Learning at the Bank
Street Family Center
parents of toddlers begin to wonder when it’s time to make the
developmental move from diapers to underwear. How do you know
it’s time to start toileting your child? At the Bank Street Family
Center, we look for signs of readiness, signs from the child that
tell us he/she is ready to begin using the potty or toilet.
First we try to ascertain that there is nothing emotionally challenging
currently happening in the child’s life. For example, a recent
transition or change in home/school life or the child’s mastery
of a new developmental skill. If something else is already going
on, asking a child to focus their mental, emotional and physical
resources on something as consuming as toilet-training might be
asking too much at the time.
The most important sign of readiness is your child’s interest
in toileting. Does your child want to imitate you and like to
watch you as you (or a sibling) use the toilet?
Another sign of readiness is a growing awareness of one’s bowel
movements. This can be demonstrated in various ways. For example,
has your toddler begun to seek out a corner of the room or go
behind a chair to pee or poop? And, is your toddler beginning
to express discomfort when they have a wet or soiled diaper and
demand to be changed immediately?
Some other signs are if your child is staying dry for long periods
of time and their bowel movements are becoming predictable. This
information will help you when you do decide to start toileting,
as you will use these predictable times to offer them the potty/toilet.
Lastly, before attempting to toilet your child, you must determine
whether your child has the physical control necessary to hold
and release his/her bowels at appropriate times.
Many of the toddlers at the Bank Street Family Center that have
demonstrated some of these signs of readiness are provided several
opportunities during the day to practice using the toilet or potty.
While some of these children are still exploring the idea of using
the potty and will sit on it fully clothed or with their diapers
on, still others are competent and take great pleasure in being
able to use the toilet independently. All of the children begin
to learn the routine of using the bathroom, making a pee or poop,
wiping oneself, flushing the toilet and washing hands with soap
Many of the children enjoy the social aspect of toileting, watching
and noticing their friends. Some of the older children also use
their developing language skills to explore their ideas about
some basic gender differences. Teachers support this development,
and listen to the children as they notice and talk about each
other’s genitals and the nature and quality of their various poops
It is important to remember that toileting requires a great amount
of control and mastery of a complex mix of feelings. Curiosity,
independence, autonomy, pride, fear and shame are just some of
those feelings. For toileting to be successful, it is important
to follow your child’s lead, to encourage, and celebrate the successes,
to empathize with and encourage through the setbacks and accidents.
Parents and teachers should try to keep it a no-to-low pressure
Musa is Head Teacher in a mixed-aged mixed-ability classroom at
the Bank Street Family Center.
Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel:
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