Wiping Bottoms

By AASLDecember 3, 2020

Things to Consider from an OT Perspective

Potty training can sometimes be one of the hardest things for parents and children alike. It’s important to remember it’s not a one-and-done deal. Like any lifelong skill, it takes practice and time to master. It’s also imperative to realize that regression in skills is common, occurs frequently, and is normal (e.g. consider changes in daily routines or unexpected stressors). Consistency, patience, and a positive attitude can make a significant difference in reducing anxiety or potential shame felt by the child if they do have an accident.

In occupational therapy, we frequently get asked, “How do I get my child to wipe their own bottom?” There are several things to consider before jumping right into it. Think of these as foundations to build upon, introducing these skills during playtime even when your child may not be ready for potty training just yet.

  1. Cognitive Skills: Counting. Knowing how much toilet paper to use is important. Not enough, and you may have a mess on your hands (literally). Too much, and you may have to call the plumber. Start early by counting the squares of toilet paper. Place stickers on each square for a visual marker; write numbers, letters, or mark them with colors.
  2. Fine Motor Skills: Pinching. Little hands need lots of practice, otherwise you may end up with a wad of toilet paper. Work on tearing paper (at first, wherever; then along the perforated line); folding the paper in half, in quarters. If you don’t want to use toilet paper, try construction paper, tissue paper, origami paper.
  3. Gross Motor Skills: Reaching backwards. Can your child reach behind to touch their back or behind without moving their entire trunk? Functional range of motion and coordination will help as your child reaches behind to take care of business. Try movement games like animal walks (e.g., crab walk), “Simon says”, or placing stickers on the back of their shirt.
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