Play to pave the way for pooing in the potty!

It’s not uncommon for little ones to have a fear of pooing in the potty (or toilet). And often it leaves parents feeling really unsure of what to do; not wanting to pressure their child for fear of making things worse, but also not really knowing how to encourage their child without resorting to rewards or punishments.

Play can be a great way to help kids to explore the idea of pooing in the toilet, sometimes giving you valuable insights into what might be going on for them. It can also offer the opportunity to elicit laughter, which can be really helpful for offloading any feelings of mild fear or powerlessness that they might have around pooing in the potty.

Many of the games involve power reversal, which is where we (or a doll/teddy) take on the role of the less powerful (or scared) one, putting our child in the more powerful role. This reversal of roles can be great for touching our kids’ sweet spot about feeling scared or powerless, and can often elicit a lot of laughter, and be requested over and over!

So, here are a few ideas for kids who are feeling apprehensive and avoiding pooing in the potty (or toilet) …

The most basic play is to set up some dolls/teddies and a pretend potty/toilet (empty plastic yoghurt containers make pretty good play toilets!). You can have a child doll (and possibly a mum and dad doll), or a teddy, who “really needs to do a poo”. Then leave it open for your child to direct the play in the way they like. If you notice where your child takes the “story”, what the get the characters to do and say, you can sometimes learn more about what they are fearing about pooing in the potty.

If your child seems hesitant or unsure about how to initiate the play, you could try taking the role of the teddy pretending to be scared of the potty (or of pooing in the potty), perhaps walking up to the potty, taking a look inside, yelling “Aaahhh!”, and then running away dramatically in fear! The goal is to make it funny and help your child to laugh. The more they laugh, the more apprehension they will release.

toilet-paper-picjumbo-comYou can also encourage play with brown clay or play doh and the pretend potty, maybe also incorporating it into the doll/teddy play. All this sort of play can help process any feelings that might be getting in the way of your child feeling comfortable to poo on the potty.

Another fun one is to pretend that you need to do a poo, but that you don’t want to do it on the toilet, getting as silly as possible, really hamming up your dilemma. Your child may laugh and take the role of telling you that you need to go and poo in the toilet, and you can protest comically, “No! No! I don’t want to!!”, and beg them not to have to, “Please, please don’t make me poo on the toilet!”. And just keep playing as long as it’s fun and eliciting laughter. This kind of power reversal can be really fun and therapeutic (for you both!).

Along the same lines, you could pretend you need to do a poo and go around the house saying, “Is this the toilet?”, in all sorts of strange places, “What about this? Is this the toilet? Is this where I need to poo?”, until your child guides you to the toilet, and then say, “Oh, so that’s where I need to poo!”. Keeping in mind, the power is in the laughter, so follow the giggles!

The “Whatever you do, don’t … poo in the potty!” game is another silly one that is perhaps more helpful when your child doesn’t seem to fear pooing in the potty per se, but rather just seems to prefer pooing in a nappy (diaper). In this game, parents pretend that they really don’t want kids to do something (in this case, poo in the potty), and kids will usually delight in cheekily “disobeying” them! And if your child does then poo in the potty, you can pretend to be shocked, saying, “What?! You pooed in the potty? No! Surely not! You can’t do that!”. You can also mock “threaten” to cover your child in kisses if they poo in the potty!

There is also another way we can switch the roles around, and that is to “personify” the potty, giving it human characteristics like a voice and feelings, and even a name if you like! You can then have the potty acting scared of your child! You can set it up as a game, with the potty in the middle of the room, and every time your child goes near it, have the potty say things like, “Oh no! I hope you’re not going to sit on me! Please don’t sit on me! I’m scared!!! Oh no, I hope you’re not going to pooooo in me!”. Then you can make the potty “run” away and hide, and then creep out again when it feels the coast is clear, ready to play again!

I hope that gives you a few more options for helping your child to work through their discomfort around pooing in the potty. And, as usual, if you try any of the games out, I’d love to hear how it goes!

Image courtesy of arztsamui at

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