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How to Help a Toddler at Daycare - With Pee Accidents

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

Inside: Here's one solution that can help a toddler at daycare or for preschool potty accidents.

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In a game of opposites, I would fall on the opposite end of high tech. I'm the last person who wants to learn how to work something requiring batteries or USB cords (which disappear in our home as easily as socks.)

I say this upfront to highlight: I don't typically talk up solutions that would be considered a gadget. In fact, if you were to come over to my house you'd find...

a Kindle-free home (and piles of books)

and my kids typically bouncing a ball (incessantly) or playing with little mouse stuffies.

But sometimes tech is awesome and can be a gamechanger in your life.

I remember the first time I met Alexa and wondered why I'd been so dismissive. Now we have regular dance parties in the kitchen to ANY MUSIC we want.

And this potty training tool could be that kind of simple solution if your child is having a lot of pee accidents at daycare or preschool. Here's one solution, that as an Oh Crap Potty Training consultant, I've seen can work for a child at daycare — who's having pee accidents (though this doesn't relate to the poop — that's a different issue, and there I'd recommend Jamie's Pooping Solutions course.)

First, let's understand why you may be seeing pee accidents at daycare.

gadget helps potty training
Sometimes a gadget can be helpful in potty training — here's what to look for and why.

Here's What Can Be Happening With Daycare and Preschool Potty Accidents

Sometimes a toddler does not start using the toilet to pee at daycare (or preschool).

Here's what can happen from there:

  • The child starts having pee accidents.

  • The daycare teachers prompt MORE often, trying to avoid the accidents.

  • The child starts resisting the potty MORE at daycare (because they're being overprompted and the potty trips are taking them away from the fun).

  • Then sometimes the child holds their pee till they can't hold anymore.

  • Uh oh, MORE daycare or preschool potty accidents.

  • The child starts feeling like they're the kid who pees in their pants.

  • The accidents become the norm.

And it spirals in the wrong direction from there.

You may remember from Oh Crap Potty Training, that one potty training trick for the child who's resisting going pee in the potty is using a timer. Whether it's a cute dial timer (in the shape of a bear or cat) or your phone alarm, the idea is setting a mechanical thing that goes ding and tells your toddler that it's time to walk to the potty and get your pee out.

Why does this potty training trick help sometimes?

Setting a potty timer for timed intervals (like every hour) makes the prompting a mechanical thing (not mom), which sometimes helps to bring down the resistance. And over time, it's the consistency and repetition of a timer (without nagging your child to go pee, without all the drama and emotion) that can work magic to bring down the potty resistance.

But then your child goes back to daycare diaper-free. That's a different situation.

A ringing timer isn't doable for potty training at daycare or preschool.

The ringing of a kitchen timer would be disruptive to the class, and asking a teacher to keep track of a potty timer for one child is a big ask. So we typically suggest the timer only for potty training support at home with your toddler, when you're trying to help your child self-initiate to go pee in the potty (and bring down resistance to sit on the potty.)

But What Helps a Child Potty Training at Daycare?

And that's where Jamie (the author of Oh Crap Potty Training) first found that a potty watch can be a great tool for the child at daycare or preschool. I'm going to link to examples of potty watches, but to be clear, I'm not affiliated with a potty watch brand and I don't have one go-to brand that I think is better than all the rest.

Related: I share this with parents I coach in potty training consultations, and I'll share this here as well..if you try out a potty watch with your toddler and feel like that particular watch worked well for you, I'd love to hear so drop me a line!

Okay now that that's out of the way, let's talk about WHY we see the potty watch as an effective tool (and that's sometimes, not all the time!) when the toddler is resisting peeing in the potty at daycare.

A potty watch takes the pressure off teachers, so they don't have to be watching the clock.

Why This Gadget Can Help With Potty Training at Daycare

The potty watch can be programmed in intervals, so it works like a timer (but it's automatically set to go off for your child and you don't have to keep setting the timer.) For example, you can set the intervals for every half hour or every hour, or for some kids, even stretch it out longer. One of my private clients got this potty watch (and loved it). They set it for every 2 hours and it worked like a charm for their child at school.

Here's a big difference between the potty watch and a timer, and why the potty watch can be so helpful for some toddlers (who don't like to be told what to do!).

The child feels IN CHARGE of the potty watch. It's on your child's wrist.

That is a key part of why it can work so well for some kids. Your TODDLER is in control. It's a gadget they get to wear. Does it get any better than that?

Keep in mind we can often see wonky behavior and resistance from toddlers when they feel like they don't have enough control in their world.

It's important to be sure your child's control bucket is full.

So again, this won't be the problem-solver magic for every single toddler having pee accidents at daycare. I can't promise you that, of course.

Here are the situations where we've found it can help:

  • When there's no issue with poop. If the child is holding back on their poop till they're home from daycare, that's a different problem. Jamie and I share solutions for the child is holding back on poop or pee at school in our potty training course, Oh Crap! How to Potty Train With Daycare + Preschool.

  • When the child already learned how to pee in the potty at home (the skilled is learned.) We can't expect a child to be solidly potty trained at preschool if they're not solidly potty trained at home.

  • When the pee accidents haven't been going on for months (that's when the accidents have become the norm, and you often need a different solution.)

A potty watch serves as a good reminder (that feels different from a grownup telling you to go pee in the potty.) There's also the issue with daycare where you don't know HOW they're prompting your child to go pee in the potty.

Because there are ways to prompt and ineffective ways to prompt a child to go pee.

  • Are the teachers asking your child to go pee? That's the most ineffective way to get a toddler to do anything. For more on that, I'd check out the go-to parenting guide for parenting toddlers, Oh Crap I Have a Toddler or Jamie's podcast episode, They Just Won't Listen.

  • Are the teachers prompting and prompting and prompting? I've heard of daycares bringing the child to the potty every 20 minutes. That will bug your toddler! Then it's common to see a child who refuses to use the toilet at daycare.

  • Are they not prompting enough at daycare? Expecting toddlers to take themselves to pee in the potty throughout the day with zero reminders isn't helpful for potty training, either. A toddler does need some reminders to use the toilet, but it's finding that magic of prompting without sparking resistance to the potty.

That's where something mechanical, like a potty watch, can be a great solution as it serves as a good reminder through the day at daycare. The teacher doesn't have to keep track of when they prompted your toddler to go pee (which is great since your daycare teacher has to keep track of many kids!)

We've also seen that the potty watch can help some toddlers feel like a big kid. And that pride and self-mastery goes far in potty training. You're always looking to build that autonomy in your toddler.

Related: Here are more tips on helping your toddler be more independent with the potty. And if you're feeling stuck with seeing accidents or your child holding and resisting using the potty at daycare or preschool, we now have a course, Oh Crap! How to Potty Train With Daycare + Preschool that covers it all.

I remember the first time Jamie told me about the potty watch and how it'd been helping some of her clients with pee accidents at daycare.

At first I thought, really? Could this work?

And then I started to suggest it to parents in personal potty consultations, and for some situations it worked well.

With potty training, you won't find us Oh Crap Potty Training consultants recommending a talking toilet. That's not our jam. We don't even think the ever-popular behavior charts work well for toddlers under the age of four (they don't have the proper executive functioning, more on that in this IG video by Jamie)

But we do see instances where the potty watch can help with preschool potty accidents or when some toddlers won't go to the potty at daycare.

And with a potty training win like that, that may be cause for a dance party in your kitchen.


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