Low Tone and Toilet Training: Teaching Toddlers to Wipe


toddlers with rolls



The parent that inspired my most popular post ever, Why Low Tone Creates More Toilet Training Struggles for Toddlers (And Parents!) , suggested that I write another about the most useful advice she says I ever offered her.  


Not the most glamorous topic, but teaching children to wipe their tushies is important.  Her preschool doesn’t permit teachers to assist much.  They expect full independence at 3.  Here are my suggestions to get a clean deal for all kids.  Children with low tone often have issues with coordination, balance, sequencing and safety to think about.  All that, and they haven’t even gotten off the toilet yet!  

This should help:

  1. While you are still the one managing the wiping, talk about it, describe it, and explain it in toddler terms.  That means no long-winded scientific reasoning, but also don’t let them sing “I’m a Little Teapot.”  This is a learning opportunity, not a social exchange.  Make up a wiping song if you need to be musical in the potty.  Children learn tons from your narrative, they find out that you care about them gaining this skill, and that you can tell them what to do and why to do it.  Use simple language that they can absorb.
  2. Position them for success.  If your child is unsteady on the toilet, they need to get into a standing position to wipe.  Not everyone can balance on the potty and wipe.  That means that they may even need something to hold onto with their non-wiping hand while they are standing.  This is not the time to work on core stability.  They need a sense of safety.  Think about what they could hold onto to help them balance.
  3. Explain that they have to wipe their bottom with a fresh bit of TP until the toilet paper comes back unsoiled.  Yup, a little bit of poop means that you still have work to do.
  4. Little girls have a hard time learning the “front-to-back” wipe after a pee.  Anatomically, it is more physically awkward to reach down and wipe in that direction.  I told the mom who inspired my popular post to teach her daughter to “pat-pat”instead of front-to-back wiping after urination.  No inaccurate swiping, so no increase in the chance to move bacteria from the back to the front by mistake.  She reports that her daughter is the only little girl in her classroom that doesn’t get regular urinary tract infections.  I think we know why.  Yeah!
  5. Use good products.  Nice thick toilet paper that they can feel once they reach out of view and can’t crush into a ball (a tiny piece is not going to cover the target either.)  Read How to Pick The Best Toilet Paper For Potty Training  .Low tone makes feeling the amount of force and the dimensions of objects much harder once you cannot see them.  The wet wipes on the market here in the U.S. are kind of small.  You might need more that one.  Be generous at first if you need to in order to get a complete clean.
  6. Make sure clothing is pushed down/tucked away.  Low tone makes it harder to control hand movements when you can’t see them, and harder to maneuver around clothing to reach accurately.   Clothing that gets confused with the feel of the toilet paper “back there” or “down there” will get soiled.  Not good.  Long-tailed shirts, tunics and all manner of dresses make learning to use the toilet harder.  A child with some experience can learn to roll up a top and balance to pull up pants from their ankles.  When a child is just starting to learn, easy clothes are the best.  The perfect early learning outfit? A shirt that doesn’t extend much beyond the hip line, pants that are easy to slide below the knees, and boxers or loose-er fitting panties that slide down easily.


Looking for more information?  Read my post on potty seat selection  Picking A Potty Seat For Toilet Training A Child With Low Tone to understand why choosing the right seat makes a difference!


The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone is filled with more about how to wipe, wash, manage clothes, and more.  Readiness lists make it easy to know when to train, and a guide for the inevitable challenges that come up ( I call the “bumps in the road”!) lower your frustration level!

Buy it now as a paperback or as an e-book on Amazon  , or as a printable e-book on Your Therapy Source  .

By Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist, licensed massage therapist, and certified CBT-i sleep coach in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment. It has been a joy to help people of all ages improve their ability to grow and thrive! Occupational therapists are focused on enhancing a client's functioning in everyday life. We are practical healthcare providers, interested in teaching, adapting actions and environments, and building a client's useful skills for living their best life, regardless of their challenges. I am the author of five books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training the Autistic Child". I lecture on many subjects, including sleep, trauma, and development. Contact me to learn more about how I can help you achieve YOUR goals!

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