When kiddos begin potty training, they have to learn how to read their body’s language and signals telling them that their bladder if full or that they need to go poop. There is actually a term for this: interoception! (Thank you to Andrea Dorn @mindfulstepsseries for collaborating on this post!)
"What is interoception," you might ask? #Interoception is a more recently coined term that is used to describe our ability to perceive what is happening inside our bodies. It is considered our "8th sense" and it covers everything from noticing hunger and toileting needs, to noticing pain or emotional sensations. An important sense to develop and grow, even as an adult!
Though young children have a lot of work to do before they are able to fully make sense of emotions and body sensations, here are 3 mindfulness activities you can begin to practice to encourage interoceptive awareness:
Breathe and check-in: Make a point to stop and take at least one deep breath with your child during the day. Prompt your child to consider how they feel in this moment. Gently interpret if they seem to struggle.
Read books: Books that accurately describe a specific process are ideal for building interoception. Some books, like the Mindful Steps Series, include open-ended questions to encourage discussion about feelings and needs.(Check out our newest book on amazon: Calm and Peaceful Mindful Me: a mindfulness how-to guide for toddlers and kids - a great book geared towards helping kids build interoception!)
Play the "little, a lot, or not at all" game: This is BY FAR, one of the most simple and effective activities I have found for building interoception in young children. Simply check in every so often and ask your child if whatever they're currently doing or talking about is something they like/feel/want "a little, a lot, or not at all". You're prompting them to notice that there might be differences in how they're feeling.
Potty training is a completely new skill for children to learn. Previously, they’ve just gone pee and poop in their diaper without a second thought. And all of a sudden we are asking them to actively think about what their body is telling them, how they feel, and to get to a potty before it’s too late. This is a huge learning curve!I often hear from newly potty training parents saying, "He still doesn't tell me when he needs to go!" or "Unless I tell her to go potty, she will just go in her pants!" Does this sound familiar?One of the key principles of potty training is for your child to learn how to listen to their body and take themselves to the toilet when nature calls - we call this self-initiation. But why does this seem so challenging for some kiddos to grasp? Maybe instead, we should be asking...what could we potentially change about the way we are potty training to better encourage this?
Here are a few tips to help:
Offer bottomless time
Stop prompting (Unless they just woke up or it’s bedtime)
Watch for their body cues and potty routine
Use a potty watch* (*Wait to use the potty watch until you have a clear understanding of your kiddo’s potty schedule so the timer isn't going off too often)
Prepare yourself for a few accidents along the way, it’s normal! Accidents are a part of learning, even adults experience this! Some children catch on rather quickly to this and others take more time. Each child is different and that’s what makes this entire process so unique!