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Is your child struggling to master the potty? These 5 takeaways from our panel can help

Kate Sequeira, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Parenting News

Help them learn about their bodies in a playful manner. Draw pictures of the body with them. Explain what it is and why it's happening. It's important to remember your child is absorbing all the information and looking for you to guide them, she added.

Establish a fiber-rich diet early on so that your child can develop bowel regularity. Feed them leafy greens and as well as fruits and vegetables. And make sure they're staying hydrated as well so that the fiber can take effect. It'll help them avoid problems with pooping and constipation when they start potty training.

Find ways to make public bathrooms more comfortable both at school and beyond.

Public bathrooms can be intimidating. Loud noises, bright lights and funny smells can make your child nervous, especially if they deal with sensory processing issues. With the expansion of California's transitional kindergarten, kids are starting school younger and without the same bathroom support they may have had at a preschool.

Smith recommended creating a sensory bag for your child that can include items like sunglasses if your child is sensitive to the bathroom's bright lights, noise-canceling headphones if they're scared of the flush and smelly hand sanitizer that they can spray to mask the bathroom smell. If your child is scared of automatic flushing, you can also cover the automatic flush sensors with a sticky note so as to not catch them by surprise, Smith said.

If your child deals with anxiety or sensory issues, Casares recommends teaching your child to make a "nest" out of toilet paper to cover the toilet seat. As they transition to using a bathroom outside of their home, it might bring your child comfort to have a similar surface to sit on no matter where they go.


If your child needs assistance going to the bathroom at school, parents can request accommodations through a 504 Plan, which dictates how a school can support a student with disabilities in the classroom. The plan can provide extra time in the bathroom or allow for an aide to assist with wiping or in modifying lighting and sounds in the bathroom.

Help your child understand concepts involved with going to the bathroom

Teach them to wipe surfaces around the house to get them to understand that the point of wiping is to clean. They can wipe a counter or a window, for example. Then transition to on-body wiping. You can put soap on their arm in the bath and have them wipe it off, Smith suggested. Once they start wiping themselves, help them learn the movement by wiping with your hand over theirs using either a wet wipe or toilet paper.

These practices will help them develop the fine motor control they need to do it on their own, Smith said. Though the task might seem small, don't forget that it takes lots of coordination, range of motion, strength and balance to perform.


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