Potty learning the Montessori way is intended to be a positive learning experience for your child. Just like with everything else your toddler will be learning, mistakes will be made. Be prepared for accidents; they will happen.
Potty training the Montessori way
There are no rewards or punishments when potty training with the Montessori method. This means no sticker charts, no rewards or incentives – but also no bummed out language or time outs. Those aren't helpful!
We don’t train children to use the toilet, we support them when they are ready.
Note: For the purpose of this post, potty learning, potty training, and toilet learning, are all interchangeable. We are not talking about traditional potty training methods here, but it's a universal phrase so we do still use it.
First thing's first: diapers off!
To get started with toilet learning, tear the diapers off! Skip the expensive training pants* and go straight to undies. Let your little one pick the undies they want to wear.
At night, it's okay to put your child in diapers. In fact, it's encouraged… especially if you want to avoid the messes that are bound to happen at first. When you ditch the diapers at night, be sure to grab a waterproof mattress cover.
*We do use training pants for the first few weeks if we are running errands or will be out and about for more than an hour or two.
The first few days, staying home is the easiest. This allows your child freedom to use the toilet as often as they need to, while learning the difference between how it feels to be wet versus dry.
Change the language you're using.
Instead of asking your child, “do you have to use the toilet?”, say “it's time to use the toilet!” (or whatever word you use, like “potty”). Do this at least every half an hour for the first few days. You can even add this to their routine chart.
At first, when you ask your child that question, they are almost always going to say “no”. They don't even know what potty means, and that feeling of “I have to go” doesn't really hit them until after they've started the potty training process.
This potty training watch can help your child remember to try to go to the bathroom on a regular basis.
While it is exciting when your child successfully uses the toilet, avoid over-congratulating; using the toilet is something they will need to do every day, with or without applause.
When – not if – your child has an accident, stay calm. Do not punish, or even show that you are upset in any way. Say something like “oh, I see you're wet, let's get you some dry clothes”. The last thing you want to do is shame your child for wetting their clothes.
Adorable potty training board book to add to your potty basket.
Potty Learning environment set up
Much like a Montessori play room, it's important that things are accessible to your child (in a safe way). Set this environment up before your child is ready for toilet training.
Set up a potty station that encourages independent potty learning. This means having a potty chair that is perfect for your child's current size. Making it as easy as possible to successfully use the toilet is one of the goals here! 🙂 Consider adding a step stool to make it even easier for your child to be comfortable while using the toilet.
Your potty station can also include:
- a basket with clean undies
- books, and baby wipes or toilet paper
- a basket for dirty undies
When your child first begins their potty training stage, go through the whole process with them so they understand what each step looks like:
- using their potty toilet
- putting dirty undies in dirty basket if needed
- get clean undies if needed
- washing hands
As your child gets used to using the toilet, consider adding a faucet extender as well as a light switch extender to foster even more independence.
While we want our children to be independent, we must set them up for success. Showing them how the process works is the first step.
The potty process
When it's potty time, let your child sit on the toilet for a few minutes. If they don't go, that's okay.
If they do go, repeat the process in half an hour, at least for the first few days. If they don't go, you may want to repeat the process sooner… depending on how long it's been since they used the toilet last.
If your child wets themselves in between bathroom visits, allow them to help you clean up the mess (in a sanitary way). This is how they take ownership of the toileting process.
When should I start potty training my toddler?
We start potty training when the child shows interest, usually around 12 months. This is when your child will show interest, not necessarily be potty trained.
One sign I noticed when working with younger children is that sometimes they won't vocalize that they need to use the toilet. Instead they may whine or even pat their diaper. Sometimes, they won't tell you until they've already wet their diaper or undies. This is why it's important to visit the potty often during this process.
Another sign is that your child will stay dry for longer periods of time throughout the day. This means they're beginning to learn how to control their bladder.
Potty training clothes
Along the lines of making this as easy as possible, we make sure the clothes we buy our toddlers are easy for them to get on and off without much (if any) assistance. While at home, this may mean running around naked or just in underwear.
While in public, clothes are required, unfortunately. We pick out clothes like:
- shoes with velcro straps
- shorts with stretchy waistbands w/o buttons or zippers
- shirts with room to grow so they're easier to work with
Here are some great tips on self-dressing the Montessori way.
How long does it take to potty train the Montessori way?
There is no time limit for potty learning. It is a process that, when you let your child lead the way, can take several months… but that is okay.
Each child is different, so try not to compare your second child to your first, or your third to your second, etc.
What if my child is afraid of the toilet?
When a child is afraid of the toilet, it's okay to go back to letting them wear diapers. Try again in a few weeks, after showing your child the process of using the bathroom.
If you have older children, your younger ones will eventually want to copy what they're doing. Letting your child see others use the toilet often can help them be more interested and less apprehensive.
If your child has excessive anxiety or fear surrounding the bathroom, it may be time to talk to your pediatrician.
Remember, with the Montessori method of teaching, we do not embarrass, scold, or berate a child for having accidents. Well, really, that should never happen… no matter the parenting method!
Toilet learning supplies
This is the foldable travel potty seat we use, and really love it. We always bring extra hand sanitizer and wipes, as well as a bag to store it in.
Like I said above, the baskets are golden for a potty space that is set up to help your child be independent. What else do you use for your potty space? Let me know in the comments below!
Hang in there!
Potty training is a gradual process, but your child will eventually get it… I promise! 🙂