Research shows that many parents face challenges when it comes to potty training (Matson et al, 2017). Common problems include your child refusing to do what you are asking (McMahon and Forehand, 2003), fear and anxiety (Wager et al., 2017) or inability to adapt to the change from nappies to toilet or potty (Schonwalk et al, 2004). These problems can be extremely worrying and frustrating but In this blog I demonstrate how you can make and use poo-doh to get you through.
Why make poo-doh?
1. It’s an amazing sensory craft activity
Kids love to play it. You can make sticky, runny, hard, long, thin, wiggly, big or small poo. This is a chance to get your hands dirty! The creative possibilities are endless – animal poo, rainbow poo, unicorn poo, baby poo, daddy poo etc. This is a chance for non-directive play that allows your child to be in charge, giving them a sense of control and ownership of the creative process.
2. It gives you a chance to talk about it.
Use the conversation to normalise bodily functions as well as discuss how the body works. You can also use the opportunity to create a story or character to explore the issues. How about a poo-catastrope, clever-poo characters or even sneaky or naughty poo? Such narratives and characters separate the problem behaviour itself from your child’s inner self, creating a lighthearted space within which you can help your child express their own fears or worries. In her book “therapeutic storytelling”, Perrow explains “The story form offers a healing medium that allows children to embark on an imaginative journey, rather than being lectured or directly addressed about their behaviour”.
3. It’s a chance to play and role-model.
In this safe space, you can role model what you want to happen. Put the poo in a potty, play pretend “accident” and clean up, have dolly/tractor etc pretend to poo and use the play to work through whatever has been going on you need to work on. Be the silly one or the one who needs help from your child. Or, if your child needs reassurance, take the opportunity to be the emotional container they need. Role-modelling is also a great way to teach the correct sequence of toileting (signal, undress, sit, wipe, wash etc). All this provides your child with a sense of structure and predictability around toileting and can help children adapt to the new routine.
4. You can teach how the body works.
Make your hand into a fist and push the fake poo through it to the bottom, modelling how the poo comes out of the body. You can use this to show when it’s time to say “I need a poo”. Letting the poo drop out and go in the potty can also be a good way of addressing the common fear of losing something when the poo leaves the body, by helping your child understand the mechanics of poo.
It’s a chance to practise core potty training skills. You can put the fake poo in the potty, tip it into the toilet and flush (a word of caution – don’t put much solid down the toilet or you could block it!). You can wash hands and dry hands. All these are core practical skills your child needs to master on the road to independence.
By making the problem into a game, we give the child space to explore their concerns and problems in a way that they can understand. This is a big part of what Cohen describes in his book “playful parenting” (a great read if you haven’t already). Play like this can also be therapeutic, because it allows negative feelings to be released in a safe space with you as the parent providing the mechanism for this to happen.
When is the best time to make poo?
There’s no need to wait until you start potty training to do this; it’s a game for all ages and stages! So whether you’re yet to start potty training or well on the way with it, making poo might just be the best thing you can do.
the poo RECIPE
Making poo is easy! Just mix together flour, water and salt to whatever consistency you like. Use more water to make it runny, or more flour and salt to make it firm. You can add glycerine or oil to make it non-sticky. You can make it lumpy or smooth! Add in colours e.g. food colouring or water-based non-toxic paint to mix it into whatever colour you want.
More Potty Training Support
There are lots of ways Little Bunny Bear can support you with Potty Learning. We have a dedicated Troubleshooting Potty Training course for anyone who has started but encountered problems and you can also book a private consultation with me. (I’m a registered children’s nurse and potty learning coach)
Wagner, C. Niemczyk, K, von Gontard, A. Toilet Phobia and Toilet Refusal in Children. (2017). Klin Padiatr. Jan;229(1):27-31. Epub 2016 Dec 15.
Cohen, L. Playful Parenting: an exciting new approach to raising children that will help your nurture closer connections, solve behaviour problems and encourage confidence. 2008. Ballantine Press.