Learning To Use The Potty: An 18-Month-Old's Story

Learning To Use The Potty: An 18-Month-Old's Story

Hello! My name is Catherine and I am an infant and toddler Montessori educator at Monti Kids. Before I joined the Monti Kids Learning Team, I was a Monti Kids customer. My son Luke is two years old. One of the things I have really enjoyed as a Monti Kids parent is using the courses in the Parent Learning Center as a resource. As an employee, I have had the opportunity to work on the courses, too. (You'll find my face and voice in some of them!) My family used the course on Toilet Learning as a guide to prepare Luke to transition out of cloth diapers and into underpants. potty training class online SEE TOILET LEARNING COURSE

How we started introducing our 18-month old to the potty

First, we noticed signs of toilet readiness. Although we knew Luke was ready to begin at 18 months old, we waited a little later to start due to the fact that we knew we were moving. Changing environments is a huge transition for adults and even more so for our little ones. My family and I decided to wait until we had transitioned to our new home to begin the toilet learning journey. We knew that physically Luke was ready for this transition because was becoming a confident walker, had long periods of time during the day with a dry diaper, and had predictable bowel movements. We also observed Luke’s behavior: he was beginning to be aware of when his body was making a bowel movement and would point to his bottom and say the word “poop”. He was also more interested in exploring the bathroom and learning the names of the different parts of the toilet.

Why I call it toilet learning -- and not potty training

While potty training is the common term, in Montessori we say "toilet learning" because (unlike a puppy who is being trained through conditioning) toddlers are learning to do a bunch of things at once when they begin to use the bathroom, and these are versatile practical life skills, not just the ability to pee on command!  Toilet learning includes body awareness plus learning how to take pants on and off, use wipes, wash hands, and more. When we teach our kids these skills, we are preparing them to be independent, and therefore boosting their self-confidence. It's a lot bigger than just ditching diapers.

Preparing for the "big day"

The Monti Kids course calls the first day without diapers The Big Day. In the course, it's suggested that you can do a few things to prepare your toddler for the potty ritual before you approach the big day. As we began to unpack boxes and become more settled in our new home, I set up the bathroom for Luke. My goal is for him to do as much of his potty routine independently as possible. We provided Luke with a floor potty, a basket of books, and a basket with wipes, cloth diapers, and underpants. Later I added a basket for Luke’s soiled clothes. He loves to carry it by the handles to his hamper in his bedroom next door.

Introducing a potty routine for an 18-month old

Toddlers love routine! We try to repeat the same sequence of events whenever we visit the bathroom with Luke. Here's what we do:
  • Help him take off his cloth diaper. (Luke isn’t wearing pants inside these days!)
  • Invite him to sit on the potty 
  • Look at a few pages of a book
  • Practice wiping
  • Practice pouring the contents of the potty into the larger toilet and flushing
We do all these steps even though we still haven't switched to underwear. We do look at the underpants and talk about using them soon! Then he chooses one of the cloth diapers we are storing in a bin near his potty and we put them on him. Our bathroom sink is unusually tall so we use a learning tower for Luke to reach to wash his hands. (The Monti Kids Toilet Learning Kit includes a faucet extender which can help solve for this, too!)
faucet extender
Sink extender included in the Montessori Toilet Learning Kit

Supporting bathroom independence -- even at 18 months

Luke loves to turn off the light before we leave the bathroom. We support this because our approach is that he is learning the entire ritual, and turning off the light when you leave the bathroom is part of it! Although we offer him each step of the potty sequence during every bathroom visit, he is not yet participating in every step yet. For some, he still needs assistance. There are steps he enjoys repeating a few times before moving on. For instance, he loves washing his hands and will do so two to three times before he is ready to turn off the water and dry his hands. Repetition is typical of toddlers and it just means they are getting something out of the action. They might be working out a cause-and-effect observation (dropping food from the table and watching it land on the floor anyone?) or they may be getting satisfaction from using their finger strength in a new, more refined way, which is my hunch about Luke's love affair with the light switch. We offer a potty visit many times throughout the day whenever Luke has a transition in his schedule. We go visit the potty:
  • When he wakes up
  • After breakfast
  • After morning walk
  • After morning snack
  • After playtime
  • After lunch
  • When he wakes up from his nap
  • After afternoon snack
  • After some time outside
  • After dinner
As we were beginning to find a rhythm with this new routine, Luke woke up one morning with a fever and runny nose. We found out he had a double ear infection brought on from teething. Needless to say, we weren't able to maintain that same dedication to the potty routine for the next couple of days. So it took another day or two to get back into it. We decided to push back the BIG DAY of no diapers to the end of the following week, offering Luke lots of repetition and consistency in order to set him up for success! Stay tuned for my reflections on life without diapers as we reach the next phase of toilet learning with Luke! Scroll down to see what the Monti Kids Montessori Toilet Learning Kit offers. Purchase includes access to an online course that I helped develop! potty training kit

Montessori Toilet Learning Kit

helps in the transition from diapers to toilet independence $75
  • Floor Potty for independence
  • 8 Illustrated Routine Cards to introduce self-care
  • My Toilet Learning Journey board book
  • Faucet Extender for easy handwashing
  • Cloth Basket for supplies
LEARN MORE 18 Months+

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