Aug 11

Potty Training Challenge: Daycare (Part 1)

Potty Training DaycareYou might be hoping that your child’s daycare / nanny / babysitter will potty train your child for you.  On the other hand, you might be terrified that they will mess things up and cause setbacks in your training!


This blog is the first in a two-part series about daycare.  Part 1 is about working with your caregiver, and part 2 contains some tips to help prepare your child. 

Children need structure and stability.  They need expectations, consequences and rewards to be predictable.  You can’t change the rules of the game throughout the day or week and expect them to keep playing along.  Consistency is the key to any potty training plan, and it’s hard enough to be consistent when just one person is doing all the work.  Throwing a partner into the mix complicates things, and adding an outside care provider is an even bigger challenge.

In order to conquer the challenge of potty training a child who attends daycare, you will need proactive communication, and you will need to advocate for your child’s needs.

My recommendations here assume that you have laid some potty training groundwork before your child goes to daycare.  The common scenario is that the child has some successes but also still has lots of accidents and isn’t consistent yet.


Working With Your Caregiver

Before you begin potty training, speak with your care provider about their normal training approach.  Why?

  • Their experiences might help you improve your plan, or
  • Their policies might cause you to tweak your plan

If your son or daughter attends a daycare center, there are likely several more children in their classroom and the policies for training may be firm.  Don’t expect them to have time for one-on-one training with your children when there could be 10 or 15 other children to keep an eye on.

If you have a nanny or use friends or grandparents for care, things might be a bit more casual and flexible around potty training.  You may have more opportunity to influence things than with a formal daycare center.  Or you might find just the opposite, because someone else’s furniture or carpet are at risk of being peed on!

In either case, if you firmly disagree with their training approach or policies, look for areas where they might be willing to compromise.  Two important areas where I recommend a discussion:


1.  If Your Caregiver Requires Disposable Training Pants:

Some caregivers have a policy of requiring diapers or disposable training pants until a child is accident-free.  Some may allow underwear until 1 or 2 accidents and then revert to diapers or pull-ups.  Others may require diapers or pull-ups until the child can reliably initiate their potty trips on their own.  There are so many variations!

Potty Training - ProductsYou need to know that this may delay your child’s potty training progress, or cause regressions.  Read my thoughts on disposable training pants HERE.  A lot of parents who come to me needing help are trying to undo problems caused by disposable training pants.

I recognize that accidents are not sanitary for a caregiver that watches several children at a time, and bare bum or underwear may not be appropriate.  There are three alternatives that represent a good compromise (presented in order of preference):

  1. Cloth training pants.  My favorite cloth training pants and other potty training products can be found HERE.
  2. Underwear with plastic underpants over top
  3. Underwear with disposable training pants over top


All of these alternatives will allow your child to feel wet, and are therefore better than using disposable training pants or diapers, which wick away moisture so fast that children barely even know if they have peed.  When children don’t feel wet, or caregivers don’t notice small leaks, it gives permission for the child to keep doing what they are doing.  Many children will realize they’ve gotten away with doing what they’re not supposed to do, and this can derail training rather quickly as the potty is suddenly seen as optional.

If your caregiver allows underwear be sure to take 5-8 pairs to school each day along with lots of extra clothes, and even plastic bags for dirty clothes to be used in the event of an accident.


2.  If Your Caregiver Uses Scheduled Potty Trips:

Some caregivers have a strict schedule of putting children on the potty every 30/45/60 minutes, which is usually an attempt to prevent accidents.  This doesn’t teach the child that they are supposed to be listening to their body, and it keeps the bladder empty so that they don’t independently recognize the signs of needing to go.  In turn, this can result in a child that struggles to initiate their own potty needs.  I recently wrote a blog about this HERE.


If your child is easygoing, you might be okay.  If your child is persistent and independent, this approach can create stubbornness, tantrums and tears.  Putting a child on the potty when they don’t have to go is a recipe for the potty to become a battleground.  .

I would recommend that at daycare’s set intervals, the child be given a “dry check”.  This involves asking the child if they are dry, validating checking their underwear, and congratulating them if they are in fact dry.  If you are using stickers or treat rewards, follow with a reward.  This can be followed by a reminder to “let me know when you need to use the potty”.  I’m not against the child being prompted to potty before nap time or before an outing, but these types of prompts or forced potty visits should be minimized.


Ensure Your Approach is Clear

Let your caregiver know exactly what your potty training plan is.  I recommend making some notes and actually handing them to your caregiver.  Questions that should be answered in your notes:

  • Have you been doing a bare bum approach, using underwear, using pull-ups, etc?  What is the previously agreed approach for daycare based on your prior conversations?
  • Have you started training for naps/nights yet?  If you child has naps at daycare, be sure to cover how you would like naps should be handled.
  • What do you say and do for successes and accidents?  Is there a reward system in place (stickers, treats)?  Consistency at daycare would be very beneficial for the child.
  • How well has your child been doing?  How long does he/she generally go between potty trips?  If you’d like your child to be prompted      (reminded) about the potty, or for dry checks to be done, what is the appropriate time interval based on your experience so far?


potty training daycareTry not to present this in a way that suggests you know better how to potty train a child, or in a way that conveys an assumption that the caregiver will do things “wrong”.  I recommend saying something like “We started training on Friday and <insert child’s name>> is making good progress.  Consistency between home and daycare will ensure that <insert child’s name> doesn’t get confused.  I know how busy things are during the day so I thought I’d jot down a few notes for your convenience.”


The above advice relates to the dialogue you should have with your daycare.  Let me know what you think, and if you have any other great advice for parents that I’ve missed.  Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog which will have some tips to prepare your child for potty training at daycare.



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