A Guide to Montessori Toilet Training


  1. What is Montessori toilet training?
  2. What are the steps to starting Montessori toilet training?
  3. What can parents do and say during the toilet training process?

The world of toilet training methods has many suggestions about routes into this tricky life change for young children. In line with our current Montessori series, we research and explore how the Montessori method outlines a clear and simple solution. Read on as we outline the method and how to get started with your child.girl with confused face

👉🏼 What is Montessori toilet training?


In Montessori (where the preferred term is ‘toilet learning’) the goal is to keep things simple, and to help your child gain independence. 🚀 Potty training can be an intimidating task but it doesn’t have to be.

So how do you know when it’s the right time to start training your child? 

Maria Montessori called the stages of learning where a child is most likely to learn their ‘sensitive periods’. When it comes to toilet training, the typical time they start showing interest is around 1 years old. 

But, stop! This doesn’t mean they need to be trained by then, it just means it might be time to start.

You’ll know they’re ready when:

👍🏼 They become interested in what you’re doing in the bathroom

👍🏼 They retreat or go to a private space to use their nappy, or at particular times of the day (they may tell you by patting their nappy, or not tell you at all!) 

👍🏼 Even if they’re pre-verbal, they use a ‘sign’ to tell you when they’re going to the bathroom


👉🏼 What are the steps to starting Montessori toilet training?


So you want to help train your child the Montessori way? There are a number of places to start and even though you’ll want your child to be independent eventually, it’s important to help facilitate to get them to get there:

✋🏼 Prep the environment first; this doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavour! You’re going to need a specific place for them to go to the bathroom (either your main bathroom, or if you’re lucky enough to choose between more than one, choose the one that’s the most accessible for your child). 

🙄 Some parents prefer the learning to happen in the normal toilet with a step stool and an insert to make the ring smaller, but others prefer to foster independence a little quicker. If you really want to help them be totally independent, consider a small child toilet in a preferred location in the bathroom! 

🌈 These child toilets (or ‘potties’) come in lots of shapes and styles, the simpler the better (just like a normal toilet). Going to the bathroom is not supposed to be entertaining (at least in the Montessori method). It’s a natural part of life, so leave out the bells and whistles. 

👀 Remember to leave the toilet out so when your child starts to recognise that they need to go and the associated feelings, they’ll connect their feelings to seeing the toilet itself. More connections over time = more independence!

⭐ Right next to the seat you’ll want to have a small basket containing the essentials; a roll of soft toilet paper and several pairs of clean underwear for them to change into should they have an accident. 

📗 Some people even choose to put books in the basket to encourage the child to stay put on the seat! It’s not about being entertaining, but making sure they know what they’re supposed to be doing while they’re there. 


What about when you’re out of the house?

🌲 Some parents continue to use pull-ups for ease, and stick to underwear at home when the child toilet and clean-up tools are nearby. 

But if you’re feeling brave, and want to reach independence quicker, consider getting waterproof pull-up underwear (these are a little thicker than normal) and putting them over underwear. This could help your child to disassociate from nappies and preserve the integrity of the process!

Keeping your child in nappies during naps and sleep is important until your child is ‘waking up dry’. Whilst they’ll try their best during the day, at sleep time they have less control. Be patient and take away nappies slowly but surely. 👍🏼

Remember to accept that there will be messy accidents, but to keep any anger and frustration away from your child. The key to the process is to make them realise that it’s a natural, positive and necessary process, and nothing to be scared of. 


👉🏼 What can parents do and say during the toilet training process?


The more stressed out you are throughout the process, the more your child will pick-up on this too, and lose their sense of control. ✋🏼 When you’re ready to go:

1 - Take away the nappies and switch to either no underwear (some parents prefer this for a day or so) or child underwear, but be patient with initial accidents.

2 - Start leading your child to the bathroom in half-hour increments and say the equivalent of ‘it’s time to go to the bathroom’. It’s important in the beginning not to ask them if they want to go where they’ll be likely to say no. 

3 - Let them sit there for a natural amount of time (not too long) and see if they go, and if they don’t, just try again later.

4 - If they have an accident because they didn’t go, clean up the accident and try to involve your child so that they realise what they have done (make this appropriate for their age, even if it’s just a tiny amount!). These are natural consequences, which is a primary belief of the Montessori method!

5 - When they go successfully, don’t make it a big deal. Apart from a small ‘well done’ or tiny clap, try not to overly reward or bribe your child because again in the Montessori method, it’s a natural part of life. You could even try to remind them that it’s a part of growing up, ‘you used the toilet just like mum and / or dad’. 

6 - Have your child help you to dispose of what’s in the child toilet and flush the chain. Show them how to wash their hands and pull up their underwear and continue the process. Repeat as many times as necessary! Your child will get better at being able to hold it so they can actually get to the bathroom, and better at recognising when they need to go. 


So how many times should you take them to the bathroom?

This shouldn’t be longer than a few days to the week. Although the process is gradual, it can take some more time than others. Remember to have spare bedding available, and roll-up any nice rugs in the house. 💡

Overall, Montessori does not advocate for rewards and punishments (and studies show that this works) but it’s about natural consequences and recognising what your child’s body is telling them. Your role as a parent is to be their guide and their coach. 

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