Toileting Suggestions


For some children, potty training is a breeze. For others, it can be average experience. But for some, potty training is a puzzle that families can’t quite solve. For these children who have an unusually hard time with potty training, they typically can’t verbalize what is difficult or what bothers them about toileting yet. So, it’s up to us to be scientists! As scientists, we can hypothesize, experiment, and figure out which supports will best support our children. Here are some initial suggestions from an OT lens for ways to support our kiddo’s sensory systems when engaging in toileting.

  • Visual:
      • For children sensitive to bright light or general sensory input, try soft/dimmed lighting to provide calming input. 

  • Auditory:
      • Play calming music
      • If the sound of the toilet is stressful for your child, tell them they don’t need to flush the toilet yet. You can help them flush when they leave the room, or you can do it together.

  • Tactile:
      • Pay attention to the seams in your child’s pull ups/underwear. They may be feeling upset/overwhelmed by the feeling of their pullups/underwear being folded every time they pull them up or down.

  • Vestibular:
      • Your vestibular system helps with your body’s sense of movement and balance. Your child may feel unsteady sitting on a tall toilet where their legs don’t touch the ground. They may feel like they are going to fall, which may be adding to their stress responses. Try using a stool to rest their feet on, or a child-sized potty for them to potty in at home. 

  • Proprioception:
      • Your proprioceptive system refers to your body’s muscles and joints. Proprioceptive input that uses your muscles and joints (also known as heavy work) can be very calming and regulating to the body. Engage in heavy work activities BEFORE toileting to increase regulation ahead of time.
      • Examples of regulating heavy work activities include jumping, pushing, pulling, carrying heavy items, climbing, digging, etc. These types of activities are also good for your child’s digestive system!

  • Schedule:
      • Some children do not sense the internal feeling of needing to use the bathroom yet.  In these cases, I recommend using the toilet on a set schedule. It can be once an hour, once every 30 minutes, etc. but this way their body gets the chance to go while avoiding accidents, and it supports them feeling successful.

Try to pay attention to these areas this week and see if you notice any of these modifications or sensory areas making a difference in your child’s toileting routine!  

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