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Toilet training a child in care
Toilet training is a major milestone in a child's development and saying good bye to nappies is a day of celebration for parents. Though it can be a tricky time for both parent and child, once mastered the newfound skills provide a child with increased self-esteem and independence.

Children are ready for toilet training at different times, and it is important that toilet training is only started when a child is ready. No child will learn if they are forced to and it can lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety. But when a child begins to show interest in the toilet, can pull clothes on and off, and recognises the need to 'go', it might be time to try.

For a child in child care, the role of the carer in toilet training is invaluable, and they will be able to advise on whether they have seen any signs of readiness. Child care providers are in a unique position to include toilet training in their daily program, particularly if they have several toilet-training children in the same group.

Educators can read stories, play games and sing songs to teach the steps and scaffold a child's natural curiosity. In addition, children also often feel more comfortable and motivated to be involved when they see their peers are going through the same processes.

Consistency is key

Once you have decided that your child will begin toilet training, consistency between home and child care is vital. Discuss with the centre what their methods are for toilet training and agree a program that can implemented both at home and at the service.

This may include how often to put your child on the toilet and any rewards that might be used, such as stickers. Try to avoid using food-based rewards such as lollies as this cannot be replicated in the child care setting.

Also discuss with the carer how they communicate progress - some centres might use a whiteboard, others might use a diary or book to indicate what has happened each day. At the beginning of a week, always talk to the educators to tell them how the toilet training went over the weekend. If you try something new at home, ensure you tell the educators so they can try to accommodate it in their classroom program for your child.

If you are unsure about toilet training processes at your early childhood service, here are a few questions to ask your centre:
  • Do they have a specific age in which the require toilet training? (Some centres won't allow a child to progress into the next room until they are out of nappies)
  • What is the process if a child has an accident?
  • Is there one carer who is responsible for monitoring your child's toileting cues?
  • Does the centre encourage independence by going through all steps – including washing and drying hands?

Practical tips for parents

There are many things you can do as a parent to make the toilet training experience at child care an easier one. Always dress your child in easy-to-remove clothing, and spend time at home making sure they are able to remove their clothes themselves.

Pack several changes of clothes for your child, and label every item clearly - even the undies! Pop a nappy or a pair of training pants in your child's bag if she still has a nap during the day. Ensure your child has a good intake of high-fibre foods at home, and in their lunchbox if they have one. Talk positively at home about using the toilet and explain that it is a natural process.

Be prepared for setbacks, particularly if your child has a change in routine or experiences some change at home. Setbacks particularly happen after holidays, or long breaks. Even when toileting is mastered, a child will still be prone to having accidents for several months - they might be too busy playing, or just had a big drink before heading out into the sandpit and forget to go.

Be patient and communicate any concerns to the centre if it seems as though accidents are become more regular.

Remember, child care providers have toilet trained many children, so they will have lots of great suggestions on how best to approach the process. By working in partnership toilet training will be a much less daunting and more rewarding experience for the child and hopefully a smooth transition for everyone else as well!
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