Most parents of toddlers are oh-so-familiar with that call from the bathroom. Your child has declared that he needs to go potty and marches off to the toilet– a step worth celebrating in the potty training journey. Time passes and eventually, the call comes.
The long, drawn-out yell of, “Mommmmmyyyyy!” or Dadddddyyyy!” from their spot on the toilet seat when he’s ready for you to wipe his tushie.
Getting your child to finally poop on the potty is such a monumental achievement, that most parents don’t mind the few seconds spent wiping their child’s butt. Helping your child wipe is a normal part of parenting and far superior to changing a toddler’s diaper. But at what age should you start teaching your child to wipe their own bottom?
By the age of two, both boys and girls should be able to finish up after peeing. Girls are able to wipe themselves in the front pretty easily and boys can shake off their penis by the time they’re two years old.
Wiping their own bottoms after poo requires a higher set of essential skills. They will need the gross motor skills and the manual dexterity to turn and reach behind them as well as the fine motor skills to grasp the toilet paper and use it to wipe.
By the time most children are five or six years old, they can wipe themselves effectively, with little assistance. That is, as long as they are getting ample time to work on these motor skills, whether at home or enrolled in a preschool, and there are no developmental delays.
When Is The Right Time to Teach Your Child to Wipe Their Bottom?
Between potty training and total toilet independence, there should be a lot of instruction, practice, and experience. It may take them a while to master this skill. Learn when and how to teach your child to wipe their bottom here.
Each child is different and develops at their own pace, so the exact age children begin wiping their own bottoms will vary. Just like potty training, kids learn at different rates and some take longer than others. You know your own child best, but you can begin this process between the ages of three and four years old.
The amount of time that it takes for each child to be able to comfortably and cleanly wipe their own bottom will vary for each child. Patience, supervision, and repetition are key.
Does It Matter if You Started Potty Training Early or Late?
I have two daughters who are two-and-a-half years apart. They have the same parents and were raised in the same home, with those same parents all of their lives. Which makes it all the more perplexing that they are such different beings!
We introduced potty training to our older child a little before she turned three and she was not what I’d call an enthusiastic participant. She was content to play all day in a sagging, dirty diaper, and had no desire to stop what she was doing to sit on the potty.
It was a struggle from start to finish. A complicated process that included timers and sticker charts, prizes, and “potty parties”. It wasn’t until several potty training regressions, infinite patience, and a lot of positive reinforcement that, by the age of four, she was (mostly) fully potty trained.
Our youngest started patting her diaper when it was wet or dirty before she hit her first birthday and potty trained herself well before she turned two. She demanded to only go on the “big kids’ potty” and her little legs were so small that they didn’t even dangle over the toilet seat. She required no celebration, treats, or stickers… just the occasional, “great job!”
Despite the vast difference in their potty training experiences, they both learned to wipe their own behinds after going number two around the same time. Of course, we spent more time wiping our younger daughter’s backside, as she needed more time to develop the skills she needed in order to do it herself.
With plenty of coaching and supervision, they were both wiping themselves by the time they were around the age of five or six. As the years went by, we were still there for an occasional spot check and almost always to remind them to wash their hands.
Successfully wiping their own bum has more to do with a child’s physical dexterity. So as long as your child has good bladder and bowel control and is toilet trained, it really won’t matter when they started the potty training process.
3 Key Tips to Help Teach Your Child How to Wipe Themself
Once your child is pooping on the potty regularly, it’s important to teach them the essentials of bottom-wiping through a series of clear and simple steps. Showing them how, giving them explicit instructions on how to complete this task. Just like anything else, they will need plenty of practice in order to master it.
Before potty training starts, set them up for success and make sure that they have everything they need in the bathroom like a toilet insert and a step stool. A soap dispenser that’s easy for toddlers’ hands is a good idea, like this one from Target which has an extra large pump attachment and even plays music to encourage longer handwashing.
Show Don’t Tell
- Once they’ve finished up on the toilet, show them how much toilet paper they’ll need. You can do this by counting toilet paper squares or using this great tip for just the right amount of toilet paper. You could also use flushable wipes. Either way, it’s a good idea to invest in some strong toilet paper for this phase.
- Are you a folder or a wadder? Show them how to either fold the paper or wad it up so that it covers your child’s hand. You want to minimize the spread of nasty germs as much as possible.
- Then gently show your child how to reach around and wipe, getting between the butt cheeks, and wiping from front to back– emphasizing the proper wipe motion. This last part is especially important for girls, as you don’t want to spread bacteria into the urethra.
- After that first wipe, they will need to check and see if the paper is clean. If not, they will need to repeat this process until it is done. If you have a quick wiper, it might be helpful to let them know that not wiping thoroughly will end in sore bottoms.
- And finally, teach them how important it is to wash their hands in order to stop the spread of germs. From my experience, this takes a lot of reminders in order for it to stick!
Practice Makes Perfect
The more your child has the opportunity to practice wiping their own bottom, especially with your supervision, the better they will be at it. It can be slow going at first, but as long as it remains a positive experience, they will continue to progress.
If your child is in daycare, let the teachers know that you’re working on this so they can help reinforce the desired behavior. By the time your child is in kindergarten, it’s helpful for them to be independent in this area, so they can easily wipe their own bottoms during a full day of school.
Despite your diligent coaching and all the practice, they still might come home with the occasional stain or skid marks. Even older kids can sometimes struggle with this. Gentle reinforcement or a quick refresher might be in order.
Practicing outside the bathroom can be helpful and even fun! Take a look at this video of a teacher showing her classroom how to wipe their bottoms with two balloons:
We don’t teach essential skills in American schools. pic.twitter.com/OnKwolhKVY
— jamie (@gnuman1979) October 10, 2019
You can easily recreate this at home for extra practice. You could even add peanut butter to the balloons to make them more realistic.
Developing greater finger strength can help those little hands wipe better. Strength-building activities for fingers and hands include: manipulating clay or putty, cutting with scissors, coloring with crayons, squeezing balls or sponges, and playing with Velcro.
Wiping tables with a cloth and other cleaning activities can be good training for wiping their bottoms. Not only does it reinforce the difference between clean and dirty, but it can also be good training for pushing down and wiping.