20 Month old F. washes a plant
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:
- I’m Wet
- I’m Going
- I Need to Go
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
Around 10 months Andrea started fighting me on diaper changes. All my patience and loving words from Time for a Diaper Change didn’t prevent me from getting kicked on multiple occasions. It wasn’t until I had a huge bruise on my chest about the shape of her foot that I admitted something had to change.
Andrea was able to stand by holding onto furniture by this time. She wasn’t very steady but had been pulling up on everything since 8 months. My Montessori training had said to transition to doing standing diaper changes once the child was able to stand. This embraced the child’s changing development and didn’t continue to put the child in an infantile state that they were physically past. By doing diaper changes while the child is standing the adult sends a strong psychological message that they are affirming the child’s new abilities. I understood Montessori infant/toddler centres did standing diaper changes. But I couldn’t figure out how to actually do a standing diaper change!
I changed my diapering supplies to the bathroom itself in the little cupboard beside the toilet for easy access and put my changing mat on the floor in the bathroom. It was another step towards toilet learning by changing all things elimination to the bathroom. I figured that Andrea would need to hold onto something and the toilet seemed quite logical to me.
I was all set to go! Day 1 – a complete fail! It was an awful day! I was ready to give up. That night I reflected upon Andrea’s reaction. She had been so much happier. And cooperative. So I turned to the internet for more advice. Daicia’s post1 and post2 completely restored my sanity and determination to give it a try for a second day. A huge thank you for these two posts! I was onto Day 2.
Sitting behind Andrea so I could support her if she became unsteady and started to topple over (yes this happened many times), I took off her pants. Pants down, left leg out, right leg out. I would roll up her shirt or if she was wearing a onesie I would unsnap it and snap it over her shoulder. Undo the snaps (or velcro) of her diaper, keeping my arms wrapped around her for stability, and placed it to the side. If it was just a pee it was easy but poops were definitely more difficult. Wipe front to back, lift right leg, wipe, lift left leg, wipe, and another centre wipe for good measure. I wanted to ensure she was completely clean so I laid her down on the changing mat. She was never completely clean. Still to this day I lay her down for one last wipe. She doesn’t fight that last wipe (very cooperative actually) and I feel better knowing there won’t be any poop irritating her. I still don’t know how others do a fully standing diaper change for messy poops. Perhaps it’s easier when the child is steady on their feet and can bend over a bit more. Or when poops are solid logs and don’t get mashed in all the crevices. This solution has worked for us.
She would sit on her potty as I dealt with her soiled diaper. Putting on her diaper wasn’t easy at first but didn’t take too long for me to figure out. Position the diaper on, do up the right side, do up the left side, and “fix” the diaper to ensure it was on properly. Keeping my arms around her for stability was key. She definitely gained a better awareness of the process of pulling pants up and down for diaper changes.
No more fights. Increased awareness for Andrea of the toileting process. Diapering was completely moved to where toileting happens (the bathroom). We were one step closer to toilet learning.
Once Andrea was out of the newborn diapers and into the one size cloth diapers I felt they were gigantic on her! How was she going to learn to roll over with this huge obstacle (her cloth diaper bottom)? Thankfully a friend from my training had given me a bit of a heads up with her observation that cloth diapers may be an obstacle to development. So I had planned to give Andrea lots of diaper free time when she was on her movement mat and had a wool puddle pad underneath the sheet. I ended up putting a pre-fold diaper underneath of her a lot of the time and/or a plastic-backed change mat. I had also planned to start putting Andrea on the potty when she was able to hold her head up.
Despite reading many times that children using cloth diapers get less diaper rash, Andrea was easily prone to getting a diaper rash. Diaper free time was essential to help clear it up. When Andrea was 11 weeks and was having diaper free time she made this odd fussing noise. I checked and nope, she wasn’t wet. A little while later she fussed again and this time she had peed. Later that day the same thing happened: odd fussing noise, dry, but soon she was wet. The light bulb went off in my head that perhaps the odd fussing noise meant that she had to go pee. So again, she made the fussing noise and this time I was prepared with the potty right beside the movement mat. She fussed, I quickly put her on the potty and to my amazement – she peed! I did this a few more times before I became a bit more confident and then moved the potty to the bathroom. Nothing made my heart more full then realizing I had this type of communication with my baby. I really didn’t expect that my infant would communicate with me when she needed to go pee. It blew me away!
I can’t really recall how long this lasted for but it wasn’t for more than a month or so. I don’t know why she stopped making the noise or how I stopped missing her cue signs, but that type of strong communication was lost. It did make a positive impact as she associated the potty for going pee, and the occasional poo. So from then on, every diaper change and before her evening bath I would sit her on the potty. Sometimes she went pee and sometimes she didn’t. Most nights before her bath she would go pee. We kept one potty in the downstairs bathroom and one in the upstairs bathroom. I read Diaper Free Baby to do more EC (Elimination Communication) but I was never super successful at picking up on her signs. I did try to observe for signs of watery/glassy eyes or a sudden stillness or wiggly/fussiness, especially after she ate. We always did a diaper change when she woke up so she had the opportunity to use the potty at these keys times of day. Sometimes we communicated well and a lot of times we didn’t. I really appreciated how the book said that EC isn’t an all or nothing thing. Even a little bit is great.
We did use the cue signs as suggested “psss” for pee and grunting for poo. I’m not sure if either of these helped in reality but it made us as adults feel like we were doing something to encourage her to pee/poo. We chose to not read to her or really engage with her while on the potty. I tried to give her privacy as I like to have while on the toilet. Often I would use the toilet at the same time, which I think has helped. She usually sat there for a few minutes and I would take her off the potty if she became upset about it but I really can’t think of too many times when she has been upset. Recently she has taken to playing with her pants or underwear while on the potty, and sometimes I give her a square of toilet paper. She makes the motions of wiping herself and likes to put the toilet paper into the toilet.
Repetitions are needed to awaken his interest. To create a cycle of relationship. ~Maria Montessori, “What You Should Know About Your Child”
My hope by practising even some EC early on is that Andrea would begin to connect to her bodily sensations and have an awareness of going pee/poo. My hope of introducing the potty in her first few months of life is that she would create a relationship with the potty that this is where to go pee/poo. With many repeated opportunities to practice using the potty during her first year of life, my hope is that when toilet learning did begin that some initial steps would come much more naturally.