Think about it: when it comes to toileting, our task as parents is to teach our children to sit up on a high chair over a pool of water and relax enough to let smelly, coloured waste come out of their body from parts of their body they cannot see.
As a mother, I know that the toileting process can be overwhelming. At Young Allied Health, our team of occupational therapists love to support parents through this journey and problem solve through the tricky parts.
Independence in toileting requires the development of many skills. Some of those basic functional skills involves body awareness, strong muscles, coordination and, of course, the ability to sit and balance. Think about the way you use the toilet- do you have sufficient postural control and balance to sit upright? Adequate core strength to control your body movements? Are you able to turn and reach for the toilet paper, then coordinate wiping movements? Our children also need to be able to complete these skills to feel confident and effectively use the toilet independently.
Here are just 3 helpful occupational therapy based gross motor tips to support you and your child to work towards developing independence with toileting:
1) Trunk rotation activities
Sandpits (or the beach) are great for this! Encourage your child to cross their midline by reaching across their body, i.e. crossing their left hand to the right side of their body. Try sitting, kneeling or squatting to dig in the dirt or sand. Make sure the bucket is placed on the opposite side of their dominant hand, i.e. if they are right handed, place the bucket to the left of them. If you’re not sure, that’s okay! Observe them first, then shift the bucket. This activity will encourage the child to dig first then rotate.
2) Balance activities
When standing, practice maintaining balance on one foot. Maybe include a small step or stool to encourage stepping up and down, steadily. Walking along a balance beam is also fun. If you don’t have one, simply draw one on the ground with chalk and encourage heel-to-toe walking on the line. Even a rope on the grass does the trick!
3) Motor planning activities
My ultimate favourite motor planning activity is the obstacle course! There are so many variations you can use and it doesn’t need any fancy equipment – you can simply use whatever you have at home. Try setting up a course that includes kicking a ball, hopping, stepping up and down, bouncing and crawling.
Blog post by Jess Welsby, Occupational Therapist at Young Allied Health.