Tips and tricks: How to encourage your toddler to use the toilet at the nursery
Listen to my podcast or read the transcript below to find out what’s the best thing to do when your toddler refuses the toilet.
Hi, This is Eva and welcome to Wonder Toddlers Podcast, where I answer your letters and I give advice to other parents on various forums.
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This episode is inspired by a letter I found on a forum. It was written by a parent, whose toddler refuses the toilet in the nursery and started to wee on the floor and on the bed on purpose.
You can read the letter and my answer here.
Let me read the letter:
My 3 year old has been fully potty trained since June.
For some reason when he returned to nursery this sep he has refused to use their toilet and either has accidents or holds it all day. He's not used the toilet there before.
He asks to wear a nappy and the nursery put him in one.
He kicks off about nursery unless he has a nappy on and I don't know what to do. Do I not send him in a nappy and upset him and make him wear pants or put one on him and let him be happy and content and hope one day he doesn't want it on and try encourage him to use the toilet.?
Also at home he's fine and out and about he has no accidents until about a week ago. He's started weeing on his bed and the floor on purpose. No idea why !!
We had a very similar case in the nursery last year, but we didn’t put the nappy back on the child.
It took us some time, but in the end, we succeeded. Our magic formula was: doing the same thing in the nursery as at home+being consistent and patient (teachers and parents as well).
I am very shocked to hear, that the nursery put a nappy on him despite the fact that the child is fully potty trained.
It is totally normal for a child to have accidents in the nursery even if he doesn’t or has less at home. It can also happen, that a child refuses to go to the toilet and either wet himself or holds it all day, plus throws some nice temper tantrums…
5 Reasons why your child may refuse the toilet in the nursery
There must be several reasons why it happens with some children, but I just tell you a few:
1.) The nursery is a different environment, where there are no mommy and daddy, siblings or the nanny… Even if a child used to go to the same place, it is still a different environment, especially if he was away for some weeks.
2.) The nursery usually a very busy and extremely stimulating place, where children just want to stay in the room or outside playing. Going to the toilet would mean, that they need to finish playing and put their precious toys down.
3.) Bad communication/relationship between child and teacher.
4.) There is bullying going on between children.
5.) Showing their will, testing boundaries. There are some children who try to get back to wearing nappies, because a.) it is comfortable and b.) saying ‘no’ gives them a sense of control, power.
Obviously, I don’t know the real reason why the teachers put the nappy back on the child, so I don’t want to be judgemental, but in my opinion, it might have happened that with this action this child got mixed messages: he can’t have nappy at home but he can get the nappy in the nursery.
Basically, he got what he wanted! From that moment on, he became the ‘boss’ and manipulates everyone.
That is my opinion and my advice was this to the parent:
Tips to help your toddler to use the toilet
1.) When your child wees on the floor or on the bed, tell him using simple and short sentences that it’s not okay and what he should do instead. You can ask him to help you clean up and ask him to change by himself. Stay with him, show him how to do it (don’t let your child use chemicals of course) and help him a bit.
This can teach him, that every action has consequences, and hopefully he is going to be bored by cleaning up and changing his wet and dirty clothes all the time.
It is very important, that your child should not feel the cleaning up process humiliating! It needs to be absolutely normal, as what others do when they make a mess. No shouting at him or nagging or saying bad words to him. Just act casual and clean up together without using negative comments.
Instead of telling him off, just explain what happened and why you need to clean up, and what to do next time.
As I don’t know how, when and where these wee accidents exactly happen, I can’t give you more advise than that.
2.) I wouldn’t put nappy on him (don’t even let your child know that there are some at home…) at all. If he refuses to go to the nursery without a nappy, don’t give up, and try everything whatever you can to encourage him to go without it.
3.) Tell the nursery, that they can’t put nappy on him and tell them your, opinion and instructions. Communicate with them daily, and try to work together.
In the nursery:
1.) no nappy…
2.) Teachers should encourage your child to go to the toilet, and you could also talk to the manager or the head of the nursery.
As I mentioned above, we had a similar case in the nursery and solved it in 3 months. Yes, it took us 3 months, but we succeeded.
We didn’t put the nappy on, so our case is different….but, I still want to share what we did:
This is how we did it: 8 successful tactics we tried and worked
1.) We talked to parents and the nanny. We analysed the situation and came up with a plan. This is very important because we have to be on the same page to prevent any future argument between us teachers and parents. Also, following and carrying out the plan meant, that we do the same thing what parents do at home, so the child will realise that he cannot ‘play’ with us teachers and testing his boundaries will fail.
2.) Our plan was to keep encouraging the child to use the toilet, no matter how many accidents he has a day or if he could hold it until somebody came to pick him up.
3.) Most of the time, we took the children to the toilet in little groups, because it can be very motivating for some and it can look like a fun activity.
4.) We sang…we talked…we did funny faces…we danced…we played out toilet scenarios…we read books to the children about using the toilet in the nursery…we had to be very creative how we encourage him.
5.) We tried to use the child’s toilet seat from home, but it didn’t work for us (I heard that it helped in some cases)
6.) We didn’t get angry if he wet himself or refused the toilet, but of course, we explained him with short simple sentences that we are not okay with that, and what he should do instead.
7.) We didn’t put the pressure on him or forcing him to use the toilet.
8.) When more and more accidents started to happen, we agreed with parents, that we can ask the child to help us clean up the floor and he had to change himself (of course we helped a bit and we always supervised him) it taught him that using the toilet is much easier than cleaning up after himself, plus changing his clothes is very uncomfortable and boring…plus he learnt that every action has consequences.
In summary, my advice is this
1.) Work together with the teachers: come up with a plan and carry that out, do the same thing in the nursery and at home.
2.) Be patient and consistent.
3.) Use positive encouragement.
4.) Try not to get back to the nappy again!
5.) Keep on trying and never give up 🙂
Thank you so much for listening and staying with me, if you are interested in the original letter and my answer, please find the link here.
I am constantly looking for inspirations to do podcasts and write blog posts, so if you have any ideas related to parenting toddlers, head over to my Contact page and send me an email.
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Thank you again and speak to you next time.
Early Years and Parenting Consultant