During the toddler years, nannies should watch for signs of potty training readiness.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics “in general, most children become physiologically ready for toilet training at around eighteen months of age—that is, their digestive system and bladder have matured to the point where they can delay a bowel movement or urination long enough to get to a potty.
But they are usually not cognitively ready—able to associate the need to eliminate with potty use, to remember to use it, and to resist distraction long enough to complete the process—until sometime after their second birthday.”
Signs of potty training readiness include having regular bowel movements, having a dry diaper after naptime or for extended periods during the day, interest in using the potty, communicating that she’s urinating or having a bowel movement, taking her pants down when she has to urinate or have a bowel movement, and the ability to follow a few simple instructions.
When toilet training a toddler it’s essential that not only the toddler, but the parents and nanny are also ready to begin the potty training process. If the adults are not willing to commit to the process it’s going to be a frustrating experience for all. It is also essential that there is a single toilet training approach so that the child gets consistent signals and reinforcement during potty training.
At around 18 months, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests parents and caregivers can begin to teach children about pee, poop and how the body works. This can include introducing bathroom vocabulary, pointing out when animals pee or poop and encouraging the child to tell you when she has a wet or soiled diaper.
At around 21 months, the potty chair can be introduced. Parents and caregivers can demonstrate that poop goes into the potty by dumping the contents of a soiled diaper into the toilet and allowing the child to observe a parent or older sibling use the potty. The toddler can be encouraged to sit on it with and without clothes without the pressure to perform. This will help the toddler become comfortable with the potty.
At around 2, teaching aids can be introduced. Books about potty training can be read and rewards can be offered. Children should also be taught how to properly wipe (front to back), flush and wash hands.
When the nanny notices signs that indicate the toddler needs to go to the bathroom, such as squatting or pulling at a diaper, she can invite the toddler to sit on the potty. If the child sits, the nanny can encourage her by singing songs or reading a book as she sits. If she chooses not to, the nanny can offer an incentive, like a sticker, if she decides to sit at a later time.
Some toddlers may prefer to sit on the big potty rather than the potty chair. A toilet seat that has a child sized seat built into the cover is an option for these children, since children tend to feel safer with a smaller seat. Provide the toddler with a stool to climb up to the toilet if using this option.
Children typically gain control over the bowel movements before learning to control urination. It’s not unusual for children to have accidents during the potty training process. A child should not be shamed or punished for having an accident, but instead should be encouraged to help clean up (put dirty clothes in the laundry) and reassured that she can try again.
Potty training is a process and it should be approached as matter of fact and without pressure. Changes in routine, such as the birth of a new sibling or moving, can cause regression. If a child begins having accidents or wants diapers, the nanny should consider potential reasons for regression and discuss any concerns with the parents.
Sometimes children have accidents simply because they are so busy playing they forget to go or they don’t want to miss anything so they don’t take a potty break. If this is the case the nanny should remind the child to take a break to use the potty during play. If a toilet trained child complains of pelvic pain or starts to have accidents frequently for some time, the nanny should discuss these concerns with the parents and the child’s doctor should be consulted with to determine if there is a problem.