15 Month old Andrea helps to prepare asparagus for dinner
At 13 months we have had a big shift in interest and R and P are loving the new activities I have put out for them.
Here is our play area – no more movement mat and mirror (since about 10 months):
I first introduced these activities many months ago with the series of ring stackers I have from Beginning Montessori Materials. They worked for months on just taking the rings off, then finally figured out how to put them back on. Around a year, their hand-eye coordination seemed to improve dramatically and all of a sudden they were able to work with more challenging wooden rings and cubes and take them off AND put them on.
I have the shape puzzles out and they are just starting to get interested in them (as well as other simple ones that are small in size and have larger knobs).
There is a fantastic one by Sapienza that I have in my classroom and it is honestly one of the children’s favourite activities for years. I tried to find one similar locally and settled on the Melissa and Doug 4 ball tower and took away the hammer. I wanted the boys to learn to exert effort with the strength of their own hand and showed them how to push the balls through.
Slotted Box with Chips:
I had an old box from Michaels Craft Store that I made into a make-shift slotted box by pulling off one of the wooden slabs and they love it. I also got the wooden chips from Michaels, and have 3 circular ones and 3 square ones. Similar to the other activities, I do always show the boys how to do the activity first and then invite them to have a turn. This is a great one for repetition and object permanence.
I have the Nienhuis one in my classroom and again, wanted to find one locally for my boys at home. I settled on the Hape three shape sorter as I wanted it to be not too overwhelming with too many shapes, as well as I wanted them to be successful getting them out by themselves. I wished the lid had a hinge but they figured out how to take it off, take out a shape (seem to only take one out at a time), put back the lid and then attempt to put the shape in. If I am sitting with them I remove the lid, take out all the shapes, and then put the lid back on for them.
Opening and Closing Containers:
Another favourite! I collect bottles always when I am on vacation from hotels, etc., then wash them out and use them in my classroom and now at home. I put together a collection of about 10 different ones (also use the travel containers you can buy at any local drugstore) in a basket and show how to ‘turn’ the lids on and off. They definitely love this one (haven’t quite figured out how to turn their wrists yet) but once the lid is off, like putting it on and off.
Basket of Animals:
Since R and P seem to be craving language and want to know the names of EVERYTHING, this basket seems like a necessary activity. The difference in this is that when we introduce language objects, an adult always should be present to offer the child the right names. So it is very much an adult directed activity (naming each animal, letting them hold it, and then asking for certain ones “Where is the duck?”). This also has been a great activity as they love to take things out and put things in baskets/cupboards/drawers/etc. so we always put the animals back in the basket when done.
Basket of Balls:
This basket is a saviour! Not only are they loving to throw and chase after these balls, but it gives them an outlet as they love to throw. Their mind is now telling them, I can control my body. I know how to grasp, pick up, etc and now I want to exert my effort. In the beginning they don’t know the boundaries of what is ok to throw and what isn’t, so this is where we need to be the positive role model. Many times a day I say things such as, “The bottle is not for throwing. We throw the balls.” And then I pass them a ball to throw. I am not joking that the last time I said that, P went HIMSELF to the basket, picked up his own ball, threw it, then smiled at me! They understand SO much without being able to speak and we must remember this.
We cannot forget the books! The boys LOVE their basket of books (which I rotate every few weeks) and choose to look at these often. They take one from the basket, put it in front of them and know how to flip through the pages. The majority of the time they will pick up a book at pass it to me with an “aadddaa?” Meaning, read this to me please?
We have another collection of more ‘story-type’ books in their bedroom that we read before naptime and bedtime (both R and P get to pick one that he would like me to read).
What’s on your play shelf that your child really enjoys right now?
Yvonne’s daughter’s were busy last weekend doing a special art project together.
4 year old E. uses her knowledge from school to make the shapes of the continents using colour dye. Can you recognize South America and Asia?
Yvonne gives a presentation to 2 year old H. on how to use a spray bottle to spread the colour dye.
A lovely tye-dye shirt for Father’s day!
I hope you’ve enjoyed following our journey of toilet learning this week from Cloth Diapers and EC, to Standing Diaper Changes and Underwear. To wrap up the week I wanted to share some of the reasons why I chose this route for toilet learning.
Power struggles are more common when toilet learning/training occurs at age 2-3. Ever heard of the “terrible two’s?” It’s common that two year olds have an increased desire to make their own choices and assert themselves. I want to take toileting out of the equation while Andrea goes through this. There will be more than enough other ways for her to assert herself and things to tantrum about. I hope that toileting is just a natural part of the day and that by age 2/3 Andrea will be ready for more responsibility and control of her own toileting.
Sensitive Period for Toileting
“The myelination of neurons necessary to ready the body for control of the bowels and bladder is completed by the time children are approximately twelve months old.” ~Montessori From the Start.
Between 12-18 Months children go through a Sensitive Period for toileting. This means that a child is gaining an awareness of their toileting needs during this time and if we take the steps to accommodate this developing awareness, then a child will more naturally learn to use the toilet than if we take efforts at a later stage. From my experience working with children at my preschool and seeing various Sensitive Periods in action, when children are in a Sensitive Period they have intense interest and learn the concept quite quickly. I want to devote my time to aiding my daughter during this Sensitive Period for toileting. I believe it will be more of a natural, gradual development towards toileting independence.
Decreased Constipation and UTIs
Many children who have joined my preschool and have recently been toilet trained experience constipation. While I’m not a medical doctor, I wonder if holding in poo (or pee) is related to the psychological development of asserting control which is typically stronger at age 2/3. (I also know it is important to keep up fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and whole-grains in a child’s diet to decrease constipation at any age) Dr. Jill Lekovic in Diaper Free Before 3 indicates that earlier toilet learning decreases the risks for urinary tract infections and constipation. So does Gwen Dewar at Parenting Science.
Wiping a poopy bottom is not fun. Wiping a bottom that has pooped in the potty, not so bad. While the process may take longer than 3 days, typically the child who begins earlier is out of diapers at a younger age. Decreased time and money spent on (washing) diapers sounds good to me. There are also many who believe the increased use of disposable diapers has led to a later age for toilet training, when historically, and currently internationally, many children stop using diapers before age 2. I think that wearing underwear and eliminating in a toilet is more comfortable than diapers and I want to help my daughter experience greater comfort by being in underwear sooner.
Because a Child is Capable of it
I want to demonstrate to my daughter that I have faith in her abilities. I have heard from so many friends that their children, and many Montessori toddler teachers that the children in their programs, are successful wearing underwear by age 2. My early EC joys lead me to believe that my daughter does have the capacity to connect to her elimination and I want to support her in this.
“If parents remember that their mission is not a child in “dry pants” but a child successful in her formation of independence, coordinated movement, language, and will, they will know that their hard work on their child’s behalf is worth the effort.” ~Montessori From the Start
Nature furnishes special protection for the young. For instance, the child is born amidst love; his very origin is by love, and once born he is surrounded by the love of father and mother, a love which is not artificial or enforced by reason. ~Maria Montessori, Education For a New World
And multiple trips to the potty. And multiple times of wet underwear every day. And some amazing joys of a toddler learning to use the potty.
I seem to get the raised eyebrow when I mention that Andrea is wearing underwear and using the potty. “How old is she??? ” I’m asked incredulously. She is currently 15 months. When she was 12 months I started putting her in underwear at home during awake times. Why would I put my “baby” in underwear? She’s just going to go pee in it!
At first yes. As I mentioned in Cloth Diapers – Go For It! one of my reasons for using cloth diapers was so that Andrea would learn wet/dry. I’m not really sure this worked for her as she never fussed with a wet diaper. So my hope was that by wearing underwear Andrea would start the process of learning:
Wet underwear certainly helps the child learn that they have gone pee/poo. My attempts at EC (Elimination Communication) didn’t pan out as successfully as I envisioned, despite gleaning all the little tips from my Montessori AtoI trainers of timing and glassy eyes. I figured if I was to step up my ability to help Andrea be successful at getting to the potty in time, I needed to figure out when she was naturally going pee. With wet underwear, this would certainly help me. I also wanted to catch the Sensitive Period for toileting (12-18 Months). I know from my Montessori training that underwear would aid in her motor development by not having a bulky diaper to impede her movement. It is recommended to switch to underwear once the child is crawling.
To start off I read Diaper Free Before 3 (about 3 times!). Super helpful book! I purchased some training underwear. I put extra cloths downstairs to clean up any extra messes that might occur. I already had a potty upstairs and downstairs that she was fairly comfortable using. I added some low stools for her to sit on so that she could become more involved in the undressing/dressing. We were ready to go!
I was already putting her on the potty at every diaper change so I just increased the number of times a day I was offering her an opportunity to use it. “It’s time to use the potty.” (I sign potty and say it verbally) I started putting her on the potty upon waking, before & after eating, before going out & upon the return home, and before bath. Or if we were at home for a long time I would keep an eye on her about 45 minutes – 1 hour after she had previously used the potty. By wearing underwear I quickly figured out some nuances. After breakfast means right away, do not even attempt to clean up. After lunch means after cleaning up and playing for a bit (about 15 minutes later). I learned that she doesn’t urinate a whole lot in the mornings but late afternoons/evenings she urinates quite frequently so I need to offer her more opportunities.
I was definitely gaining an awareness of her toileting needs by using underwear. I keep a neutral attitude towards wet pants. “Oh we need to go potty and change your wet pants.” I keep a neutral attitude, as much as possible, when she pees/poops or doesn’t pee/poop on the potty. “Oh you went pee.” “No pee this time.” Of course there are times when there have been a lot of wet pants that day and when she does go I’ll be so happy so I share with her “I am so proud of you for peeing in the potty.” I don’t give her any rewards or praise for going. I don’t give her any punishments, disappointment, or shame her for soiling her pants, nor do I refer to it as “having an accident.” I may give her encouragement such as “It must feel so good to have dry underwear and go pee in the potty.” As much as possible, I keep toilet learning matter-of-fact.
As I’ve previously shared, spending time together doing diaper changes is an important part of our bond. Changing that to toileting hasn’t been too big of an issue. We are in the washroom a whole lot more frequently. This route of toilet learning is exactly that – learning. It doesn’t happen overnight and I committed to spending a lot of time with Andrea to help her in this process. I really feel this is an important part of her development and giving her my time is important. I also feel like it is modeling that spending time on toileting is important. I don’t want her to ignore any urges she has to eliminate. I want to help her become successful at getting to the potty/toilet when she needs to eliminate.
Struggles. Yes underwear on my 1 year old has been filled with struggles. 6 wet sets of underwear and pants some days. Poopy underwear. More poopy underwear. [I'm quite thankful for purchasing Blueberry Trainers which not only contained the poop (including a getting over a gastrointestinal illness poop) but also have been easy to clean. Oh and cute, gender neutral patterns too! Because they have cotton interior and exterior, they allow the child to feel the wetness but due to the PUL in the middle, there are never any puddles.] There have been set-backs such as illness, immunizations, and a developmental leap. I figured there would be a set-back once she learned to walk (and there still may be as she’s not walking yet) but I didn’t think it would come when she learned to stand independently. A sudden resistance to using the potty was a surprise but by focusing on our relationship for a few days instead of focusing on the potty, we were back on track. There are constant surprises with this toilet learning journey.
“It is clear that toilet awareness is more than a matter of “dry pants” for the child.” ~Montessori From the Start
Surprises – and joys – that keep me motivated to stay on track. Andrea’s pooping habits have changed. Previously I would change a poopy diaper first thing in the morning. Occasionally I still do but it is becoming more frequent that she poops, most often in the potty, after breakfast. I’m thrilled that she seems to be gaining an awareness of her toileting needs. While not a lot, there have been a few times where she will come to me and fuss until I take her to the potty and then she immediately has a big pee. This is a huge step towards understanding her own urges to eliminate and I am so excited that she is gaining this awareness. There have also been days when her underwear has stayed dry all day. I think this is a combination of Andrea understanding that she is offered the potty at fairly regular intervals so will hold it or use it at those times and that I’ve figured out when she naturally needs to go. Long-term success is still a ways off but the short-term successes keep my heart warm that we’re on the right track. A huge joy for me is when Andrea pulls up her underwear. It is just adorable!
“The child’s nature is to aim directly and energetically at functional independence. Development takes the form of a drive toward an ever-greater independence. It is like an arrow released from the bow, which flies straight, swift and sure. …. While he is developing, he perfects himself and overcomes every obstacle that he finds in his path.
~ Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind
Want to read more? Check out Melissa’s journey with her daughter at Vibrant Wanderings