Read an Excerpt
Excerpt from Chapter 1: The Power of Playfulness
Play is the foundation of knowledge for your child. When she plays, she learns about her world in a meaningful and lasting way that is best suited to her developmental needs. Instinctively, she internalizes important concepts and skills and begins to define the kind of person she will become. She discovers right from wrong, the power of purposeful choices, and that success is a process. When she plays, your child is the director, making the connections that are most meaningful to her, rather than being shown or told the "right" connections by someone else. Learning happens naturally through play.
The Advantages of Playful Learning
Play is always more than what first meets the eye; it conceals an elaborate web of cognitive and emotional connections. Through the adventures of play, your child personally engages her whole world (or at least her day-to-day world). Simple games of hide-n-seek teach her that the world continues to exist even when people and things are shuffled around into new places.
That playful knowledge helps her to sleep better, knowing it's safe to close her eyes at bedtime. Filling and spilling buckets in the sandbox or cups in the bathtub helps her to comprehend and verbalize concepts of full and empty. Believe it or not, your child will later use these concepts to understand sensations in her potty-learning body.
Since child-logic is very different from rational adult-logic, learning is different for young children. Hands-on, multisensory, playful interaction with people and things is the best way to map new knowledge and new skills onto a child's growing brain. When your child's curiosity leads the way, she finds the answers to all her questions. Each child brings originality to learning and to potty training. Play develops your child's thinking - helping her think in new, unpredictable contexts - and enhances her self-esteem as a unique person.
Self-esteem grows from your child's interactions with the world. It is her tried and true belief in herself: "I can do this." Playful learning gives your child the opportunity for trial-and-error and for repeated practice. It allows her to safely stretch her abilities until the new abilities become automatic. When she experiences the "click" of learning, there's no turning back. It's as if she knew it all along! You see it in your child's glowing face. "I did it! I got it!" Mastery in a variety of situations under a variety of conditions gives your child the confidence to know she's ready for anything. Confidence and competence are not optional by-products of successful potty training; they are essential to the potty training process.
Play also strengthens the relationship between parent and child. Your child needs you to join in child-centered activities. Families who play together understand one another's strengths and struggles. They are better equipped to help one another with real-life problems, large and small. They also build a legacy of unconditional love and support. Play is the perfect foundation for potty training.
Playful Potty Training
With a few playful strategies, you can make potty training fun while you work on something you "have" to do anyway. If you can incorporate your child's natural interests and your child's developmental strengths into the learning process, the two of you might actually enjoy potty training. What's more, you might actually become an unbeatable team for life!
Which developmental accomplishments came first for your child? Walking or talking? Is your child a "natural" with people or with puzzles? When you approach potty training from a developmental perspective, there are no tests and no failures.
Instead you open a window of endless possibilities, a window to fun and learning. You will immerse your child in a positive potty environment where pottying without diapers is a normal part of growing. You'll create fun language and routines that give her positive messages about her body and her abilities. You'll watch - and wait - for her readiness signals while providing gentle support and encouragement.
Before you go any farther, think about the unique characteristics of your child. Which kinds of things come easily to her, and which require more time? Is she more active or more thoughtful? Does she prefer new experiences or familiar routines? Does she like doing things independently or with a buddy? Then, look at potty training from her point of view. What does she already know about the potty? Where are the missing links? And what could be the stubborn kinks? Consider your child's various developmental areas: her understanding of her body, her way of thinking, her linguistic ability, her social self, and her emotional self. You will be better able to support, encourage, and inspire your child if you try to see potty training from her point of view.
Your Child's Point of View
Your child already knows something about potty training. As you read about the different areas of development, you will discover that your child's strengths are already shaping her connections to potty training. This is your child's unique foundation for potty success. You will probably also discover a few missing elements, the developmental connections that your child has not made yet. These will be the road signs that guide you from where your child "is" to where your child "is going."
Your Child's Body
Children tune into their bodies in different ways. Your child might realize that the poop and pee are regular daily occurrences for everyone. She might make a connection between her body and pottying only after the fact that she pooped or peed. She might be able to identify that feeling in her body before she actually goes poop or pee, and do a potty dance letting you know that something is coming. Your child must read her body signals in order to become a successful pottygoer. She must also make a choice to not potty in the diaper. She needs to have the muscle control to hold the pee or poop until she can scurry to the nearest potty.
Yikes, that's a lot to do! Feel it ... Hold it ... Release it! The good news is that your child will make the body-potty connection at exactly the right time for her. Her personal potty training can be custom-designed to give her mastery over her body in the precise way that meets her needs.
Your Child's Thinking
Your child's potty thinking is what translates that physical body-potty connection into logical concepts. "If I don"t like a wet diaper, then I can sit on the potty before I pee in my diaper." Or, "I know what that physical feeling means inside my body, and I need to stop what I'm doing for a few minutes to take a potty break. I know I can come back to what I was doing and start again in exactly the same place."
These are complex concepts about time, sequence, predictability, cause, and effect. As an adult, you take all of these concepts for granted because you've been thinking like an adult for decades. Your potty-training-age child does not think like a miniature adult; she believes in fairy dust and dinosaur bones in the sand. The best way to potty train combines the simplest child-logic with a little magical flare that gives your child the power and conviction of success.