Blowing bubbles or balloons whilst sitting on the toilet can be a fantastic way to help children relax and avoid withholding their poo. Read on to find out why this is and how to encourage your child to use blowing as a simple, but effective toileting aid. 

Many children hold on to their poos and sometimes their wees too. This might because they are not yet toilet trained, they may be hesitant about getting started because the feelings are a bit strange, but most frequently they have passed one or more large, wide, knobbly, dry and cracked poos, these have caused pain then the child becomes too scared to let the poo out. They can maintain this fear for years, if families don’t help them sort it out.

Tackle fear of pooing first

Children often feel safer pooing against fabric. When they're wearing a nappy or pants they can control the speed and force with which the poo comes out. ERIC's has a resource to help move children on from this stage.

Once the child is passing soft poos (see our guide for help with achieving soft stools), it is time to start encouraging them to use the toilet or potty. They need to start building or start rebuilding their relationship with the toilet. One way is making it a more fun place to be. 

Children need to start building or start rebuilding their relationship with the toilet. One way is making it a more fun place to be. 

Why blowing can help

Girl blowing bubbles Here are three good reasons why blowing can help your child to poo:

  1. When we blow out, our pelvic floor will relax a little more and the change in our abdominal pressure will encourage the bladder and bowel to empty more effectively.
  2. For children who are holding on automatically or as hard as they can, it is helpful to make the blowing activities quite competitive i.e, ‘let us see if I can get my balloon bigger than yours’ this is a distraction for them.
  3. Children who ‘stoolhold’, will often hold on to the toilet seat, to help them keep their bottom firmly shut. If you give them toys that they need to hold, this will again help to reduce their ‘holding’.

What do you need? 

Collect together a bag or basket, with some of these suggested items in and anything else you can think of. Keep it in the bathroom so they are only to be used whilst on the toilet. Be creative, keep it fresh and interesting...here are some ideas of things to try: 

  • Bubbles (beware floor can get slippery!).
  • Any blown musical instrument- recorder, mouth organ/harmonica, trumpet, sax, kazoo (great place to learn brass instruments!). 
  • Whistles, including duck and train types.
  • Feather, tied on a length of cotton- ‘can you hit the wall/door opposite?’
  • Plastic/paper windmill.
  • Party blowers and balloons.
  • A straw in milkshake or a bit of washing up liquid in water - bubble blowing.
  • Bowl, straw and ping pong ball. Blow ball around bowl to hit target on inner bowl wall.

Help them feel secure 

ChildMake sure when the child is sitting on the toilet, that they feel secure. A toilet seat reducer stops a little bottom sliding into the pan. Put their feet on a step or stool, so their knees are higher than their tummy button, good for stability and opens bottom for business.

When to blow? 

We are more likely to have a poo, 20 to 30 minutes after a meal, this is when our gut has been prompted in to squeezing its’ contents through. So this is a good time to sit and blow.

If you think your child avoids a poo in school - the give them a drink and snack on return from school, then get them to sit and blow. Some people poo best after a bath when they are more relaxed. You know your child best, or try filling in the poo diary, to see if there is a pattern. 

If they do the blowing games, they only need to sit there for 5-15 minutes.

Active toileting routine is key

Some families give their child a book, tablet or toy to use on the loo. I prefer them to do active toileting i.e. sit and blow, then maybe have those things afterwards as a reward. If someone gave me a tablet, I would hold on to my poo and wee longer, to extend my playing time! 

Other people recommend ‘Rock and pop’, coughing, laughing, to help to pass poo and wee, these are all worth trying too.

Rewards and praise

Praise your child for sitting and trying as you have asked. Most of us enjoy positive feedback and even a treat if we have succeeded in something that previously challenged us. Girl with lollipop

With many children an ‘instant’ reward is effective in helping them to connect their success on the loo with your pleasure, also to encourage them to repeat the process. Rewards should not be anything excessive, but it is best to keep that reward just for toileting - to give it more power. So it needs to be something they really want.

A reward could be: 

  • A voucher for time on electronic games or equipment.
  • An episode of a favourite TV series- thanks to catch up!
  • Playing their favourite track/ piece of music.
  • A story of their choice or choosing a family game to play
  • A jar of sweets to choose from.
  • A lucky dip of cheap wrapped gifts.
  • A token towards a treat or other longer term reward.
  • For some a ‘high 5’, round of applause, parent doing a silly dance works well

You know your child. Try it - it helps adults too!