Don't assume that the teacher will be able to help your child go to the bathroom once kindergarten begins. To protect young children from abuse, most schools have policies that prevent adults from being alone with a child in the bathroom—even the classroom bathroom.
Can your child sit on the toilet and stay there long enough to get the job done? If your child still depends on you for help getting on the toilet or needs you to stay in the bathroom to supervise the experience from beginning to end, it's time to start working toward self-sufficiency.
Bathroom independence is a key piece of the kindergarten-readiness puzzle, so start practicing these steps months before the first day of school:
- Address your child's fears. Is your child afraid of "falling in" or startled by the toilet's loud flushing sound? This is a good time to take a step back and think about whether any of these worries might be getting in the way of your child's bathroom independence.
- Work on communication. Can your child communicate when it's time to go to the bathroom? You may need to practice this skill so that your child knows how and when to ask the teacher for permission to use the bathroom. If your child lacks confidence in this area, he or she may have an accident while summoning up the nerve to ask for a bathroom break.
- Set your child up for success. Start by looking at your bathroom from your child's point of view. Is it easy to reach the toilet paper, the soap and the towel? Is there a stool that’s easy to move from the toilet to the sink?
- Purchase "easy off, easy on" clothing. Before you send your child to school, make sure that he or she can independently pull pants and underwear down and up in a reasonable amount of time. Dress in your child in pants and shorts with elastic waists. Put the jeans and frilly dresses away and encourage your child to wear shorts if possible during the first few weeks of the school year. Shorts will be easier than pants to pull down and up as your child adjusts to new routines.
- Practice wiping. Yes, this is the task that worries parents the most and the one that requires the most practice! Start out by teaching your child to bend forward on the toilet and touch his or her toes with one hand. This will put your child in a more open position for wiping properly with the other hand and dropping the used toilet paper into the toilet.
- Practice hand washing The past few years have taught our children the importance of hand washing! Teach your child how to wet the hands, pump the soap, make suds, rub the hands together for the length of time that it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song, rinse under clean running water and shake the excess water off before drying the rest of the way with a towel.
Practice, practice, practice. Your child will be adjusting to a lot of new routines and experiences during the first few weeks of school, so make sure that bathroom skills are second nature before kindergarten begins. Set your child up for success, but remember that accidents happen. Be proactive and pack a change of shorts, underwear and socks, just in case. Good luck!