Potty Training from the Other Side

I expected that most of the students that came into my classroom would be potty-trained. If not, the children would need a little guidance and be where they needed to be. I was a teacher, not a parent. I did not appreciate how hard and stressful potty-training can be.

Now, as a father, there are some experiences I have now that I wish I had while I was a teacher. Potty-training is more than just reminding children to sit on the potty and go to the bathroom. I believed a parent would simply need to wait until the child went. Then, repeat the process until the practice became habit.

But, as a parent, my goodness. Potty training takes consistency, patience, and a lot of laundry detergent, carpet cleaners, and deodorizers. It can be stressful and, at times, defeating. Like, “When is this potty training thing simply going to ‘click’ for the child?” “How much more cleaning?” “How much more laundry” “Am I doing something wrong?” “Why are other kids getting this thing down and not my own child?”

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There needs to be reminders, positive praise, and incentives throughout the learning. Reinforcement to wear that weird, uncomfortable under wear. Having a timer to remind the child when to go and, at the very least, try to go. Encouragement to try and use the potty (and discouragement to regress back to the diaper). Then, a celebration for success, topped off with a little reward – toy, candy, or otherwise.

At times, potty training can be stressful. You’ll try anything to make it work. My wife and I didn’t go into potty training with the idea of giving candy. But, at some point, we would try anything to make it work. Our expectations of what we would do to make it work dissolved into doing whatever it took to get it to work.

Then there were all of the tools and talks between potty times. Reading books about using the toilet. Discussing how to use toilet paper. Calling upon the services of Daniel Tiger to sing a catchy tune to mentally reinforce the potty training message. Cartoons, activities, and games were all utilized to convey – in a fun, stress less way – to please, please, please use the toilet.

Luckily, there was a day where it did simply “click'” with my son. He took responsibility to notice what his body was saying, then start a short sprint to the toilet – with a parent dropping whatever they were doing and sprinting in pursuit. Success after success, day after day, my wife and I could see the message had been received. The work and patience was paying off.

If your a preschool teacher who has never potty-trained a child, take my story to heart. Give the parents a break. They’re trying.

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From Head to Toe by Eric Carle

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If any book lends itself to movement activities, it’s this book: From Head to Toe.  When I was in the classroom, I read this book a couple of times.  Rarely, however, was I able to turn the page without a child lifting their leg or looking upside down.  Very soon, every page was a moving activity.

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And that is the point of this book: to get up and move around.  Shake your arms and move your legs.  The more the children dramatize the animal, the louder the sounds and the crazier the laughter. Alongside the timeless quality of Eric Carle’s artwork, this is a book I recommend.  When my son get’s older, I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fun with this book.  Until then, my son will continue to look at his daddy with concern; because his daddy is reading words and sounds like a zoo.

You can check out the book here. Oh, and it comes in Spanish too.

P.S. There is a song that you can sing with this book.  Here’s the YouTube link.  Enjoy!

The Power of Blue Line

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Line up.  This transition was one of the boring parts of the day.  Some of the children had a hard time.

Child: “The line should weave through the library, then under the computer table.  I’ll stand in the library.”

… or you had children who have no physical awareness skills…

Child: “Line?  I’m gonna stand where ever I want!”

Visuals help.  Having Red Line in class helped children transition into the circle area.  Blue Line helped whenever we transitioned out of the classroom.  I placed blue tape on the floor and extended all the way to the door.  Children place their feet on the line as they lined-up.  Works out.

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The tape I use is from a little place called Lakeshore.  Heard of them?

The fun part is extending the tape throughout the entire school.  Blue Line extended to all areas of the school: down the hallway, outside, and even connected to other classrooms.

It’s a superhighway for child traffic.

Placing down all the tape takes time.  Plus, with all of the foot traffic, the tape can get torn up.  I place a layer clear packaging tape on top of blue line, reinforcing the strength.

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By the middle of the year, the children have learned the basics of making a line and maintaining the line while traveling.

Flibber

This comes via my master’s graduate program.  My professor asked everyone to make a Flibber.  Don’t know what that is? Don’t worry.  No one did.  That was the point.  While everyone was making Flibbers, there were observers watching us make the item.  The observer’s job was to decide how the students learned.  You know.  Are you a visual learner?  Are you a tactile learner?  There are others.  Here’s a link to the Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and you can read up on the kinds of learning styles.

I took a photo of how to make a Flibber. You’ll be very, very surprised by how this turns out… if you can find newspaper!  Great “shock and awe” activity for the kiddos.

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Bag of Tricks: Sidewalk Chalk

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Sidewalk chalk is my favorite teaching tool to use.  If you can draw it, you can play it, with imagination being your only limitation.  One of my favorite uses of sidewalk chalk is for the game “Walk the Line.”

Get sidewalk chalk and some open cement or black top space.  On the ground, write “Start” and a starting line.  From here continue drawing a continuous line for as long as your arm can endure.  The line can be straight, wavy, or zig-zagged.  They can criss-cross and overlap.  The line can include all of these elements.  The longer, the better.  When you’re finished, write “Finish” and a finish line.

DSC03993 Open sidewalk space at a public park.

DSC0399420 pieces of sidewalk chalk at the dollar store.  Good investment.

DSC03996Start line leading into a straight line.

DSC04010Wavy line

DSC04027Zig -zag line

DSC04014Finish line at the end.

Tell your child to stand at the Start line and “Walk the Line,” keeping both feet on the chalk.  Keep walking to the finish.  In fact, you should walk the line first as a demonstration.  If you’ve done an interesting line, your child will want to do it again.  If you praise the child as their walking, they’ll walk more.  If you place the finish line right next to the start line, you’ve created an infinite energy-sapping loop, insuring yourself a cranky child who’ll be ready for a nap.

During this game, your child is developing physically and mentally; balancing on the line and figuring out how to navigate the course.  Like I said, it’s all up to your imagination.  And, and if you can’t think of any interesting lines, ask your child to draw their own… and you walk it.  You can “Walk the Line” at any public space because it makes the game visually fun, plus the chalk will eventually wash away.

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