Our Gentle, Montessori Inspired Approach to Toilet Learning 12 – 18 months (Stage 1)

An instagram friend asked a little while back if I might share our approach to potty training/toilet learning. It has been a little hectic around here with a second baby on the way and a house move but I’ve finally got around to sharing our approach and our very simple bathroom set up.

First of all, we are not ‘potty training’ in the conventional sense. We started our toilet learning gradually and gently and with a touch of montessori at around 12 months when I introduced a potty to our bathroom. We were already doing stand up nappy changes by this point and the potty came in very handy at minimising mess when changing a particularly dirty nappy, but for the most part she only sat on it occasionally to start with.

Our approach has been pretty simple really, here are some of the steps we have taken towards early toilet learning

  1. We switched back to cloth reusable nappies – cloth nappies can help children notice when they’re wet and therefore a lot of cloth babies, on average, toilet train earlier. We use the ‘Close Parent New Gen V2 Pop in’ in Bamboo
  2. We keep this IKEA LILLA potty in each bathroom. In the main bathroom we also have the TOSSIG children’s toilet seat and the BEKAM step stool. Montessori recommends that you avoid moving the potty around the house so that they associate the bathroom with going to the toilet.
  3. We keep a box next to the potty containing a few favourite books and a toilet roll. I keep a pack of wet wipes, some cloth wipes and nappies on a low shelf.
  4. We keep it consistent. Every time we go up for a nappy change we encourage her to help remove her nappy and then sit down on the potty with her selection of books.
  5. We follow her lead, which means sometimes I remove the nappy, sometimes we’re there for a long time reading each book page for page, sometimes its a quick sit down and then jump back up and sometimes we forgo sitting on the potty all together.
  6. I encourage her to wipe and then I finish with a baby wipe.
  7. We then wash our hands at the sink using the step stool and dry them on a towel (this is of course the best bit, be prepared to repeat the process, 3 times is our cut off)
  8. We are careful not to over praise and we do not use rewards, we just simply ‘say what we see’ in a positive tone i.e. “You sat on your potty” Or “You did a wee wee in your potty”.
  9. We incorporate some nappy free time into our day. We’re lucky that we live in a country with a constant summer and that all our floors are tiled/hardwood. I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but having some nappy free time has really increased her awareness of when she is doing a ‘wee wee’.

We are very much in the early stages, occasionally we catch something in the potty but often we don’t and that’s ok. It is more about creating normality around the use of the potty and building the habit into our everyday routine (which is much easier to do with a child who is under 3 years of age).

Here are a few articles and books I have found useful in shaping our approach to ‘Toilet Learning’

The Timing of Toilet Training: What’s the best potty training age?

Toilet Learning at 1 Year

Toilet Learning Vs. Toilet Training

Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right by Jamie Glowacki

The Gentle Potty Training Book: The calmer, easier approach to toilet training by Sarah Ockwell-Smith

What approach have you taken to toilet learning? What has worked well for you and your child? I’d love to hear your top tips!