Routine for Montessori Toilet Learning

Start your child on a path for gentle child-led toilet learning

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Like most things related to raising toddlers, having a good routine goes a long way to helping your child move on to the next milestone. When it comes to helping your child master bathroom independence this is an especially important fact. For families that follow a Montessori approach to child rearing, a routine and a system that enables young children to be independent and know what to expect is essential and a central part of the Montessori method of toilet learning.

Montessori toilet learning differs from other methods of potty training because it follows a child's lead. Montessori families will usually start introducing children to the bathroom before their first birthday as a place where diaper changes happen. As a child is able to sit up, parents may put a portable potty chair in the bathroom to see if a little one is able and ready to try sitting on it after a diaper change to build the connection between urinating or bowel movements and use of the potty.

In addition to a potty that is appropriate for children who may be only 12 months or even younger, parents may include a small bench that toddlers can use to sit on and remove soiled pants on their own. There should, then, also be a toddler sized laundry basket or bucket that your child can use to drop soiled clothes into. Towels, paper or other hygienic materials can be nearby so you can clean a little one and explain what you're doing so he can learn to do it himself when he's ready.

Starting a routine

  • Have a wake up potty moment: When your child wakes from naps or night time sleep, start having her go to the bathroom to remove her diaper. If she's not ready to sit on the potty, that's okay. Just introducing the bathroom as the place to change and clean up is a start. Use the toilet yourself at this point to model bathroom use so your little one will begin to understand what to expect.
  • Dress your child in underpants or training pants. Don't be afraid of messes. They will happen. They can be cleaned up. In the meantime, getting your child used to real underwear will help him to make the transition.
  • Offer many opportunities for your little one to use the bathroom. Keep in mind when your child eats or drinks and watch for signs that he may need to use the toilet. Ask regularly if he wants to go and lead him there but do not insist that he sits. The Montessori approach is not about forcing your child to use the potty but helping him when he's ready.
  • Take care when you go out. Montessori families often choose to use cloth diapers instead of disposables. You can certainly use those when you take your little one to avoid inconveniences. As your little one becomes more confident and capable of using the toilet, however, you may want to block time when you will be able to stay home to provide more time for your little one to use the bathroom at home.
  • Use positive language but not gifts. Some potty training methods recommend using rewards and prizes when toddlers have potty success. The Montessori method doesn't employ any of these. Instead, it uses natural motivation and a child's own wish to do it herself as the encouragement that will keep her wanting to use the potty regularly.
  • Watch for signs of night readiness. Some Montessori parents choose to night train at the same time as daytime toilet learning. Many children will master daytime dryness before nighttime control. Consider your child's needs as you choose what methods to use for your family.​

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