Potty Training Lessons from A Pre-K Teacher

potty training lesson

It’s time to start a fresh year in Pre-K and I want to help your family have a successful experience. Public Pre-K classrooms typically serve up to 18 four-year-old students from numerous cultural backgrounds. Most students are in the last phases of potty training as they learn to use unfamiliar facilities, adjust to the bathroom schedule, learn to wipe independently, and build confidence to tell the teacher when they need to use the bathroom. One or two families will begin potty training for the first time. No matter where your child is on the potty training journey, may I assist you as we plan for an eventful year?

Let’s prepare together, and earlier is better than later. As soon as your baby is following one step commands, using a small vocabulary, and curious about the toilet, it is important to begin the training while there is a positive and receptive attitude. Place that fun potty chair in the bathroom. Typically, this can gently occur as early as 11 months but, I suggest no later than 2 years. Of course, we are always mindful of meeting the needs of each individual little person! You are the expert on your child and will know when the time is right. Just remember that waiting too long is going to make the process longer and more frustrating for you, your child and me.

How about clothing? As your child is training, you will dress him/her in loose elastic waist pants that allow your child to be independent. But please move on to teaching your child how to snap and zip pants before you send that little learner off to school. Many schools require school uniforms and it can be challenging to find uniform pants with elastic. You can help little fingers strengthen by providing many tiny toy choices at home, like mini Legos and small stringing beads. Belts are cute, no doubt, but they are often the cause of “not making it” in time or tears when kids are unable to fasten them. No matter how unlikely one thinks it is that a toileting accident will occur at school, please send in extra clothes. An accident happens to someone on a weekly basis as we all learn about each other’s needs and how to use new facilities. Your child will feel confident and cared for if the clothing preparations are in place.

Once your child is using the potty, gently and slowly decrease your assistance. Choose one step and let your little one complete that step all by themselves, then move to another step when he/she feels success with that step. Some parents do what is called “backward chaining.” Using this procedure, you will gently lead your child to pulling up the pants from bottom to waist, then from feet to waist, then pants and underwear, then pulling off the toilet paper, then wiping. It is important that your child is confident with wiping before coming to school. Start that training by age three. You will have one full year to perfect the degree of independent cleaning of the bottom. Teach your child to complete the wiping process in the same backward chaining approach. Confidence at the toilet is the key and it happens when you slowly add steps that your child does all alone

Now, send that sweetie to school with confidence and a smile! Encourage your preschooler to look at the teacher’s eyes, say her name and say in a confident voice “I need to use the bathroom, please.” You did it! You prepared your child for a successful year in school. Well done.

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Marilynn Myers

Marilynn Myers is married to her junior high sweetheart, has 4 children, 1 lovely grandchild, 2 Yorkies and 1 cat. This is her 36th year working in Pre-K, middle school, and childcare settings. She has successfully toilet trained countless children through collaboration with families.

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