickey Mouse, Elmo, etc.). Having their own special potty seat can also build up the excitement to actually go potty.
3) Bells & Whistles. I like to use that phrase when talking about any sort of praise or rewards. Anytime the child attempts to use the potty, even if he or she doesn’t actually go, there should be numerous amounts of verbal praise. Cheers, claps, big smiles and the positive reinforcement of just telling them they did a great try are all ways to keep the child coming back for more! I don’t believe in bribery, but I do believe a little reward can go a long way when it comes to potty training. You can make or buy a sticker reward chart and they can get one sticker for trying, two for going, or any variation.
Editor’s note: What you use as a reward is totally up to you, but we do not suggest food.
4) Underpants: When it comes to potty training, I suggest using underpants. It is a lot easier for the child to pull underwear off and on when using the potty. Letting the child choose their own is an exciting moment for them. They will be more eager to wear them. Now, throwing them into the world in underpants when they are not potty trained yet will, of course, be cause for many accidents. It might be harder to be out and about, but I find it to be one of the most effective ways of toilet training. It helps lend awareness to the child of when they are wet and soiled. Most children will not enjoy that feeling and it will help them make the connection to the feeling of having to go and using the potty instead. Be prepared for messes though! Laundry will be at an all-time high during potty training!
Editor’s note: We do not suggest pull-ups because they don’t make a child feel wet and therefore don’t encourage them to want to make it to the bathroom on time. Diapers are better than pull-ups, however if you can get them into underpants that’s the best. There are covers that look like shower caps with two leg holes so that your furniture is less likely to be ruined.
5) Timer. I love using the timer method. It has been tried and true for many people I know. Start off by putting the child on the potty first thing in the morning. If they go, awesome! Set the timer for 30 minutes and try again at that time. If they do not go, set the timer for 15 minutes and try again. If they still don’t go after 15 minutes, tack on another 15. Then drop down to 10 minutes and then down to 5 minutes. In the beginning stages of training, if an hour or more has gone by without the child going, you might want to give the child lots of liquids and have a little bathroom pow-wow, if time allows. Bring some books or toys in and just let them sit until they finally go. Like I said earlier, this will take a lot of TIME and PATIENCE!
6) Target Practice. For boys, they might need a little bit of help aiming into the toilet. You can make this fun for them by putting a Cheerio or fruit loop in the bowl and have them “aim” to hit it. Making it seem like a sort of game or like it’s a fun activity can guarantee that they will want to do it again!
7) [BONUS] Accessibility. Finally, you want to make sure that your little one will be able to access a toilet at any time, should they need to go. I have kept a portable potty seat in the playroom at the beginning stages of training and I always keep one in my car for when we are on the go. Accidents are going to happen, but you never want to make a child feel bad for them or feel like a failure. In all stages of child development, it is our job as parents and caregivers to set them up for success!
As I stated earlier, what works for one child may not work for another. You will need to try many different things to see what method your child responds to best. Each tip I listed can be altered to fit your preference. The best thing you can do to kick off toilet training is to introduce the child to the toilet, sit them on it and just become more aware of the different times of day when they are likely to go so that you can place them on the toilet and hope for success!
This article was updated on June 25, 2014 including the addition of several editor’s notes.
Amanda Dunyak attended Kean University for English Education with a minor in music, her other passion. Currently, she is a nanny working and residing on the New Jersey Shore. She has been a babysitter, nanny, and household manager for well over 20 different families throughout her career. She was also an instructional aide with special needs children, a teacher’s assistant, and a preschool teacher over the past 19 years, so childcare is in her blood. She is the owner and operator of Nanny Extraordinaire Child Care Services, LLC where she helps match up nannies and parents based on similar beliefs and personalities, helps with the interview and hiring process and sets nannies up for training to help them deal with the many situations they will face. She also has a blog for nannies called Diary of a Super Nanny and is an writer and Street Team Leader for Nanny Magazine. View Amanda’s posts here.