A Conversation: Diaper Changing Procedures, Management and Potty Training


Vera:    Hey, Teri. Today’s training on diapering and potty training was so thorough and so informative. I feel like anyone watching knows exactly what to do now to create a safe environment for babies and toddlers, and also just how to follow protocol., but there, there’s definitely more to diapering [00:00:30] and potty training, and I was hoping we could get to that today. And that’s building that foundation for oral language. 

Teri:    Absolutely. And I think before we even dive into that, I’m gonna mention the importance of fantastic communication with your assistants, or if you are an assistant with your lead teacher or co-teacher. And so knowing we’re talking about our infant and toddler rooms, we’re gonna have lower ratios and we’d like to think hopefully most will have a support assistant in their classrooms. We’ll still talk [00:01:00] about the times when there’s a staffing shortage and what to do when it’s just yoU, but if you have someone in the room with you, it is so important that you are able to get to the point where you’re working as a well-oiled machine together, especially in those busy diapering times when you need to change maybe 12, 13, you know, maybe only six, if you’re lucky, but several diapers in a row. 

Teri:    And if they’re poop, diapers, you know yep. Even extra [00:01:30] special. Right? And so we need to be able to first just be in communication. Who’s doing what, who is crowd control, who will be doing the diapering? Are you going to split that? Are you gonna alternate? How do you wanna work on that division of labor? And then also be really honest with each other, what is the person not doing that you need them to do? What do you want to be done differently that would make it less stressful? Where do you each need to be? And who’s going to be [00:02:00] covering what areas of the room, who are you gonna look out for? You might have some biters in our older toddler room. Um, you might have some crawlers that we need to keep their little fingers safe while they’re crawling around. 

Teri:    There’s so many tiny aspects that if there’s any sort of tension, distrust,  drama, any of those things that can creep into that co-teaching relationship, you’ve gotta get that settled or, you know, or starting off all of this conversation on how we can best diaper and potty train is gonna be [00:02:30] all for naught if we don’t work that out. So courageous conversations, that’s where it’s at. Bottom line: have the conversation and say what you need done differently. It might be a little bit awkward, but put it out there. 

Vera:    One of the things that I always had to remind myself is even though I’m changing a diaper [00:03:00] or helping a child through potty training, I’m still a teacher. 

Teri:    Right? 

Vera:    Right. So I have to take advantage of those teachable moments. Um, and I think that’s a great time to have those one-on-one conversations with children. It’s a great time to, as we said, develop that foundation for language, but also to build on that relationship between you and the child. So what can you add about the importance of oral language right early on? 

Teri:    Well it’s everything. And so diapering [00:03:30] is, it’s just the perfect time to be working on that with a child. Like you said, you’ve gotta build that sense of security, showing them that you are responding to their cues. If they’re crying, if they’re making any sort of signaling to you that you are recognizing it, you realize what they’re communicating. Maybe you have to guess a little bit, are they hungry? Are they gassy? Are they overstimulated? There might be some guesswork, but you are attending to them and you’re responding to them. And that is giving them that [00:04:00] baseline of social skill development. It’s telling them that they are worthy of being noticed and that what they’re putting out there is being well received. And so first you’re laying that groundwork and foundation to be their security in the classroom and that love that they need, they need to feel that warm, nurturing love. 

Teri:    So regardless of what’s happened in our day, rough morning at home, maybe issues within your school, issues with an assistant, whatever it is that’s happening, it’s gotta be checked at the [00:04:30] door. So you’re at that warm, nurturing, loving presence when you walk into the room. The babies really need that. They can sense that and sense the whole room can change when you have that sort of a disposition. Then when you have that, we have the baby diapering, right? You have them on the changing table. That’s where we really need to focus eye contact. So look in their eyes, recognize what they’re signaling. So maybe you have a six week, eight week old baby. They’ve just started with you. Maybe you [00:05:00] have a toddler who’s almost ready to transition into the potty. No matter what, you want to be making eye contact and laying all the foundation skills that need to be there for oral language development. And I know you have a lot of experience with oral language. So let’s talk about what those skills are and what we can be doing with that child. 

Vera:    So it doesn’t take very long. The great thing is you can build a wonderful foundation for oral language with just small, you know, short conversations throughout the day. 

Teri:    How do you talk to a baby? [00:05:30] Great question. Great question. So a baby isn’t gonna talk back to you. Many of them might even sleep through a diaper change, who knows. But I think that even though they’re not ready to take turns and have a full back and forth conversation with you, you can still provide language for the things that are happening during your interaction. So some of the terms that many teachers might be familiar with are self talk and parallel talk. And I think these are really ideal to start off with when you’re working with infants, because [00:06:00] self-talk and parallel talk are just kind of narrating, right? It’s really just applying language to the actions that are happening. So here’s some examples of self-talk: you are telling the baby what it is that you’re doing while you’re changing the diaper. Like it might be something simple, like I’m reaching in now for the wipes and I’m going to lift you up and clean you. You know, you can say something really simple and cute. The baby may respond or may not respond at [00:06:30] all. Just keep talking.Vera:    And then as the infants get a little bit older and start to kind of share some eye contact with you, maybe they coo and they make a sound. Then you might start to practice a little bit of that back and forth, or even if they display some type of nonverbal kind of communication with you. You take that as an opportunity to say, oh, look at you. You’re curious about this. Or, you know, and just find a way to just kind of begin that back and forth. Right. Parallel talk is just a wonderful way of describing what the child is doing, or the infant is doing as you’re changing. So again, just putting language to the actions. 

Vera:    So those are simple things that can happen all the time. I think that if it doesn’t seem routine or natural for a caregiver to introduce self-talk [00:07:30] and parallel talk, you can always create what I like to call conversation starters, or just sentence starters or things that just kind of prompt you to start a quick little conversation. You could laminate them. You could, um, keep them in the little, a clear pocket chart or something and kind of place those on the walls, around your changing area, that way they’re readily available. And you can start a quick conversation even when you don’t have that much time because there are another six or seven kids that need to be changed next in line. So it has to be quick. But I think you said it beautifully. It also has to be meaningful. Right? Think about a diaper changing experience from the eyes of a child as I’m changing a baby. If I’m looking at my caregiver, is she smiling at me? Is she using a kind and compassionate voice? You know, is she asking me questions? Does she look like she really enjoys changing my diaper? Or is she yelling at me because what I ate this morning smells [00:08:30] terrible?  

Teri:    Often, often telling me, oh you’re so stinky 

Vera:    Like I think sometimes we, you, you hear that and it’s like, no, no this is, we want to be nurturing. You’re wearing a really important hat right now. So, we want to etach.

Teri:    Yeah. That’s definitely teaching and exposing them to new vocabulary. They haven’t heard. But exactly. We can also [00:09:00] talk about body parts. Like, oh look one, two. I see you have two ears. Exactly. You know, you have two eyes and oh your eyes are so big today or, oh they seem so sleepy today. Or go through what color they’re wearing. Talk about what they just did. Maybe you just had a little story time with all the babies or read a book together. 

Vera:    And that pairs up nicely with the older infants, the ones that are able to sit up a little bit more, they’re a little bit more engaged in the diaper, [00:09:30] changing activity themselves. You can definitely point out colors and shapes and start to count numbers and all the things that you’re doing during carpet time. Right. You’re just, you’re bringing that all back into your conversation. So again, it’s simple. It’s a good way to start if you’re not already doing that 

Teri:    Now I’m gonna break it down. Okay, so what is your best advice for someone? Maybe there’s a staffing situation at the school. Maybethere is a call out [00:10:00] or maybe there’s just low numbers and so they’re at ratio, but right at ratio and it’s just you and the babies and you need to change some diapers. And so you’ve got the baby on your table, and you have others out on the carpet. Or maybe you have a brand new assistant , but it’s their first day on the job and they’re just observing and aren’t really able to do as much help and support as you need. How should we best handle that situation? Especially if you have some mobile kids, [00:10:30] you have walkers, you have crawlers, It just takes a split second to have some that are pulling up. You have a couple biters. You have some aggressors that are gonna go hit and pull hair, and you’re responsible for them and for everyone’s safety. It’s probably one of the most stressful feelings.. So you can find yourself in an infant toddler room- what are some ways to handle that in the training. What are some additional things that we could keep in mind? 

Vera:    In case that was missed in the training, a busy box can be filled with anything that you have in your classroom that you think is novel, new and exciting that you can pull out that will capture their attention for the few moments that you need to step away and take care of the baby. So again, if it’s you, or if you are lucky enough to have an assistant, you know, be sure that they know where that busy box is and pull it out and place it out on the floor and allow the [00:11:30] children to explore. 

Teri:    And I think probably have more than one. It’s not gonna remain new and novel if you’re pulling it out multiple times. 

Vera:    So have a couple different themed busy boxes available to coincide with whatever your monthly or weekly concept is or your color of the week. You know, you could put things, objects in the box that match your color of the week or numbers if you’re working on a specific number. So you can get as creative as you’d like, and [00:12:00]  have as many different samples, but also think about a bubble machine or a coloring and writing type of activity. Something that could keep them busy for minutes on end. Right. So you could completely attend to the infant or you know, that toddler that you are changing and then be able to get right back to the group. 

Teri:    Right. And keep their hands busy. That’s what we want.

Vera:    Keep the aggressive behaviors from playing out. <laugh> 

Teri:    So what I’ve seen that works really well is coloring and writing activities. It’spretty cost effective. Most schools will have rolls of butcher paper and whatever the storage closet. Taking a large sheet of butcher paper, ANDspreading that out on the biggest space as you can on the floor and using painters tape or whatever your school will permit to adhere that to the ground and giving the kids some big fat toddler crayons, so they can make some scribbles or if you have time and [00:13:00] you can take a marker and make a little squiggle path so that they can roll some cars on it. You run into some bumping sometimes, you know, they’re bumping cars on each other, but that’s to be expected. Yeah. So that’s just a few additional ideas to keep those others busy. 

Vera:    Exactly. And those are great ideas. 

Teri:    So potty training’s hard. Let’s talk about scheduling. What are some ways that we can make that a little bit easier on ourselves? 

Vera:    I think that’s really important. I [00:13:30] would say roughly every two hours or so you would probably want to provide toddlers with an opportunity to try at least to use the toilet. So when you’re working on your schedule, depending on the size of your class, I think you need to be sure to put that in often. So if you have a small group of students, you could probably schedule every two hours. If you have a larger group, you might wanna split them up into group A [00:14:00] and group B. So that every hour on the hour one group is going . That makes it a little bit easier. Maybe you could lead your group through the toilet training and the hand washing while the assistant is working with the other group on the carpet. In either one of those situations, I think it’s really important to, again, remember that language and literacy development can be happening during those times too, even though it’s a very important transition and [00:14:30] we are talking about toilet training, I think sneaking that literacy in there is really important. So have activities available that will promote or foster a language in literacy development. So books are a really great idea, there are so many great  great potty time books. There’s so many. 

Vera:    And you could have several book baskets ready to go, one on the carpet, getting group B, ready to transition into the restroom. And then you could also have one readily available for those that are actively practicing, sitting, trying [00:15:00] to use the bathroom. Also, hand washing songs. There’s all kinds of great ways to help children hear the different sounds of language and play with the sounds of language in getting ready to use the restroom. So I think those are just really simple ways. There is no right or wrong schedule. I mean, one classroom might do it a little bit differently than another. And I think just like anything else, it’s the art of modifying until you find what really works best for you and your students. 

Teri:    And I think it’s [00:15:30] so important that we keep those realistic expectations on child development. There’s not one age. If you’re a teacher who says, you know, every year in January is when I do my potty training and you’re going to get your whole class potty trained in the month of January. That’s a fantastic goal. It’s a fantastic goal. But if you have some late bloomers, not everyone is ready at the same time. And there isn’t a magical age that works. Some children truly aren’t ready to start until age three, which seems really late to all of us in the industry. [00:16:00] But realistically, nothing good comes with starting them earlier. If they’re not showing signs, if they’re not ready, then rushing, putting that extra pressure, the stress, the frustration that will come when their body physically isn’t ready, you’re not gonna get anywhere. It could even cause them to push back and regress. 

Vera:    Exactly. I’m glad you brought that up. That’s well said. So many children have fears of using the bathroom and that [00:16:30] holds them back. And it doesn’t matter how much you try to reason with them or how many rewards or toys. When they’re not ready, they’re just not ready. And so that can be frustrating to a parent and especially to a caregiver who has that goal, that they want all of the class to be ready to take part in self care and go to the restroom on their own. So be patient and be kind. 

Teri:    Talk to me a little bit [00:17:00] about the fears.. Some of the things that they’re scared of. It’s real, they’re scared. The toilet’s scary. It’s loud. If you have a child who has some sensory processing issues the toilet flushing can hurt their ears as they walk in. They don’t know if they’ve been exposed to automatic flushing toilets. The toilet is a big thing that’s just gonna eat them and swallow them down. 

Vera:    I think that’s a big one [00:17:30] with all the automatic flushing that seems to be a trigger for a lot of fears. And then you have another example of a student that I had when I was working in a multi-age classroom and he was terrified, terrified that just the slightest drop of one little nugget would cause water to splash him from the toilet bowl. And it was enough to literally cause him to hold it in. Right. He never wanted to go only [00:18:00] when he got home, when he had the comfort of being able to put a diaper on. So, you know, you find people that have experienced this with their students and their children.

Teri:    So, and that’s something we need to really be on the lookout for, because we see when kids start holding it in preschool is the time when that habit develops. And that’s actually a very common habit, especially in boys. So for whatever reason, there’s a fear. Maybe they’re just a little defiant. They don’t want to necessarily go. When they’re told to go try whatever is happening in their little minds. [00:18:30] Sometimes they don’t have the language skills to articulate that and express that appropriately, but they begin to hold it in. They’re not gonna go at school for whatever reason. And if it’s not caught and we don’t work through that with them, that can stay throughout preschool. It can follow them into, you know, kindergarten. And that’s when we start to see some actual health outcomes that come about. So there’ll be stomach cramping. They also get really grouchy when they’re constipated. And so they’re not fun to be around at home. It’s something that we need to be on the lookout for in the preschool room, because if that’s not identified and caught, there can be actual damage. They can damage their bladder. They can develop a condition called in Capsis with awful side effects that come from stretched out intestines. They can have some poop accidents when they’re in fourth, fifth grade, which is humiliating. And it takes a lot of medical intervention to overcome that. [00:19:30] And so when you look at these long term health outcomes, that can come from a simple, you know, act of just holding it in, we really need to be on the lookout. So just identifying constipation, if we see it looking for the little signs of that, which surprisingly could be frequent urination. 

Teri:    So someone who’s going pee a lot is something you wanna have on your radar. It’s really important that we’re looking for those things and also alerting parents, because I know when my own children were [00:20:00] in preschool, I did not have this on my radar and didn’t know to be looking for things like this. And so I think a lot of parents don’t, it’s not something that’s talked about. So use the platform you have with your families to give that. And that gives, you know, that brings up parent communication. How important is that in the whole potty journey process? Very important. So talk to me about some things that you’ve done to keep your parents in the loop, and you’re gonna find the best success when you’re on the same page. So what strategies [00:20:30] have worked? 

Vera:    What’s really important to remember is that you and the parents are now a team. So if you begin to observe signs that their child is ready to start potty training, you need to be very open with them and communicate that with them. And then be sure from that point on that you all are communicating regularly. So if the child is practicing at home, you need to also know if the child is using a pull up. You need to also know that as well. I think that’s really important, but so you wanna make sure that home and school, you know, that there’s a nice bridge.And so that whatever the child’s doing, whatever bathroom practices there are, that are happening at home, you wanna also try to incorporate those at school so that the child is comfortable. Um, I think it’s important too, to remember that now we need to start changing our kind of our mindset about the way we dress our child. If we know that he or she needs to take off their clothes very quickly, quickly to use the bathroom, we wanna be sure that we’re using things that are easy to pull up like [00:21:30] leggings and not things that have lots of zippers or buttons. Vera:    They have a hard time getting new things off. So we definitely wanna set them up for success. We want this to be a really easy time for them because a couple of bad experiences is all it takes to set that child back and they regress. And they turn and they start to develop those fears or they feel ashamed. And then there goes any progress we may have made right. So communication is really key. 

Teri:    I think that’s good. And also, [00:22:00] just put out there in general for families, whether it’s through your email, through a newsletter at the very beginning of this process, and just say, you know, it’s coming, it could be this month. It could be a couple months depending on how you approach it in your own class, if it’s individualized or the group as a whole. But please, please stay in communication. If you go take that big trip to the store where they pick out their fun, big girl, big boy underwear, let the teacher know. I wanna know about that so we can celebrate it. And we can have potty parties [00:22:30] in class. Whenever someone actually goes, the whole class celebrates. And it’s a good team builder for the group as a whole. 

Teri:    Along the same lines, you can use your platform with the parents to just give them tips. You do this every year with so many kids. they don’t know, especially if it’s their first child. What worked with one child might not work with the others. So send out tips in your newsletter. Say, Hey, this is what we’re working on. [00:23:00] If you could talk about this at home, if they could practice with their stuffed animals at home, have them, if they’re feeling really hesitant, have them sit on a potty, um, read books, get some books at home, but share those tips with them. And then also be very, very aware of how you talk about this at pick up and drop off because the child will likely be listening and watching, even if they have their back turned and they don’t appear to be, they are. Teri:    Yeah. And it’s body language. We’ve talked about this in other trainings, you know, it’s [00:23:30] such a huge percentage of our communication. And so even if you say the right thing, but your tone is a little frustrated or aggravated that, Ugh, they had another accident or here’s this bag, you know, here’s the, what clothes, that type of thing. The child’s gonna pick up on that. So just keep it simple, easy, almost as if it’s expected. Like, oh, we had an accident today. Here’s the clothes. She went ahead and tried again. We had some success later or not a big deal. We’ll try again tomorrow. Just a simple matter of fact, you [00:24:00] know, and just be aware of how you’re communicating and always, always praise find a way to praise the child.

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