Children are being toilet trained later
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Children are being toilet trained later

by Freya Lucas

February 07, 2019

Busy parents postponing toilet training, and a lack of awareness about where to begin are two of the main reasons for children remaining in nappies for longer, a UK survey jointly conducted by bowel and bladder charity, ERIC, and the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has found.


Early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals across the UK were surveyed, with 68 per cent of respondents saying they felt that, over the past five years, children were staying in nappies longer, and being harder to toilet train.


Those responding to the survey indicated their belief that the delay was down to “busy parents postponing potty training their child for as long as possible or needing to spend more time at work”, calling for more support for families.


Of the respondents, 92 per cent said they believe that the responsibility for toilet training should be one which was shared between ECEC services and home. “Parents are busy but we know it’s about being consistent and showing them early on about what a potty is, but the morning routine is a busy time for parents to be able to do this. They rely on ECEC services to do this, but the potty should be the first place a child goes once they wake up to understand the morning bowel routine,” one respondent said.


Many of those who responded to the survey felt that parents needed more support in tackling toilet training, with a recent report from UK regulatory authority Ofsted referencing the amount of children starting school unable to use the toilet properly as “a big concern”.


“We cannot expect nurseries and childminders to do parents’ jobs for them, and neither can we expect schools. Parents have the most important role. Rather than expecting educational institutions to pick up the job of parents, parents must step up here.

Only in the most extreme cases should parents be excused from being successful in this most basic of parenting skills,” the Ofsted report said.

ERIC and NDNA added that “The absorbency of disposable nappies and pull-up pants means that often parents and children don’t notice when they are wet, which can delay potty training. It is important to progress this at the right time. A combination of factors are leading to children learning to use the toilet later.”


Educator training

The survey revealed that 70 per cent of early years practitioners have received no training in how to toilet train. Many look online for information and support (27 per cent) or contact their health visiting teams (25 per cent).


Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of NDNA said “It’s clear that parents and nursery practitioners need to work more closely together to benefit children so no child goes to school unable to use the toilet properly. We aim to empower nursery staff to feel confident enough to speak to parents about potty training.


“Critically, the survey showed there is little or no recognition of the relationship between successful potty training and healthy bladders and bowels. Constipation is the most common bowel problem in children affecting up to 30 per cent of all children and particularly common among pre-school children. It can have a huge impact on potty training yet only 16 per cent include how to identify and manage constipation in their policies.


“Only 17 per cent of respondents recognise the importance of drinking lots of fluids in order to maintain healthy bowels, keeping constipation at bay. Drinks shouldn’t be limited as the bladder needs to be filled and emptied properly to work,” Juliette Randall, Chief Executive of ERIC said.


New resources

To support educators and parents, NDNA and ERIC have developed a policy tool and training for ECEC staff. They have also prepared a suite of resources for parents, families, and allied health professionals to use.


The tools for families focus on tips and suggestions such as spotting the signs of readiness, and steps to achieve the toilet training process.


More information about toilet training in the Australian context can be found here.

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