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Montessori Approach to Potty Training

Starting to use the toilet or potty is a natural process that parents should not force upon their children.


Introducing the potty to a child that is not ready can be frustrating and a waste of time. Try not to present negative energy when changing your child’s diaper. If your child can see that the smell bothers you, they may start to think negatively about their natural bodily functions. Encourage conversation when changing them, explain to your child what is going on, and tell them what you do when it is your toilet time (tell them that you use the toilet and why). You can place a potty in a dedicated place in your house and explain its purpose to your child without suggesting they use it. The child can then access the potty if they ever feel they want to use it—promoting independence and self-sufficiency. It also gives them time to examine their potty and get used to it being around.


Your child may become interested in the toilet by around 1 year old. Although, they might not necessarily be interested in actually using it. Instead, they may want to flush the toilet or play in the water. You can provide alternative water play by filling a sink or a basin full of water. Once your child is developed enough to dress themselves, you can introduce them to underwear. Even if your child is not potty trained, it’s a good idea to let them know what it feels like to be wet and dry. They will begin to learn that being dry is much more comfortable. It may encourage them to hold it in or ask to go on the potty or toilet. You can teach them how to pull their pants up and down using elastic-waisted pants or disposable pull-up diapers. Once they start asking to use the bathroom or go on the potty, you can start toilet training. Teach your child the steps, starting with pulling down their pants and sitting on the potty. Allow

them to do this part by themselves and be there to assist if they need it. Explain what toilet paper is and show them how to use it. Once they have finished, allow them to pull up their pants. If you haven’t already, this is a great time to teach them hand-washing and hygiene. You should encourage your child to wash their hands every time they have used the potty or toilet.


When your child starts using their potty or going to the toilet, you can set up the environment so that they can continue independently. Keep the potty in the bathroom or a dedicated place in the house so your child can get used to where it is and access it at any time. Ensure that the toilet space includes toilet paper or cloths for cleaning and a laundry basket for wet or soiled clothing. Providing a pile of clean underwear will allow your child to change independently, granting them respect and dignity.


When toilet training a child, make sure to provide the essentials that they need to feel confident when going to the toilet. They may need a stool close by to reach the toilet, so consider keeping one in the bathroom. A parent’s role is to encourage the child to use the toilet and not pressure them into it. Forcing a child to use the toilet can discourage a child and negatively affect toilet training.


Consider your approach when asking your child to use the toilet. The way you ask them could impact their response. You want to encourage them, so say, “It’s time to use the toilet,” rather than asking them, as their answer will usually be no. You can set an alarm clock at regular intervals and remind them that it is time to go. Set a toilet schedule that works for your child’s routine. If they are in the middle of an activity, do not disturb them. Wait until they are finished, and then let them know that it is toilet time. Using the toilet is a natural process, and children will learn in time. Be patient and don’t punish your child when they don’t want to go or have an unsuccessful attempt. The same goes for rewarding your child—don’t congratulate them for doing something completely normal.




It would be best if you prepared yourself for toilet training when your baby is an infant so you can be ready for what is to come. As mentioned, toilet training is a natural process that should follow your child’s pace. Montessori toilet training methods involve respecting the child by including them in all steps of the process.


Consider using cloth diapers from birth, as your child will become aware that they are wet and may feel uncomfortable. Your child will become aware of what happens when they use their diaper. When they have the urge to go, they may start to show signs or let you know. Make sure to change your baby’s diaper as soon as they are wet, or your baby may experience discomfort or a rash. Let your child get involved when changing their diaper, talk about what you are doing, and see if they show interest. Consider keeping all changing facilities in the bathroom, and take your baby to the bathroom to be changed. Your baby will start to understand the purpose of the toilet and the bathroom.


Your baby may start to show interest in using the bathroom or toilet from around 12 months old. It may be before or after, but there are signs you can watch out for to see if your baby is ready. It would be best to wait until your baby is walking to start toilet training so that they can get on and off the potty or toilet by themselves. Your child’s body may begin to form a routine, where they have a bowel movement at similar times every day. Another sign that they could be ready for toilet training is when they start to take an interest in cycles. For example, they may observe and follow you as you wash clothing, watching as you go


through each step. Babies tend to show interest in activities we do that show results. Don’t worry if your baby is not showing any of these signs, as not all babies do. It is recommended that you start toilet training your baby before 18 months old.


Before beginning toilet training, ensure your baby has everything they need to avoid setbacks. Set out a plan and stick to it! Start by purchasing thirty or more pairs of thick, good quality underwear—expect to go through a lot of underwear when toilet training! Ensure the underwear is comfortable and not too tight. This way, your baby can take them off and put them on by themselves. The same applies to pants; always have plenty of clean pairs available as they may also need to be changed every time your baby is wet. Take away any rugs or cushions that your baby could potentially soil. Expect plenty of bedding changes when starting toilet training, as your baby will likely wet the bed at night. Always have clean bedding at hand. Consider purchasing a mattress cover to prevent damage to the mattress. In the car, you could set down a rubber flannel to protect the car seats. It’s hard to avoid every accident, so you may have to go through a lot of washing and cleaning. Have stain remover spray and anti-bacterial soap at hand so you can grab and go! Keep the potty in the same place so your child can access it whenever they need to.


Once you have introduced toilet training to your child, you have begun the process. From here, it is important to be consistent and stick with it. Implement toilet training into your child’s routine and make them aware of any changes before you make them. Your child observes everything you do, so it is OK to let them see you sitting down on the toilet. Watching you may incite them to imitate what you are doing, and they may want to sit down on their potty. You could take them to the bathroom with you and encourage


them to use their potty every time you use the toilet. Your child will start to learn the purpose of sitting on the potty or toilet.


Make sure that you always change your child’s diaper as soon as it becomes wet. Your child should be used to the feeling of a dry diaper or dry underwear, and they should feel much more comfortable when they are dry. If they get used to being dry, they will start to hold it in when it is time to go—as they will be aware of the results of soiling themselves. To make it easier for your child when you are home, allow them to move around without pants. It will be easier for them to pull their diaper or underwear down when accessing a potty.


Your child may start to have regular bowel movements at certain times in the day. Observe your child’s bowel movements, and make a note of each time they go. You could set reminders for toilet time throughout the day. If you think your child needs to go, calmly direct them towards the toilet and ask them to sit down. Don’t worry if it happens before you get to the bathroom—the child will start to recognize the intention behind it. If you do miss the toilet, stay calm and involve your child in the process of cleaning up. If you think a bowel movement is due, but your child is not going, keep their attention by reading a book or talking to them when they’re sitting on the potty.


When your child successfully uses the potty, as much as you may want to scream with joy, try not to overreact. Stay calm so your child knows that this is a typical, ordinary task essential to everyday life. Once they have used the potty, physically show them you put the contents into the toilet and flush it down. Explain this process to your child every time you are doing it. Some people like to have more than one potty in different rooms of the house—so the child


always has access to one. Wherever you place the potty, keep it there so your child can get used to its whereabouts.


Once you have started potty training, consider getting rid of diapers altogether. Having diapers in the house can make it easy to pop one on for convenience—but it may also set back toilet training. Your child needs to know that you have confidence in them. When leaving the house, you could take a potty with you, especially if your child is not comfortable with using an adult toilet yet. Set the potty down somewhere where your child will feel comfortable, like in a public bathroom or a bathroom at the house you are visiting. Encourage your child to use the toilet before leaving the house, and show them that you will do the same. Explain to your child the benefit of using the toilet before leaving the house, especially if you are going on a long car journey or if you won’t have access to a bathroom for a while. Don’t worry if they don’t manage to go; they will get used to the idea after several attempts. It’s a good idea to keep some underwear and cleaning materials in the car in case you need to change on the go!


If your child has an accident in their pants, do not make them feel embarrassed or ashamed. Try not to make a big deal out of it. Don’t feel bad or try to comfort them, as it will draw more attention to it. Instead, stay calm and let them know that everything is OK. You can ask them to assist you in cleaning up and allow them to change themselves. Allow them to change at their own pace and stick around in case they need to ask for help. Once they are all cleaned up and changed, ask them to finish up by washing their hands.





Here are eight Montessori-inspired phrases that you can use to encourage your child through toilet training:


  1. “Your diaper is wet. Let’s go change your diaper.” You can start teaching your child about their bodily functions from the moment they are born. You can do this by simply communicating what you are doing with them. Let your child know that there is a reason that their diaper is wet and that you are going to help them with a solution (changing their diaper). Your child will start to feel the benefits of a diaper change, as a dry diaper is more comfortable than a wet one. Try not to associate any negativity with changing their diaper, as it may negatively affect how they feel about their normal bodily functions. You want your child to feel comfortable and confident. Including them in the process shows them respect and helps them feel at ease throughout the process.


  1. “You’re so stable now. Let’s try standing up to change your diaper today.” Once your child can stand up, you can encourage them to stand while changing their diaper. Allow your child to steady themselves on something for support. You can install a bar in the bathroom or ask them to hold on to the side of the bath or sink—whatever works for you and your home. Now is a great time to move to the bathroom for diaper changes.


  1. “Please push your pants down.” Once your child is standing, they can start to assist with diaper changing. Provide underwear and pants that are easy to pull up and down. Learning how to get


dressed from a young age promotes independence and self-sufficiency. You can also allow your child to assist you in putting their clothes on in the morning and taking them off at night. This way, they can get used to dressing themselves from an early age.


  1. “Would you like to sit on the potty?” Don’t force your child to use the potty, as it will only promote negativity towards toilet training. It would be best if you went with the flow of your child. Treat them with respect, and ask them if they would like to use the potty instead of telling them that they have to. Even if your child sits down on the toilet for a second or sits and does nothing, don’t stress—it is still progress! Your child learns from every attempt.


  1. “It’s time to use the toilet.” Once your child gets used to the toilet, consider slightly changing your approach. Instead of asking them if they would like to go, let them know that it’s time. You are not telling them to go or asking them a question; you are presenting them with the opportunity. If your child is busy with an activity, let them know that they can finish up before going to the toilet. A child will usually say ‘no’ if asked to do something. Encouraging them to make their own decisions will promote independence. Your child will respond much better to toilet training if they feel like they are in control.


  1. “You peed in the toilet just like Mom and Dad.” You are not rewarding your child for using the toilet; you are letting them know that they have successfully used the toilet for its intended purpose. Praising a child for using a toilet is like praising them for sleeping or eating; it’s a natural process required as a human being. It can also put pressure on the child the next time they use the toilet, and they may feel upset, or like they are letting you down if they are


unsuccessful. Be calm and show confidence in your child. Punishing them for not using the toilet will create negative feelings about toilet training.


  1. “You’re ready for underwear now.” Your child may start to show you signs that they are ready for toilet training. If they are not filling their diaper as often, this could be a sign that they are beginning to gain control over their bowels and bladder movements. Your child may start to ask you about the toilet or tell you that they need a diaper change. Once you have begun the toilet training process, introduce underwear simultaneously—this means completely changing from diapers to underwear. In the first few days, stay at home if you can. Allow your child to access the toilet every 30-45 minutes until a natural schedule starts to form.


  1. “Your pants look wet. It’s time to change your clothes.” Try not to overreact if your child does not make it to the toilet in time. Simply let them know what is going on and offer them a solution. Your child responds to your reactions and feelings, and if they sense negativity, they may feel embarrassed or upset. Ask your child to assist you in cleaning up. Let them put their underwear in the laundry basket, or ask them if they would like to pick out some clean ones and let them put them on by themselves.





Look out for signs of readiness, like if they are dry throughout the day or showing interest in the potty. Switch to underwear as soon as you start toilet training.

Once you start toilet training, be consistent. Try not to go back to diapers or switch from one to the other. Your child may feel like you are not confident in their abilities, and it may negatively affect the way they think about toilet training and wearing underwear.

At first, if you feel it is necessary, you can use a diaper for your baby at bedtime.

Remember that if your child has an accident, it is not a big deal. Try to stay calm and confident, and don’t get upset with your child.

Be there for them if they need your help, but allow them to work independently as much as they can. Over time, your child will learn that they have to change their clothes when they have an accident. They may realize that changing is time-consuming and tedious, which may encourage them to hold it in in the future.

Show them when you put the contents of their potty into the toilet, and then show them what happens when you flush it down.

Ask your child if they would like to flush the toilet themselves.

Explain every process to your child as you go along. Show them their routine verbally and physically. Let them pull their pants down and pull them back up during toilet training.


Encourage your child to wash their hands every time they use the toilet.