Parents putting off toilet training with some relying on nurseries

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More children are being toilet trained later, according to a new survey of early years staff.


The results of the survey conducted by children’s bowel and bladder charity ERIC and National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) found that 68 per cent of early years staff had observed children being potty trained at a later age over the last five years than in the past.

Almost half (43 per cent) of the 202 early years practitioners surveyed felt this was a result of parents putting off potty training due to being too busy or at work too long.

A nursery owner from the West Midlands commented, ‘Parents are busy and it has lifestyle impacts. It’s about being consistent and showing them 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.’

While 92 per cent of practitioners believed toilet training should be a shared responsibility between nursery and home, the survey suggested 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 support this, NDNA and ERIC have developed a potty training policy and online training for nursery staff.

They also plan to develop resources for practitioners and families which will include tips on spotting the signs of a child being toilet ready, and steps to achieve potty training success.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of NDNA, said ,’It’s clear that parents and nursery practitioners need to work more closely together to benefit children 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.

‘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.

‘A combination of factors are leading to children learning to use the toilet later.’

The majority of early years settings surveyed included progress with potty training as part of their age two check, and more than half of nurseries had a potty training policy in place.

However, Juliette Randall, chief executive of ERIC, said there is still work to do.

‘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 showed 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 per cent 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.’

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