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  • Allison

The Trouble With Training Tools

How the Tools Designed to Help Your Child Learn Could Be Doing More Harm Than Good

There are so many tools out there to help your child achieve certain independent milestones like swimming (Puddle Jumpers), riding a bike (training wheels), and even potty training (Pull-Ups). But can they actually be doing more harm than good?

I'll be the first to admit that I've used these things on my kids because, well, it's just what you do, right? In addition to the research I've done, I've seen first hand how these things can do the opposite of what we intended. If you ever stop and think about it, these items that are marketed to give our children confidence and independence are actually teaching them how to NOT do something, and ultimately just prolonging the learning process.

Exhibit A: Training Wheels

Problems: Kids don't have to learn how to balance so when the training wheels are taken off, kids have a fear of falling.

Solution: Use a balance bike. This teaches balance before pedaling. Kids will already be confident riders with their feet off the ground, speeding up the learning process. From a personal perspective, I did this with my daughter and she has been riding on 2 wheels since she was 3 years old. My son used training wheels and he was terrified when we first took them off when he turned 5. He learned to ride on two wheels about the same time my daughter did!

Exhibit B: Puddle Jumpers

Problems: Puts kids in the wrong position, makes them afraid of getting their face wet, and can make them feel invincible in the water.

Solution: Invest in swimming classes for your little one from the age of one year or as soon as possible (new recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics) to teach your baby how to swim the proper way without flotation devices. I wish I would have done this with my kids!!

Exhibit C: Disposable Training Pants/Pull-Ups

Problems: These tend to be just as absorbent as a diaper, they don't allow the child to feel wet from an accident, kids/parents can easily fall into using them as a regular diaper, and no actual learning takes place.

Solution: Skip Pull-Ups (with maybe the exception for overnight) and go straight to underwear! Having a day or two of bottomless time in between diapers and underwear can help with awareness and realizing there is no longer something there to catch the mess when they go.

In conclusion, the only way to advance skills beyond using each of these things is to eliminate them completely, there is no gradual solution. All that has happened is time has passed, your child still has to learn the skill as if they had never used the training tools in the first place anyway! If a child starts learning these skills from a young age without training tools, they are likely to succeed and perfect the skill much more quickly!

In summary, here are some problems with training tools:

  • gives a false sense of security

  • creates fears (fear of eliminating the safety of the training tool)

  • prolongs the learning process

  • becomes a crutch

  • diminishes confidence (kids don't believe they can do it without the training tool)

  • it's a lot harder to UNlearn a behavior than to learn one from scratch

Are you having a hard time ditching the Pull-Ups? You aren't alone and it's not your fault! Be sure to reach out to be connected to a certified consultant who can help!

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