A survey carried out by ERIC and NDNA suggests that children are being potty trained at a later age, corroborating Ofsted’s concerns that increasing numbers of children are starting school without being able to use the toilet.
One of the problems is that parents are postponing potty training for as long as possible due to work and other time pressures. The results from the survey underline that more support is needed from nurseries.
A key concern is that there appears to be little or no recognition of the relationship between successful potty training and healthy bladders and bowels.
Expert guidance on potty training
The survey reveals that 70 per cent of early years practitioners have received no training in how to potty train. Many look online for information and support (27 per cent) or contact their health visiting teams (25 per cent).
To address this, NDNA and ERIC have developed a potty training policy and training. They are also preparing resources for practitioners and families to use. These will focus on what families need to know such as spotting the signs of a child being toilet ready and steps to achieve potty training success.
Many respondents felt that parents needed more support in tackling the issue. Health visitors and society generally tend to give parents the message that they should be under no pressure to rush in and wait for signs from the child that they are ready, according to 15 per cent of respondents.
One nursery owner respondent from West Midlands said: ‘Parents are busy and it has lifestyle impacts. It’s about being consistent and showing children 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 nursery to do this, but the potty should be the first place a child goes once they wake up to understand the morning bowel routine.’
Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of NDNA believes that parents and nursery practitioners need to work more closely together 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,’ she said.
‘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.
Key points from the survey
NDNA entered into a partnership with ERIC in 2018 and put together this survey with these results:
- 53 per cent of nurseries interviewed have a potty training policy – and work with ERIC to put together a template policy.
- 92 per cent said potty training was a mix of both parents and early years practitioners
- Most children would start between age two and three; 46 per cent considered the development of each individual child when deciding
- 68 per cent per cent said that children were being trained later
- 70 per cent had received no training in this
- 76 per cent of nurseries include potty training as part of their age two progress check
- Constipation is the most common bowel problem in children affecting up to 30 per cent per cent of all children and particularly common among and pre-school children
- Only 17 per cent of policies mention how much a child should drink to maintain healthy bowels, keeping constipation at bay
‘Health and self-care’
The EYFS statutory framework progress check focuses on the three prime areas: personal, social and emotional development; communication and language; and physical development. Toilet training is included in the physical development area of the EYFS and comes under ‘Health and self-care’. It asks practitioners to observe if the children ‘show some awareness of bladder and bowel urges’ as well as knowing what a potty or toilet is used for. Of those surveyed the majority of early years settings include progress with potty training as part of their age two check. More than half of nurseries had a potty training policy in place.
Juliette Randall, chief executive of ERIC said ‘It’s good news that so many settings include potty training as part of their age two progress review, however only 53 per cent of respondents actually have a potty training policy in place. They tend to cover how to identify when to start potty training, how to use praise and recognition effectively and a structured plan for potty training.
‘Critically, the survey shows 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% 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.’
Early years settings have welcomed the survey with many interested in more information and training for them and for parents. There was an acknowledgment that toilet training is becoming increasingly challenging.
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