Independence with Diapers

Today we welcome back Meghan Sheffield from Milkweed Montessori for another guest post in our #30daystoMontessori challenge! Today Meghan is discussing respectfully diapering children and encouraging independent diapering, which are in line with my previous posts on Montessori approaches to toilet learning, here and here.

For those of you who are not in the diapering stage of life anymore (whoa-hoo!) I wanted to give you a related challenge — empowering your child to help dress themselves. There are many ways to do this, from setting up dressing areas to teaching them how to fasten their clothing by practicing with their own clothes, dolls, or dressing frames. I’ll list some links at the bottom of this post.

Make Potty Training Easier. Encouraging Independence with Diapers and Dressing - Part of the #30DaystoMontessori Challenge. Accept that diaper changes are a part of life. For now.

When my son was born, I thought of diaper changes as something to get out of the way quickly in order to get on with the rest of the day. As all parents know, with a newborn, changing diapers actually is how you spend your day. Learning, growth and development don’t happen only when we intend it (put away those flashcards!) — it happens all the time, including during diaper changes. There is important stuff being communicated — language opportunities, respect for another person (the child), and respect for and knowledge about our bodies. Embrace diaper changing as an opportunity to connect. And when the time comes for work on toilet independence, start embracing potty too.

Talk through it.

It’s a great demonstration of respect if you simply tell your child what you’re doing with and around their body as you do it. Babies are absorbing everything — diaper changes are as good an opportunity as any to let them engage with your facial expressions, the sound and rhythm of your voice, and rich language.

One word of warning though — it is anything but respectful to make faces or talk about how smelly the contents of the diaper are. Let’s choose respect and dignity for even the smallest people in our homes.

If your child can stand, change them standing up.

As soon as a child can stand or even pull up, it makes sense to acknowledge this developmental stage and change them standing up, instead of reverting to laying them down, infant style. This often helps to avoid messy tantrums at diaper changing time, and helps the child to take a more active role, by stepping into and out of pants, for example, instead of lying on their backs passively.

Standing children are also ready to participate in washing their hands after diaper changes.

standing for diaper independence #30daystoMontessori

Change them in the same place every time  — and preferably the washroom.

Babies and toddlers are very sensitive to order, which is to say that they respond to and develop better under consistent circumstances, so changing your child in the same place every time helps them to have a better sense of what is happening and to build connections about what order things may happen in. Changing your child in the washroom consistently helps to build an early connection between the washroom and toileting.

Move on (no pun intended!)

According to Montessori philosophy, children are most sensitive (a.k.a. interested, aware and engaged with) toilet independence between 12 and 18 months — much earlier than Western culture’s current expectations, and yet it is a simple and peaceful process for many toddlers. Look into going diaper-free, use cloth diapers, and start offering the potty early and often. The number one thing you can do to promote independence in diapering is to give your child the tools to get out of diapers as soon as possible.

diaper independence #30daystoMontessori


Beyond Diapering

For those of you who are past the diapering phase, there are several other ways you can help your child independently dress!

You can set up a Montessori-style toddler closet, like Vibrant Wanderings or the Kavanaugh Report.

You can DIY dressing frames like Mama’s Happy Hive or Living Montessori Now. (Or even a button snake, like Montessori on a Budget.)

You can even create lessons on dressing — like Montessori on a Budget did for “Dressing for the Season.”

Or you can do like I did — we used doll clothes to practice! We do have dressing frames now, but the doll clothes seemed a lot more inviting and fun!

Make Potty Training Easier. Encouraging Independence with Diapers and Dressing - Part of the #30DaystoMontessori Challenge.

If you do something to help encourage independence with diapering, dressing, or any aspect of self-care, make sure to share in on social media using the hashtag #30daystoMontessori — and feel free to tag me on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter!

challenge 12 in the #30daystoMontessori challenge

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  1. Any tips on how to get a diaper on properly while the child is standing? I think my kid would like this and it would really help us move from the changing pad to the bathroom. But when I try it, I find that diapers are not up as high as they need to be or aren’t straight or some other problem from the fact that I’m fighting gravity while trying to get them snapped together. We use cloth diapers with two or three snaps each side. Thanks

    1. Our time in cloth was short (4 months) but if they are willing to “step into” one leg, that can make things easier (pre-snap one leg and slide it up).
      If that doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to re-adjust once you’ve put it on. Take your time, and encourage them to help you evaluate if it’s on properly. I try to hold the back of the diaper with one hand and hold the side closest to me with my thumb extended, then I wrap the front around, check if it’s aligning and fasten the side closest to me. I stretch the other side to see if it’s all looking good (adjust if necessary) and then fasten. Sometimes you have to pull them up a bit, but I haven’t had any issues that one or two quick readjustments couldn’t help 🙂

      Let me know how it goes! I can get Megan to come share her expertise if that doesn’t help.

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