Preparing Your Child & Environment for Potty Training

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As a parent, one of the huge milestones you will reach with your child is potty training. I know as a first-time parent, it was the one thing I dreaded the most. There is such a barrage of methods and information out there that it can get very overwhelming. If you have a child with special needs, toileting and potty training can be an even bigger hurdle.

Today I am teaming up with other pediatric Occupational Therapist and Physical Therapists in the Functional Skills for Kids 12-month series to discuss this topic and I will specifically be talking about how to prepare your child for potty training (or maybe even yourself).

rolls of toilet paper lined up in rows. Bold white text is across the middle of the graphic that says Preparing Your Child And Environment for Potty Training.

Follow Your Child

In the case of my daughter, it was pointless to try potty training until she was ready. This tip was one of the ones I saw the most when I researched how to potty train. If you start too soon and they aren't ready, it will take twice as long to do. If you follow your child, they can help you to figure out which method of potty training or toileting will work best for your family or situation.

Begin with Books

My daughter is a book lover, so we naturally turned to some books to help us begin the process of potty training. I also began taking my daughter to the bathroom with me so she could see the process and begin to understand what to do there. She often liked to take her “potty book” in there with her and look at it while she sat.

If your child has sensory or behavioral responses to being in the bathroom environment, you will want to check out the other posts in the Functional Skills for Kids Therapy blog hop today for more detailed ideas and suggestions.

Prepare the Environment

You will want to go through the bathroom areas in your home and look at them from the view of your child. Is something too high? Out of reach?

Address all these before you start potty training with your child. A few things we did to our bathroom were to make sure a step stool was accessible at all times as well as the potty chair or step stool that my daughter used to sit on the toilet.

When we first started, we also had an extra potty seat in the living room in case we could not make it to the bathroom in time. I tried to keep this to a minimum though because I wanted her to associate the bathroom with actually going to the bathroom, not in the living room or kitchen. However, it will depend on your child and their needs so keep that in mind when you are setting up.

I also liked having a container of wipes nearby in case toilet paper was a little harder for her to manage. The wipes are thicker and easier to hold on to, plus they provide a cleaner wipe than toilet paper if that is a concern. 

Hand Washing Independence

Usually along with toileting or potty training comes hand washing. This is an area I still could work on as far as providing things that encourage more independence, like a soap dispenser easier for her to use, her own towel within reach, etc. Also, make sure there is a way for your child to turn the water on and off and that they can reach their arms to the water. A step stool or sink extender may be helpful. There are some DIY sink extender options or you can purchase some.

Safety with the water is also important, teaching your child hot from cold. You could provide a larger colored sticker to place on the sink arms or behind each side so your child knows which is hot vs. cold.

Your child may shy away from certain textures so make sure the towels are soft or a texture that they will tolerate. My daughter has recently decided she does not like tags on anything, so you may want to have towels without tags if that is an issue.

For more handwashing tips, you can click over to this article I wrote here

Toileting Steps Visual Cue Cards Free Download

I created some visual cue cards for toileting steps that you can print off and use in your bathroom or school restrooms to help children remember all the steps for toileting.

To get your copy, just subscribe to receive my weekly newsletter filled with child development tips, tools, and strategies. You'll get an email with a link to download the visual cue cards after entering your email address and clicking the button below. 

For more tips on toileting skills, check out our book The Toilet Training Book, written by 10 pediatric therapists with all the tips, tools, and strategies you need for potty training children of all abilities and skill levels.

Functional Skills for Kids Blog Hop – Toileting & Potty Training
Functional Skills for Kids : a 12 month blog series by OTs and PTs.

Be sure to check out all the other posts on potty training today from pediatric Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists for everything you need to know before you get started.

Fine Motor Considerations  | The Inspired Treehouse

Gross Motor Skills and Toilet Training | Your Therapy Source

Toileting and Sensory Processing   | Miss Jaime OT

Potty Training with Attention and Behavior Problems | The OT Toolbox

Modifications For Potty Training  | Therapy Fun Zone

Preparing Your Child & Environment for Potty Training | Growing Hands-On Kids

Teaching Concepts for Potty Training Through Play |Your Kids OT

Heather Greutman, COTA

Heather Greutman is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant with experience in school-based OT services for preschool through high school. She uses her background to share child development tips, tools, and strategies for parents, educators, and therapists. She is the author of many ebooks including The Basics of Fine Motor Skills, and Basics of Pre-Writing Skills, and co-author of Sensory Processing Explained: A Handbook for Parents and Educators.

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  1. My kids always loved reading books about potty training as well as reading books whilst sitting on the potty. We also used the toiletting wipes when we were first starting out as well! So much easier than toilet paper.

  2. Great tips. Love the book suggestion because that has worked for my children as well. Here is another popular title that worked well for us – Going to the Potty. It is a Mr Rogers book – very simple, well written book.

  3. I love all your suggestions to prepare the environment. It’s so easy for us to forget that everything is adult sized and can be tough for our little ones! I really like the idea about sink extenders! Smart – I always have trouble getting my little ones to wash their hands!

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