Toileting the Montessori way
Toilet training can often be one of the most challenging aspects of guiding our children towards independence. It is a widely discussed topic with lots of advice online advocating different approaches from elimination communication to reward charts etc.
In this post I will be talking about the Montessori method and this is in no way to discount other methods that have worked for many families.
I think a pertinent place to start from is what does "toilet training" actually mean? For some families this can look like setting a timer and placing your child on the toilet at regular intervals. This can also involve using pull ups and offering the toilet to your child occasionally and using rewards charts to motivate them ( For Montessori's views on reward charts please see our previous post on rewards and praise).
From a Montessori perspective, toilet training is the end result of many preliminary stages that occur before the child is ready to start using the toilet. This whole process does not happen in a vacuum or spontaneously. It is often a process that starts very early on and isn't complete until 2 years of age, sometimes 3. For children to be considered toilet trained they should be able to independently pull down their trousers, use the toilet and then able to wipe with help and dress themselves again. It also involves changing themselves if they have accidents ( of which their will be many!) whilst they master these skills.
The ideal time to start this process depends entirely on your child but can begin as early 1 years old as Montessori advocated for children to be involved in their own hygiene routines as early possible. We can do this by changing children standing up, asking them to pull down their trousers etc. In this way children are involved and actively participating in their toileting routines long before 18 months to two years when you introduce the toilet.
Why toilets in place of a potty? This is a question we often come across and it is as simple as it being another transition to move from the potty to the toilet. We use stools to make sure the child has proper placement of their feet as well as child sized toilets. It is easy to buy an adaptor seat from most online retailers and this can be used at home. Of course, we do have children who will need a potty, for example children with physical needs that require a potty and this is always accommodated when necessary.
A key factor to remember is no matter how your child achieves continence, it is often natural to see regressions when they start a childcare setting. Parents are often worried that at home their child is using the toilet but are having numerous accidents at nursery, This is entirely understandable as the distractions at nursery are vast! Think about all there is to do. Playing, learning and being outside in their waterproofs. There are a number of reasons that can result in children are having more accidents, away from home. This does settle down and actually we use every accident as another lesson in independence as the children change and perfect those gross motor skills and learn all of those coordination and muscle movements needed to undress and dress, often 4 times a day!
Regression is also very common when a new sibling arrives, grief, moving house, parental separation and even for some children, the transition to primary school. Whilst these periods will feel challenging, they are transient phases and with the right support your child will be back on track before you know it.
I guess if I had to sum up the Montessori method on toileting, I would say it is not a finite event that takes place over a few weeks or months but actually a process that can take varying time for your child, depending on their particular stage of development. My last bit of advice would be to speak to your child's key teachers and start a discussion on how ready they feel your child may be. You can both work together on a plan that helps your child on their path to continence.
Much Love and Peace,
Rozey- Mama/Teacher- Proud citizen of the world.