Welcome to Joyful Toddlers!

This space is about increasing our enjoyment of the young children in our lives through concrete action and by adjusting the lens through which we view them. My work comes out of LifeWays, which is inspired by Waldorf education. I welcome your comments, and questions about increasing your enjoyment of the children in YOUR life.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Changing out of Diapers


Great news! I found out where my great article on potty training came from: Julie Fellom, founder of Diaper Free Toddlers and the Waldorf-inspired preschool Neighborhood Playgarden. Julie has helped potty train more than 1,400 toddlers, all under the age of 27 months The bad news is, her website doesn't seem to be up and running anymore, and I can't find the entire article. However, you can find the gist of it from a mom who took her class here, and another very interesting blog post about the cultural shift in potty training happening at 18 months of age in the 1950s to 39 months of age today is here

Julie Felloms suggests that potty training is best achieved before a child is 28 months, because that's the age where, in her opinion, it goes from simply being another physical skill that a young toddler is happy to achieve, to something that they can think about whether they 'want' to do it or don't want to do it. And we all know that two-and-a-half-year-olds often don't want to do what we want them to do!

So, how to make the switch from diapers to diaper-free? I've seen it happen successfully several different ways, but here's what I recommend. Once your child is able to pee on the potty fairly regularly when you take her, start taking her more frequently (every two hours and then every hour). When she starts keeping her diaper dry between pottying most of the time, she's ready. I've had some children who never keep a diaper dry, and were still ready to move out of diapers, but most will keep it dry.

Once your child is ready, make sure you're ready! You need to be ready for a big push to get out of diapers, then ready to take your child to the potty religiously every hour for several months (taking them regularly while they're still in diapers will prepare you for this!). Make the switch out of diapers on a long weekend when you can dedicate yourself to the task. Fellom suggests getting three or four little potties and putting them all around your house, so that your child will be able to get to one whenever she needs to go. Then, have your child go bare bottom. If it's cold, have her wear loose pants with nothing underneath. Now, I've read lots of articles that have suggested getting twenty pairs of 'big boy underwear' or 'big girl panties,' and using the lure of big kid underwear to help the process go forward. But my observation is that what kids want most of all is love and positive attention from their parents, and it seems to me that they only get excited about big kid underwear because their parents are excited about big kid underwear. I feel the same about giving kids food rewards or stickers for going potty: if you put the same excitement into a proud smile and a kiss on the head, you get the same result and your child will be better off for it.

So, once you're home with your bare-bottomed child and your many small potties, get a good supply of salty snacks (to keep them thirsty) and a good supply of water or watered-down juice. Watch them carefully and whenever you see them about to go or start to go, pick them up and put them on the potty, and say, “Pee goes in the potty,” or “Poop goes in the potty.” If they have an accident, just say to them sadly, “Pee goes in the potty,” and clean it up.

And that's it. Some kids get it as quickly as one day, most kids take three days. After that they're ready to be diaper-free. Fellom suggests not putting kids in underpants for about three months, and I agree. I think underpants feel a lot like diapers, and they're hard to get up and down. Baggy pants with nothing underneath is much easier, and the feeling of pee running down their leg is uncomfortable for most kids, helping to avoid accidents.

You will still need to take your child to the bathroom on a very regular basis; my observation is that most children don't realize that they need to go potty until it's right upon them, until they're three years old or so. I don't even start to ask a child if he needs to go potty until he's been out of diapers for several months. Even then, they'll usually say “no” if they're playing or having fun. So I'll ask them if they need to go once or twice during the day, but the rest of the time I'll just tell them that it's time to go potty: before going outside, before nap, and more frequently for children who are newly diaper-free.

And good luck! It's usually not as scary as it seems.
Miss Faith

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  1. I'm loving your blog. I'm own and teach in a Montessori home like preschool. I love Waldorf too! In fact, my little program tries to incorporate lots of Waldorf type accents as well.

    I'm also a mama to a 23 month old who (I think) is on the cusp of becoming toilet independent. Needless to say, these posts have been the most perfect reading material a girl like me could ask for!

    Much of the process you describe rings true to me as well. The biggest hurdle for me to cross right now is remembering and taking the time to allowing her to undress (winter layers) and sit on the potty as often as she would need to.

    I'm trying really hard NOT to be forceful and to be positive. Because one thing I do know is that I don't want a fall back in a year from now.

  2. Hi Nichole,

    Glad this is so timely for you!

  3. Thank you for the links to the articles! We started potty training my firstborn (now 5) when she was 17 months. SHe was showing interest in the potty, and how it all worked, flushing for us when we went, lol, and really just interest in every aspect. We had been trying to EC her since she was 3 months, but it wasn't going too well, and she was primarily in diapers. She trained in about 3 days, once I realized what was going on, and followed her cues. She was that way for a month or two, and then she stopped peeing in the potty (but continued to poo there). She stopped peeing in diapers during the day some 6 or so months after that, and stopped night wetting around 2 (Or was it three?), I believe. At any rate, we put the diapers away for good around age three.