Training preschoolers to eat, sleep, potty train and get out the door without tears


Tired of making your preschooler believe carrot sticks look appetizing, or that they won't miss anything exciting during nap time? You're not alone in the daily parenthood battles.

"A lot of times, the things that parents ask a lot about — like sleeping, eating and potty training — are three things children have complete control of," said Darlene Bombard, co-director and teacher of the 2-year-olds' class at Bennington Early Childhood Center in Vermont. "If you're pushing them on these things, they have success in pushing back."

Here are some tips for helping your little preschooler tackle these important new life skills in order to get the most out of their early education experience:

Potty training

Have patience. The way each child learns to use a toilet and the way a family potty trains a child will vary.

So how do you know when your child is ready to begin potty training?

"Going a long time between wetting diapers is a good way to guess they are physically ready," said Bombard, noting if your child still has wet diapers during the night, his or her bladder might not be developed enough to hold urine.

If they are physically ready here are some tips:

• Start potty training in the summer, Bombard recommends. That way you can take his or her diaper off and go outside. If there are any accidents, clean up is minimal.

• Help your child identify the signals his or her body is telling them when it is time to go. When you change the child's diaper, ask them often "are you wet or dry?" Bombard said this will help kids key into what their body is doing.


Before you go waving veggie sticks in your child's face in angst, relax, said, Kim O'Brien, owner of Happy Hearts Home Preschool in Pittsfield, Mass.

"Some kids just aren't big veggie eaters, just like adults that have their likes and dislikes," she said. "But trust that they won't be eating only peanut butter and jelly for the rest of their lives."

Some ideas for snack time:

• Instead of pushing one item, offer youngsters a variety of options from different food groups.

• Remember that up until the age of 7, children are self-regulating when it comes to food. "They don't generally overeat or under eat, unless there is a medical condition," Bombard said.


Getting little learners to sleep is a tricky matter. "Some kids just have a hard time sleeping through the night," Bombard said.

Routine is key to getting naptime and bedtime established. So is keeping a calm environment.

At O'Brien's preschool, rest time is from 1 to 3 p.m. Quiet music is played and the lights are dimmed. At BECC, they play the same music every day so the brain starts getting bored and it helps the children go to sleep.

Pick up/drop off

Meltdowns will happen, but don't take it personally, O'Brien said.

"The end-of-the-day meltdown is common," she said. "They've been working hard all day following directions and trying to hold it together."

When it comes to dropping kids off to school, Bombard says, "We always tell parents, the quickest goodbye is the best goodbye."

Drawing out a goodbye or sneaking out when your child is not looking can create anxiety in them.

Instead, build a routine. Introduce the child to teachers, kids and play areas at drop off. Give them a hug and say something like, "I'll be back after rest time. Have fun." Then, walk away, even if the child is crying.

"I tell parents they've gotta be tough," said Bombard. "I can see it's so hard for them to walk away from their upset child, but usually by 15 minutes they are playing happily."


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