You know what they DON'T teach you when you're earning a graduate degree in education? How to potty train a kid. My highly verbal, almost three-year-old is still in a diaper—and it's mostly my fault. I don't want to deal with the accidents. Cleaning floors, washing clothes, wiping down screaming children—not my favorite things.
That said, being a preschool teacher means dealing with these issues. And being a preschool teacher outdoors, especially in cold weather, adds yet another layer of complexity. Not only do kids have the same hesitations to stop playing and go to the bathroom, but now they have LAYERS of clothing to pull off before they can actually go. Needless to say, there are a lot of potty accidents at outdoor school.
I’m reminded of this because: remember the crying girl from my previous post, the one whose feet were cold? Turns out she’d peed. So not only did she have only a single layer of socks on in 40 degree weather, but they were wet… with pee. SIGH.
The thing is, she’s five year old. We had asked after snack if anyone needed to pee and she didn’t say anything. When J checked her leg to see if it was cold, he didn’t notice any wetness. Did she pee after she started crying, after he checked her leg? We’ll never know.
But it’s a good reminder nonetheless. We assumed a five year old would communicate her bathroom needs. She’s done it before, she had over ten nature school classes under her belt. Maybe it was because I was a substitute teacher and she wasn’t comfortable talking with me (although she talked with me about tons of other topics, including asking for help with mittens and snack)? Maybe she didn’t feel like taking all of her layers off to pee?
The thing is, the consequences of wetting yourself are different in outdoor school than they are at home. Having wet base layers and socks make you COLD!
In retrospect, we should’ve checked SPECIFICALLY for pee, and we’ve definitely learned our lesson. I hope this experience can be a reminder to you as well.
If you’re a teacher and you have a crying child, ask if they need to go to the bathroom and check for pee (even if they’re five!).
If you’re a parent, talk to your kids about using the bathroom at nature school. Talk about how it’s so important not to have wet clothes against your body when it’s cold outside. Practice what phrases they’ll use to tell the teachers they need to use the bathroom.
Good luck to you, and I’ll report back on this topic when we start to do more potty training at our house!
- Teacher Kendall
Dr. Kendall Becherer
Kendall is an author, photographer, teacher, and learning scientist who loves helping parents & teachers find new ways of connecting with their children.