Skip to main content

Taking a Break from Potty Learning

At 20-months-old Teddy is an active little ball of snuggly love. He is really is just the cutest. He spends his days mostly engaged in gross motor play, using some materials, practical life and potty learning. I've talked a little about his potty learning journey before, but for us it really is a journey. And this means it really does have it's ups and downs. And in this post, I want to normalize some of the downs. These are the times when maybe potty learning feels too hard or too much, or seems to not be working. 

When can we take a break from potty learning? 

Over the last week and half, Teddy has been in diapers 100 percent of the time. Prior to this we were in a down slump of using the potty. I don't want to share too many details, but just know it was a lot of awareness of needing/going but also all misses. So I decided I needed a break. We have been recovering from the stomach flu and just lots going on and we needed to step back. Here are some reasons that I think it's alright to consider a potty learning break. 

I will say I only recommend these breaks for newer learners who are still needing a lot of support using the potty. It could be very confusing for a child that has been successful in this process for awhile (even if they are currently in a bit of a regression.) 


If you or your child are feeling really frustrated by the potty learning process, it might be time for a break. It might be time to take a step back, focus on some connection, and come back to potty learning after you've had a little time for self care. Remember so much of potty learning is about your own attitude toward the process and if you're not able to remain calm, and surrender to that process, give yourself that time.

This is part of where I was at with Teddy. His journey has been slower than my other children and I was feeling myself get a little frustrated by that. I needed to take a hot minute to back up, think about why I'm doing this, and recenter before continuing. 

But the same goes for your child. If you see that your child is really fighting the process or is really anxious about it, it might be time to take a step back, let go of that pressure and try in a little bit. 


For the first time in over a year, so basically in his entire life, Teddy recently got sick. This isn't the time to try and work in undies. Again, I'm going to skip the gross details but stomach bugs and learning to get to the potty quickly, don't mix. Hard pass, go back to diapering. 

And in my experience, especially if sickness lingers, it can be a little too much to add to the routine. Again, same goes for you if you are feeling sick. I know there were times when I was super nauseous during my pregnancy that Gus went into diapers too. And, you know what, the break was not that big of a deal. 


Going on a long trip in the car? Going on a vacation? Going somewhere without accessible bathrooms? Take a break, put on a diaper and enjoy your time. We had to do this during Gus' potty learning process. We took a week long break and then went back to undies. There were some misses as he transitioned back but it wasn't a huge deal. 


Things come up, family emergencies, busy days, stressful situations. I think it's important that we give ourselves grace in this process and know that if sometimes we go back into diapers for a little bit, we aren't failing. The foundational learning is still there, it's still happening, and our child will be ok. The process might take a little longer, but for me that's worth it if we are taking a respectful, child-led pace. 

What does a potty learning break look like? 

For us, it looks like simply going back into diapers full time. There's no conversation (and this might change if you had an older child who was more verbal and aware of the process,) shame, or snippy comments about why. In our case, we are going back to diapers for 2 weeks. I've set a limit for myself so that I take a proper break and don't just feel pressured to get back to it after a couple days. But if you are doing it because of sickness or vacation or some other reason, the exact time might vary. 

Following the break I expect some misses and a little backslide in learning. That's ok, I know it's part of the process and in my experience it's really a day or two and then they are back in the routine. 

I hope this is helpful in knowing that Montessori potty learning isn't just a straight line from point A to point B. And, it's alright for it to look and feel a little frustrating at times. It doesn't mean it doesn't work, or that you or your child is failing. It's part of the process. And, you'll get there in time. 


Popular Posts

The Ultimate Montessori Toy List -- Birth to Five -- UPDATED 2020

When you are interested in Montessori, it can be difficult to know exactly what types of products you should get for your home. Or which types of "Montessori" materials are really worth the price. There are no rules about types of products can use the name Montessori which can add to the confusion. Not to mention, every toy manufacturer slaps the word "educational" on the package for good measure! 2020 UPDATE: This list is updated for another year! Enjoy a variety of Montessori friendly finds from both major retailers and smaller shops!  So, with this post, I'm going to try to help with this confusion! Here's a list of Montessori-friendly toys and materials for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.  First, let's clarify that there is no such thing as a "Montessori toy." Montessori never created toys, but only works for classroom settings. While there are many works that I recommend for home school use, you won't find these

Our Kids' Montessori Gift Lists 2020

With the holiday season upon us we've been making lists and gathering gifts for the Kavanaugh children. It's always a fun process of observing my children, seeing what they would really be interested in and making some decisions based on what I see. This year is different because I'm also making decisions knowing that we are looking at a very long and quiet winter ahead. So that's influencing the amount I will buy and the specific choices I will/have made.  Henry and Nora are also at the point, being into the second plane of development, where they heavily influence the items on the list and what is ultimately purchased. So, you'll see that while Montessori influences what I will purchase and what goes on their list, so does their own preferences and personality.  This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.  Theodore Teddy is 14-months-old right now and as the fourth baby, we have so many toddler things. But, there are a few things I've still found tha

Sensitive Periods from Birth to 6 - A Chart and Guide

Dr. Maria Montessori spent her life observing, studying, and writing about children. During her lifetime of work she discovered that young children move through a series of special times when they are particularly attracted to specific developmental needs and interests. She called these times, sensitive periods. During the sensitive period, children learn skills related to the sensitive period with ease. They don't tire of that work, but seek it, crave it and need it. When the sensitive period passes, this intense desire is gone, never to return.  That doesn't mean the skill is lost forever once the sensitive period is over. Instead, it just means that it will take a more conscious effort to learn. As Dr. Montessori explains,  This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. "A child learns to adjust himself and make acquisitions in his sensitive periods. These are like a beam that lights interiorly a battery that furnishes energy. It is this sensibility which enables