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Potty training policy for nurseries

Guide to children's bowel problems

Here is a transcript of Alina and Bethan's conversation.

It's not uncommon for children who are potty trained and reliably clean and dry at home, to start having accidents when they start going to nursery or preschool. We're going to look at some of the reasons why this happens, and offer some advice about how to help your child get back on track.

It’s a really difficult one, isn't it, you've nailed it at home, you've spent time and you've put the hours in trying to get your child dry at home and out of nappies. And then you pack them off to nursery and boom, straight away, it all starts to go wrong.

And you're picking them up at the end of the day, and the nursery staff are handing you bags full of wet clothes and underwear. And it just feels like they've forgotten all the hard work that you've put in with them. And you're sort of left wondering what's wrong. What is happening here? 

Why does potty training regression at nursery happen?

I think the main thing to reassure parents with is just how very common this is. And it's almost to be expected, when you imagine it's such a big thing for these children to be doing for the first time in their lives.

It's a whole new routine for them to get used to. There's new people to meet, and lots of other children around lots of busyness and noise. So they're just adjusting to a whole different environment and a different schedule.

While this can be very exciting for them, it can also be very tiring, and accidents are much more likely to happen when children get tired at the end of the nursery school day. And some children just find it quite anxious making to be starting a new place. And there’s a different toilet to get used to. And they're just a lot for them to get to get comfortable about. So usually we find that things settle down as they get used to the rhythm of nursery or preschool life.

It's a massive change, isn't it, there's suddenly out of your care and away from their own familiar surroundings for sort of anything of upwards of three hours to nine hours. Basically, there is quite a big change for everyone.

Yes – it’s massively daunting for parents and children. And without you there to remind them to do things, possibly for the first time in their lives. That's quite a big ask for little children. They're not being expected to be really totally independent with their toileting.

We would hope that nurseries and preschools, because they will be used to having a whole range of children and some of those children won't be potty trained yet, they'll still be used to giving reminders.

What is the toilet routine at nursery and pre-schools?

But it's busy at nursery. So what we would recommend that parents and carers check with the staff and find out what the toilet routine in the policy is. Do they remind the children to go at set times? Hopefully, they allow children to have free access to the toilet at any point, so that children don't feel they've got to wait for a set time or have to ask.

The other thing about managing on our own is it's even harder when children are busy in activities and exciting new people to play with toys to play with. And they can get so engrossed in what they're doing that they just they don't want to break off to have to go to the toilet, they find that boring, and it means it's much more likely that they might have an accident.

Good drinking is key to helping establish a good toilet routine.

Absolutely. You're establishing that good routine, and regular drinking really helps children to get a nice full bladder signal. But again, with a busy routine at nursery, it can quite a hard thing to adjust for children. At home, you probably got a set pattern of when you have snack and lunch. Again, talk to the staff make sure that children are encouraged to have plenty of water-based drinks regularly throughout the day.

Because little children, it's very common for them to just forget to drink, they don't see that it's not such an important thing for them to focus on. So again, talk with staff and just make sure that those regular reminders are happening.

Getting used to the different environment and toilet facilities at nursery

Turning to the actual potties and toilets and bathrooms that they're going to be experiencing. These are all new surroundings for them at nursery. I suppose the differences that children find here can be a surprise to them and another adjustment that they have to make, isn't it?

Yes. So it could be anything from a different type of flush to a hand dryer. It's very, very common that young children find hand dryers particularly those ones that you walk past and they suddenly turn on quite frightening.

We would always recommend that parents talk to their children just gently inquire to say, you know, is there something about the toilets that you're not keen about on is that way or not? Practice using other toilets because that's all really good to help.

Then children get used and get more comfortable to use the toilet away from home. The trouble with children avoiding going to the toilet during a long day at natural preschool is that they it can be quite easy for them to become constipated. And because they've spent the whole day holding on so we really were trying, we were saying nip try to nip that in the bud thus avoiding go to the toilet, you know, talk to them to see if you can find out what's going on.

Going back to the beginning with potty training

I think parents shouldn't panic because it is such a common part of the potty training process, when children are thrown into this new environment. You also got to remember that our bodies are still maturing when we're children, and actually the bladder isn't fully matured until children are five years old. 

So usually, as kids get used to the general hustle and bustle of nursery life, these accidents just settle down.

What we would say though, is to watch out for signs of constipation. Particularly because we know one in three children will at some point get constipated. But also it only takes a little bit of holding on perhaps during the nursery preschool day for a child to become constipated. So for more help with spotting the signs of constipation, how it should be treated, we would urge parents to download our guide to children's bowel problems.

Great. Okay. So in the main it sounds like its likely to be an adjustment period rather than a complete panic and regression.

What should you do if accidents continue and don't stop at nursery? 

If you think that your child could have a UTI, urinary tract infection, or constipation book an appointment with your GP. UTIs can cause wetting accidents, and children usually feel a bit off colour. And their wee might be a bit smelly, but it's a very easy test for them to get checked out for that.

Up until the age of five this sort of accident is considered a part of their development Over the age of five, that's when accidents are less common and you can go for more investigations with the GP.

But again, that's not to worry parents, because even with school aged children, it's very, common in reception class, that for those first few weeks and months, that will still be the odd puddle on the floor, and children getting a bit caught short.

But really under the age of five, it's not a case of having to go back to the beginning with potty training. But make sure all your basics are there, you've got your drinking, you've got your regular toilet routine, and you're just checking in with children to make sure that any issues they've got at nursery, you can get on top of.

Finally what I would say is there's a really good idea to mention Eric's potty training policy package that we've got for nurseries, any early years settings, because that is a brilliant guide for any setting to follow in terms of routine and trying to help children through this.