Why we chose the Montessori Method + How we knew Temple was ready
Temple attends a half-day daily Montessori program that we absolutely love! She started at 18-months, so she’s been going for about six months now. If you aren’t familiar with Montessori and would like to learn more, I recommend this book to get started and learn more about their methods of learning. We chose her particular school after touring a few places and ultimately falling in love with the class environment, schedule, approach to healthy eating, and their style of learning. I especially love how they promote independence and responsibility. Temple has always been outgoing, but her personality really blossomed since starting school. She is extremely verbal and learns something new every day! She has two teachers and one speaks only Spanish to the kids, which was a huge selling point for us! Temple is soaking it all up like a little sponge.
Her “Class Guide” (aka teacher) told us at the start that she would let us know when Temple started exhibiting signs that she was ready for potty training. In the Montessori environment they actually refer to it as “toilet training,” but you get the gist! There are kids as old as three in Temple’s class, so she is exposed to potty training every day. When Temple needed a diaper change at school prior to potty training (she was wearing pull-ups) her teachers changed her standing up. This is a “pre-toilet training method” that gets the child involved in the changing, and making them aware of the process (as opposed to them lying down and you doing all the work). Her guide told me to do this at home too – we started at about 18-19 months old. It’s definitely more difficult with diapers and a more ideal trick to start when pull-ups are introduced. It’s truly as easy as asking your kiddo for help with pulling up their fresh pull-up. It’s all about PARTICIPATION! Montessori teaches you about how children have a natural desire to learn. You can take the same approach to changing clothes, too. They will grow to really enjoy this process instead of getting antsy and throwing a fit.
As parents, it’s much easier to continue doing everything for our kids instead of engaging them in the process, whether that be dressing them, cleaning up after them, etc. However, the Montessori approach aims to get kids involved in everyday tasks. In Montessori, we call this “practical life.” These simple one step activities that you can begin around 12-18 months. Then, you can increase the difficulty as they age. This book gives some amazing at-home activites by age to start incorporating your child in. Things like taking dirty clothes to the hamper, putting dishes in the sink after dinner, adding milk to cereal, putting toys away after playing, washing hands after using the potty and before/after eating, etc. Children LOVE routine and structure, and they really respond to feeling like they’re helping out! At school Temple and her classmates help prepare their group snack each day by slicing fruit with kid-safe knives (under the close eye of their teacher of course), by setting their table, and by putting their dishes in the sink afterward. They quickly get to know this routine and find joy in the independence.
All this to say, we’re definitely all-in on the Montessori method, so its approach to potty-training was a natural next step for Temple.
Since Temple attends her Montessori program daily, we really needed to align our home potty training approach to what she was seeing at school. Her class guide emailed me mid-January and said Temple was showing signs that she was ready and had even used the toilet in class that week when they asked if she’d like to (in the past she had always refused). They never press, but they always offer sitting on the potty as an option after a diaper change to gauge interest. I was so excited when she said Temple was ready – I was really hoping to get her potty trained before Baby #2 arrives in March. I went to the school to discuss our plan and we began potty training the following Saturday.
An important side note: the Montessori toilet method does not recommend any naked days, unlike other approaches. One of the books I (sorta) read, Oh Crap! Potty Training, recommends you start your kiddo completely naked. If you opt for the Montessori method, your child should already be pretty aware of toilet training and likely won’t need naked days. I’ll be completely honest, we had Temple naked on Day 1 of training – against the urging of her teachers – and in retrospect I probably should’ve listened. Temple was already so familiar with the potty at school. (More on this below)
The Montessori Toilet Awareness book goes into more detail about the Montessori training method and what they do at Temple’s school and what we do at home. It’s super to-the-point and a quick read – I highly recommend! This is pretty much exactly what we did for Temple.
Tips for picking your start date
- Check your calendar and try to start during a weekend with zero plans. Your full focus should be on potty training and spending time at home learning all of your child’s pee and poop signs and getting him/her used to the potty.
- I made sure our weekend and the week ahead were pretty clear so that Temple wasn’t in the car a ton and we weren’t venturing into public restrooms each day. I wanted this to be as simple and stress-free as possible…. for both of our sanity!
- CONSISTENCY – Once you decide to go for it, GO FOR IT! Everything I’ve read says that once you’ve made the leap, you can’t just stick to it when it’s convenient for you (the parent). If you put a diaper back on for long errands, your child will inevitably get confused. The ONLY time we wear diapers now is for naps and bedtime (more on that below).
Pre-Potty Training, Awareness and Signs of Readiness
- Like I mentioned above, start involving them in the diaper/pull-up changing process while standing.
- Involve them in other daily chores and tasks with you. The more they are involved in daily activities, the better!
- Diapers are staying dry longer- I noticed Temple was staying dry longer as she started to control her bladder
- Curiosity around the toilet – letting your child see you use the toilet often is helpful as they start to understand its purpose.
- A consistent routine around the toilet is important, especially if choosing the Montessori way. At school, Temple has a routine when it comes to the bathroom even when she was still in a diaper.
- Teachers would change her standing up (with her help) and have her help put her pants back on, ask her to her throw away her dirty diaper, offer that she sits on the potty, and then wash her hands before getting back to her classmates. Starting this routine early makes the process less daunting when it’s time to make the transition.
- Give your kiddos opportunities to use the potty – again, you shouldn’t push them, but giving Temple the option to use the toilet and seeing other kids use it at school were huge parts of creating potty awareness before the actual training began.
Your words are important when it comes to toilet training
- First, you must use positive language when you refer to anything bathroom-related.
- For example, when your child poops in their diaper, try not to say “YUCK” or “P-Yew, that’s stinky.” I was totally guilty of doing this until we started at Temple’s school and I read this book. It’s natural to be silly and say things like “Yuck!!” when changing a diaper. But, it’s never too early to start breaking this habit!
- Have one distinct name for everything (urine, poop, etc.) – we use Pee-Pee and Poo-Poo.
- This applies to the actual toilet, too. We call it The Potty.
The first few days of potty training
We decided to have Temple completely naked on Day 1. I chose this route based on advice from this book. Note – I did not read the whole book, but followed most of the “phase one” portion. I didn’t feel the need to read more since we were going the Montessori route, but I know a ton of mamas who completely followed the Oh Crap Potty Training Book with great success.
Anyway, like I said before, going naked the first day isn’t the Montessori way, but this is the only place we strayed. I really wanted to watch Temple carefully and fully pick up on her cues, so I thought having her naked would help in that regard. Overall, she actually had a really good first day. Like I mentioned before, Temple is familiar with toilet training given she has older kids in her class.
Expect to be exhausted after your first weekend of potty training. You will feel trapped at home and your only job is to constantly watch your child and try to detect when they are about to potty. BUT, after the first few days, it should become much easier. SO, hang in there and remember that once you start it’s best not to go back! COMMITMENT IS KEY!
Days 2 and 3:
Day 2 was the hardest day. Temple was not wanting to sit on her little potty and had a lot more accidents. I think that Day 1 was more fun and she was over the constant bathroom breaks by Day 2. We had her in just underwear on Day 2 which is what Montessori recommends when starting.
I realized on Day 3 that Temple prefers the big toilet with an insert over her small potty. It was on Day 3 that I gave her the option to use the big toilet instead. Children love when they are offered choices – it’s just another source of that independence they thrive on. Once I offered her the choice to use the big toilet (with the insert), that’s what she always chose. We haven’t used the small potty since!
Since Day 3, things have been fairly consistent and we’ve had very few accidents. She still holds her poop in as long as possible but eventually goes in the toilet until it’s almost too late! I know that it’s only a matter of time until this new routine feels normal, so for now we’re sticking with the accident plan below:
Our Full Accident Plan – for home & school
- When an accident happens at home, I let Temple finish and don’t stress her out by running her to the toilet. The only time I will try to stop her is if I catch it right from the start with time to say, “Temple, let’s finish our pee-pee in the toilet.” If she can control her bladder and stop the stream, GREAT! If it’s already in full force, I try to let her finish and say something like, “It looks like you peed on the floor. Let’s clean up your pee-pee and put on new underwear. Next time we’ll pee in the potty.”
- Temple knows the drill! I will say “Let’s get our Pee-Pee Rags to clean” and she knows exactly where to go. We have a special basket (image below) with yellow towels that I leave in the kitchen that she can easily grab. We both grab a towel, along with my Branch Basics cleaning spray, and clean her pee off the floor. Note: she is still in her wet underwear while cleaning. We do this so that she feels that uncomfortable wet underwear sensation while we clean up the mess.
- After we clean, I say “let’s go put the pee-pee rag in Temple’s hamper.” She knows to go to her bathroom where I have a designated bucket where we put dirty rags and wet clothes/underwear. I then prompt her that we need to change into clean underwear. I make sure that Temple initiates taking her dirty underwear off. I will help her, but she needs to lead the way. If she refuses then I wait and tell her that we can’t leave the bathroom and play until we put on clean underwear. She’s only fussed and refused a few times, but I always stay strong and make her finish her routine before returning to whatever activity she was doing before her accident.
- Once she removes her wet underwear, I give her a wipe to clean her “tee-tee” (this is what we call her vagina). Then, we put on a fresh pair of underwear. I recommend having underwear in a basket or drawer in the bathroom that they can easily grab. You want everything associated with potty training in the bathroom to make things easier, plus it’s fun for them to pick out which pair of underwear to put on. Once she puts on her fresh undies, she uses her step stool to reach the sink and wash and dry her hands.
- I know those steps sound like a lot but they go really fast IRL. Just remember that kids typically thrive with routine and structure. This is what Temple does at school so I try to follow the plan as closely as possible at home.
- NOTE: There are parts of this routine we use during normal bathroom breaks (not just accidents). If it’s time to pee, I say something along the lines of “come on, it’s time to use the potty.” We walk to her bathroom and I tell her to “push down your panties” and I will help her as long as she initiates and does most of the work herself. Then, she sits on the big toilet, pees, I hand her toilet paper or a wipe. She wipes, she gets off toilet, pulls her panties back up, flushes, and gets on her step stool to wash her hands. THE END! Again, fostering a sense of routine is so important – these steps are second nature to Temple now.
Have some sort of bucket or hamper for any soiled underwear/clothing
A step stool is ideal to have them wash and dry hands after using the potty. She also stands here when we brush her teeth!I keep Temple’s underwear in the lowest drawer on her bathroom so she can easily grab a new pair
Do we reward Temple for successful bathroom breaks?
- Not with candy or treats. We just celebrate, give high-fives and run to tell Daddy that we did a pee-pee or poo-poo in the potty, etc.
What happens at nap and bedtime?
- We reserve diapers for nap and bedtime only. We typically use pull-ups for her naps and diapers at night. She is usually dry after her naps so we will likely start using underwear for that soon.
- I make sure to tell Temple, “these are your sleeping panties. We only wear these when you sleep. When you wake up, we will put back on our underwear.” Most kids don’t think twice about this and Temple definitely didn’t! She usually wakes up completely dry (we use the potty right before she gets in bed) and is barely wet after a full night’s sleep, which is a great sign that she is getting better and better at controlling her bladder. Make sure to use the potty and right when they wake up and change back into underwear.
I never ask if she needs to use the toilet
- I simply tell her “it’s time to use the potty” or “we haven’t pee-peed in a while, let’s go use the potty.”
- If you ask in the beginning stages, they are more likely to get annoyed that they’re being interrupted and say no even if they need to go.
When Temple started telling me when she needs to go
- Since Day 1 of training, Temple has always told us when she needs to poop. But, it usually takes a few hours of her trying to hold it in before she actually goes in the toilet. There was even a time that she went three days without pooping! It’s very common for them to resist at first. We are on Week 3 and she still holds her poop in until the last moment. Then, she will tell me she needs to poo-poo and we rush to the toilet.
- Temple isn’t at the point of telling me she needs to pee every time. That’s why I simply tell her “it’s time to use the potty” every so often when I know it’s been a while. She typically has no issue with going when I do this. I’m not sure when she’ll tell me every time she has to go, but like with any milestone, it will happen eventually!
Overall, how is Temple doing? Is it going well?
- I would say it’s going really well! The first 3-4 days there were lots of accidents because Temple and I were both figuring this whole thing out. But after Day 4 it pretty much clicked for her.
- I have to give Temple’s Montessori program a ton of credit for handling so much of the pre-training work and guiding me through the at-home process. Hopefully these same tools will help you regardless of what kind of daycare/school program your Little One is in!
- And remember- don’t compare your child to mine. I know kids in Temple’s class who had a much harder time. All our children are unique and different, so some take a bit more time! You are the mama and you know what method will be best!
When did you start venturing out for errands? What is your routine for these outings?
- On Day 3 she had school, so I sent her in underwear with lots of extra clothes for accidents. She had a lot of accidents at school that first week and still has some here and there.
- When we go out for errands, we always try to use the potty before we leave. Then, when we arrive wherever we are going we typically try to use the bathroom again. We use this travel insert on the toilets when out and about. If we are somewhere for an extended period, I just try to take her to the potty every 45 minutes or so. It’s helpful to take note of how often your child typically pees, how much they’ve to drink that day, etc. You’ll figure out their routine a lot faster than you’d think – especially when it means constantly changing them out of dirty clothes!!
Don’t be surprised if your child becomes clingier than usual or struggles with their sleep routine at first
- I’ve read that it is common for children to become clingy and regress when it comes to sleep during this stage. This was SO TRUE for Temple. Some of this could also be because of how pregnant I am, but I think the potty training is also playing a big role. She wants to be held by me a lot more and the first two weeks she struggled to nap. It may be because she was more aware of the feeling of needing to use the potty and not wanting to go in her diaper. Who knows! Just know that this is very normal for your LO. Temple is going on Week 3 of potty training and her sleep routine is almost back to normal.
Potty Training Purchases
- BabyBjorn Toilet Insert – you may want to consider this one instead if you’d like your child to easily step-up on the big toilet on their own. We haven’t purchased this but I might soon – it’ll be a huge help when I’m carrying another baby around!
- Small BabyBjorn Potty – again, Temple was not a fan, but I know most kids start with a miniature potty.
- Travel Toilet Insert – I love that this folds up and can easily fit in my diaper bag. I keep the small Brand Basics spray in my diaper bag and spray and rinse it after Temple uses a public bathroom, or in someone else’s home. They also sell little covers that I might order to help avoid germs.
- Toilet Awareness – you’ll want this book if going for the Montessori method like us!
- Oh Crap Potty Training- we didn’t really follow this book but I know a ton of mamas love this method!
- The Montessori Toddler– a great book to go hand-in-hand with Montessori Toilet Training!
Okay, that was A LOT of information. I know I am probably leaving things out too, haha. It’s crazy how much can be involved in potty training. I hope this post at least gives you an idea of what you’re in for on the potty training journey! Please comment below with any questions and remember, if you want to take a different approach, YOU DO YOU! As with anything I discuss here, there is no perfect way and we are all just doing our best! 🙂