Key Take aways:
- Peak curiosity by letting kids see what happens in the bathroom
- While changing a diaper, talk with your child about the cues and the results. Use language that helps them associate meaning to the various sensations of elimination.
- Books and family pets can also be resources to initiate conversations and get curiosity flowing
- If the child shows no interest, just RELAX. Try the techniques again in a few months.
article summary: The majority of us do not feel naturally inclined to master a new skill unless there is an element of curiosity. Indeed, like other animals, we learn about our world and how to survive within it by being curious from the time we are born. Therefore, the first step in getting your child interested in potty learning is to pique their curiosity about what is actually going on in their diaper. Generally speaking, most children are ready to initiate potty training somewhere in the 18-month to 36-month window. But, you can start cultivating their interest at really anytime with simple actions like reading a potty book together or having a little chat about what happens in the bathroom.
Read books with them about using the potty.
Most children love to either look at or listen to books. Between the engaging pictures and your undivided attention snuggling them on the couch, books are an incredible way to explore new things and bond with your child. So, why not start exploring potty training with potty books?
Likely, your child will gravitate toward any potty book you stumble across because, well, most kids are curious about poop! But, if they have a particular interest like animals, princesses, or dinosaurs, consider snagging a potty book that includes those interests. And if you’re not sure where to start, we’ve got you covered in our potty book list. (Don’t worry - you don’t need tens of hundreds of potty books. Pick one, maybe two, and enjoy reading the same thing over and over again. Because you undoubtedly will.)
Let them watch you in the bathroom.
Prying eyes in the bathroom are actually a good thing when it comes to your kid. Sure, most of us parents dream that the bathroom will one day return to a place of solace where we get a few seconds to ourselves. But remember, children learn to navigate their world by mimicking the adults in their life. So, just like they watch you cook or talk on the phone, they will benefit from watching you do your thing in the bathroom.
Include them in diapering.
Start talking them through their diaper changes. Perhaps say, “Wow, you pooped! You must have felt something in your tummy that said it needed to get rid of the poop!” Or, “Your diaper feels very warm. You must have felt wet when you peed!” Start using language that they can begin to assign to the different sensations they are learning to associate with elimination.
Start putting their poop in the potty.
Rather than throwing their diaper away, let them join you on an incredible journey to the bathroom to flush their poop. In this process, you can explain that this is where poop goes when you start using the potty. To continue to build their interest, let them carry their diaper to the trash can and wash their hands.
Talk about how animals poop.
Have a family dog? Visit the zoo often? Children learn so much about life from observing other animals. Next time you pick up dog poop in the yard, casually tell your child that the yard is your dog’s potty, much we use the potty in the bathroom. Or, give them a brief explanation of why horses poop: “See? The horse eats the hay and then, in a little bit, poop comes out. Can you believe that poop was once hay?”
Take them to the public restroom with you.
Yes, sounds super gross and likely will not be a relaxing pee for you, but public restrooms can be fascinating for children. They can see other children and adults using the bathroom and can participate in handwashing. Even flushing the toilet can be different and exciting (or scary - watch out for those loud automatic toilets) compared to at home. While they may not be interested in sitting on the potty at this time, include them by helping them wash and dry their hands.
But FYI here - if you personally are not ready to pioneer a public restroom with your child, don’t do it yet. If you are super wound up about them not touching anything (because, why wouldn’t you be?) you may want to wait to include them on your public potty outings.
Building self-confidence builds curiosity
Part of stimulating your child’s curiosity is giving them opportunities to feel proud of their own skills. One of the ways you can boost their sense of accomplishment and self-confidence is to give them a new job. For example, let your child be the one to carry their soiled diaper all the way to the outdoor trash can. (Obviously, accompany them here but let them do as many skills as possible, like opening the door if they can reach or lifting the lid on the trash can.)
Once they complete a task or job, let them bask in their prowess over the trashcan by saying, “Wow! I can’t believe you can throw your diaper away on your own. That must have felt good!” Of course, don’t overdo it in your praise, but help them recognize that it feels good to master a new skill - much like it will feel good to master the potty one day.
What to do if your kid shows no interest whatsoever
Don’t stress! If your child is not showing any signs of interest yet, it’s okay. Remember, every child will be different on when they are ready to potty train. Don’t overdo it on trying to get them interested in potty training. Take a break from your efforts and try again in a few weeks or months. Or, wait for them to start asking questions or showing interest.