Toileting Areas

Toileting Areas

One of the most significant barriers to successful toilet learning is the actual household environment. In the Western world, generally speaking, the environment is geared towards the adults – think high toilet seats, high change tables etc. None of these things can be easily and independently accessed by the child, so how can they be expected to toilet themselves?

Setting up a toileting area that is accessible for the child is the first step towards success.

Some points to consider when setting up an area are:

  • The toilet: 
    • Is there a wide step that the child can use safely to access the toilet? 
    • Is there something to hang on to do this as balance is often an issue with this step. 
    • Does the toilet have a seat that is small enough to fit a child? I recommend the magnetic inbuilt toilet inserts that you can get from Bunnings instead of removable toilet seats. Removable toilet seats can cause pinching, are hard to remember for the child to get and install quickly (if someone has forgotten to put it in) and can cause a trip hazard.
  • Disposable items: 
    • Can the child reach the toilet paper? Often it is too far away to reach without overbalancing. Tissues on a little table or shelf is a good alternative and better for quantity control (saves unrolling ¾ of the roll at a time!)
  • Dressing and undressing: 
    • Have a small seat or bench where the child can sit to do this. Toddlers are top-heavy and often unable to do pulling up or down etc., from a standing position, often children like to take their whole bottom section of clothing off completely, so sitting down is easier to redress. 
    • Keep in mind that completely removing the bottom section of clothing is actually more practical for them than simply pulling it down – they can’t climb onto a step and onto the toilet with their pants and undies around their ankles!
  • Flushing: 
    • Children can be scared of the sound of the toilet flush, especially those with sensory sensitivities. Always warn the child that you are about to flush the toilet and allow a few seconds for them to process this information before flushing. 
    • If flushing is causing an issue, wait until they have left the room to flush, have earmuffs on hand, or simply don’t flush for every single wee (remember the old sayings from drought times – ‘if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down!’)
  • Spare Undies: 
    • Have spare undies and clothes in a basket near the toilet area for the child to change into if they have an accident. 
    • Have a separate basket, bin or bucket for any soiled clothes to be put into
  • Have multiple toileting areas: 
    • E.g. the actual toilet/bathroom, a potty and associated items near the play area and keep one in the car. It is unrealistic to expect your child to make the trip all the way to the bathroom at first – it’s such a long way to hold it! 
    • Keeping a toileting area in or near their play area is more incentive to use it
  • Clothing: 
    • This aspect is almost always overlooked, and the clothing items available in shops today do not help this at all. 
    • Ensure that the child can easily pull up or down elastic waists. Leggings are a nightmare as toes get caught in the stretchy fabric. 
    • Ditch anything with buttons, overalls and jumpsuits/onesies. 
    • Temporarily ditch dresses and skirts as they are too complicated to master (holding them up with elbows etc.) at first – let’s focus on the core skills first!
  • Pro tip: 
    • Hand dryers in public restrooms! These roaring monsters can be terrifying. They are super loud and can be unpredictable (yes, automated ones – I’m looking at you!). We always use the parent’s room or disabled toilet for this reason. In multi cubicle bathrooms, they can be activated at any time while you are in your own cubicle, so this adds to the unpredictability and fear of the situation. This is especially true for those on the spectrum, anxiety or with sensory processing disorders. 
    • I also always carry ear muffs in my basket (or bag) when we go out so these can be put on in advance before entering the bathroom.

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