Toilet Awareness – Part 2

May 08, 2018
pretty restroom

In Part 1 of our series on Toilet Awareness, we touched upon the preparation of the adult and the preparation of the environment. In this post, we are going to focus on the child. Many questions that parents have when discussing toileting begin with:

When should one start?

Look for the signs

Every child is unique but there are signs that a child will display that can signal a good time to introduce toileting and the removal of daytime diapers.

  • The child becomes very interested in seeing you, your spouse or their siblings using the bathroom and wish to copy what they see.
  • The child makes strong vocalizations of discomfort when sitting in a wet or soiled diaper.
  • Diaper changes become daily “struggles,” where the child is pushing your hands away or pushing away the diaper that is being put on their body.
  • When the child can actively participate in dressing and undressing.
  • When the child begins to walk confidently within their environment.

How do you start?

Cloth underwear


As mentioned in Part 1, when you are ready to introduce underwear to your child, start with thick underpants. These can be found in major retail stores or can be purchased online. These are a good first step when transitioning from diapers to underwear. Look for pants made from a natural fiber (cotton, hemp or bamboo). Look for a design that features a soft waistband for little hands to pull up and down and a thick padded lining to absorb wetness. There are also brands that make a waterproof outer layer with a soft cotton inner layer. The underpants are not designed fully absorb a child’s urine output since the child needs to feel the onset of wetness while on the path to full toilet awareness.

Thoughts on clothing

When supporting your child’s path to awareness, we want to take into consideration their wardrobe. In a Montessori Infant Community, the youngest children will wear cotton underwear and no other bottom layer of clothing so that when they need the bathroom there is only the underwear to pull up and down. This can be done at home as well. When offering clothing for your child to wear during this time, avoid stiff pants such as thick denim or snug pants such as legging or tights. For girls, avoid long tunic shirts or dresses until they become more comfortable with the bathroom and can then learn to hold up their clothing while sitting on the toilet. For girls and boys, avoid pants with stiff closures like snaps, hook and eye, and zippers until they become more adept pulling pants on and off. Look for pants with soft elastic waistbands.

When should the child be taken to the toilet?

Keep a bathroom log

When you introduce the bathroom to your child, start a notebook detailing the times when they are wet and the times when they produce a bowel movement. Logging the times will give a clearer picture of the child’s bathroom patterns and you will be able to anticipate when they should sit. In a Montessori Infant Community, the child is not asked, “would you like to sit on the toilet,” rather the child is taken to the toilet with the language, “Come with me, it’s time to sit on the toilet.” If you ask a child to sit – they have the right to refuse. Simply inform the child calmly that it’s time to empty their bladder and escort them to the bathroom. This is where our manner and tone will truly communicate to the child that this is a regular human function. If the child resists and chooses not to sit, you can invite them to wash their hands and let the know that will try again soon.

Which books be helpful?

Include toilet awareness during story time

Here are some examples of books that you can include in your family library when introducing the toilet so your children can become more comfortable with the idea of the bathroom. Choose books that feature children, not animals, using the toilet.


What happens when you have to leave the house?

Keep an “On-the-Go” potty kit ready

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzFeatured: “On the Go” travel potty

As mentioned in Part 1, consistency is key when introducing the bathroom to a young child. Consider placing a waterproof liner in the child’s car seat and using waterproof cotton underwear when on the go. Have a reusable wet bag handy to hold wet underwear and keep in your car two changes of clothing in a bag for any needed changes. Keep wipes in your car as well. You can also consider a “on-the-go” travel potty seat. These are designed to travel in a bag or kept in a car and come with disposable liners for those moments when your child needs the toilet but there is not a bathroom available.

Want more information?

Here is a great book on toileting created by Montessori teacher Sarah Moudry.


Another good resource is by Dr. Jill Lekovic.


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