Gentle Parenting Ideas: Toddlers and Diaper Changes

June 29th, 2010 by Dionna | 10 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Gentle Discipline Ideas, Successes, and Suggestions, Gentle/Positive Discipline, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity, Use Nurturing Touch

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This post is the fifth in a series about gentle parenting through potential power struggles with your toddler. Each post will give you ideas and examples for using love and logic to work through some fairly common parent/toddler areas of concern: brushing teeth, getting into the car seat, meals/eating, shopping, diaper changes, and picking up toys. I welcome your gentle/respectful parenting ideas and feedback; thank you to everyone who has already contributed ideas.

toddler cloth diaperIdeas to Make Diaper Changes a Positive Experience

Let Your Toddler Choose the Location: since you probably aren’t using a changing table anymore, let your toddler pick the place. Remember that our toddlers are learning how to exercise their independence – so giving them some control is a theme that runs throughout this “gentle parenting ideas” series.

Songs/Rhymes/Fingerplays: occupy their hands by doing songs, rhymes, and fingerplays with (or without) hand motions: Itsy Bitsy Spider, Two Little Birds, Hickory Dickory Dock, etc.

Read a Book: some toddlers might want to hold a book and read to themselves, others might want to grab a favorite book that they can look at while you read (from memory).

Tell a Story: one of my biggest potty learning helps has been to ask Kieran to tell stories while he is using the potty chair. We have a notebook near the chair, and I actually write down his stories and read them back to him. If your little one doesn’t want to hold a book, this might be another way to occupy his attention while you change a diaper – you tell a story or help him make one up of his own.

Call for Reinforcement: there’s nothing wrong with asking for help, particularly if it will help everyone involved feel better about the outcome. Get someone else in there to entertain while you get down to the business end.

Practice Signing: if you are signing with your toddler, try practicing some sign language during diaper changes. If you aren’t doing sign language with your toddler, I whole-heartedly recommend that you start!

Let Them Help: trust your toddler with certain responsibilities: getting the wipe and new diaper ready; spreading out the changing mat; putting the used diaper in the pail; climbing up to the sink to wash hands; etc.

Presto, Chango: for easy changes, do it on the fly – standing up! Or on your lap. Or while your toddler is playing. Just do it fast!

Special Toys: save a few special toys/objects for diaper changing time only. Of course this will only work if you can then get the object back gently without causing a huge ruckus.

Consider Cloth: if you’ve never tried cloth diapers, consider making the switch. You can still save money and do your part to help the environment. More importantly, I know for a fact that many kids would choose cloth over plastic for the comfort factor alone. When I try to put plastic on Kieran, he pleads and begs with me, “cloth, mama, cloth!”

Nurse: there have been many occasions where I nurse while papa changes. It’s awkward, but it makes for a very peaceful change.

Naked Time: if you haven’t instituted some regular naked time in your household, now might be a good time to start. Toddlers love to be naked. I was worried that I would end up cleaning lots of accidents, but Kieran is surprisingly good about going on the potty chair when he doesn’t have a diaper on. Plus, sometimes it helps to just walk away from a stressful situation – as long as the bottom is clean and it is safe for your toddler to run around without a diaper, it might be easier for everyone to forgo the new diaper until you’ve had a chance to breathe and get into a more playful mood.

Warn Them First: it’s hard to be ripped away from a fun activity to go get a clean diaper. Instead of picking your toddler up like a piece of furniture, respect her feelings by asking her if she’s ready for a change. If she’s not ready, give her a warning. Some kids do well with a timer, others just want the verbal signal.

Try a Snack: grab a spoonful of peanut butter or a slice of apple and let your little one chow down.

Make a List: how many animals can your toddler name? How about animal sounds? Colors? Shapes? Make diaper time a fun recall activity time – but make sure it’s fun and not stressful for your little one. If they are uncomfortable being put on the spot about their recall abilities, it won’t make diaper changes any better.

What ideas do you have to help make diaper changes a good experience? Please share them in the comments.

10 Responses to:
"Gentle Parenting Ideas: Toddlers and Diaper Changes"

  1. Christina

    Thank you for this post! Diaper changes are the biggest issue with my almost 2 year old. You gave me some great ideas to use when the singing and book reading do not work! I love the timer idea. We do this at dinner time sometimes to keep him in his chair, so it may work with the diaper changes too.

  2. pshouseblog   Rainbowsouffle

    I give T the iphone. I can’t tell you how much it helps. She loves looking at pictures of her pappa or of her and her friends and will scroll through them while I change her. With that being said, we don’t have much diaper time anymore because she’s taking to this potty chair like nobody’s business!

  3. Maman A Droit   MamanADroit

    My “Baby” is becoming ever-more toddler like as he approaches his first birthday, so I loved seeing these tips. How do you respond if he says “no” when you tell him it’s time for a diaper change? My son just started saying “no” like two days ago and i’m discovering he’s even more opinionated than we thought (he’s saying “no” to stuff he never cried or fussed about before!) Anyway, I hate to force him against his will and not honor his no’s, but obviously diaper changes have to happen for health reasons!

  4. Erin W. / Beatnik Momma   babybeatnik

    Diaper changes are the biggest struggle around here! Kairi flails and cries and screams and if I’m luck enough to get her laid down and the diaper off, her hands IMMEDIATELY go right into the mess. It’s unavoidable.

    I’ve found that if I give her something she knows she’s not supposed to have, sometimes that helps. But I REALLY don’t want to send mixed signals about what she’s allowed to play with and what she’s not allowed to play with. 15 months old just don’t get “I can play with this specific (already messed up) DVD during diaper changes but I can’t play with it or any other DVD any other time.”

    I’ll try the naked time though. That seems like a good idea, especially if you’ve changed them immediately after wetting/pooping.

  5. Marilyn (A Lot of Loves)   ALotofLoves

    Your list is so thorough I don’t think I can add anything. My daughter has refused to lie down for most diaper changes since she was able to stand on her own. I am now a master of the standing diaper change…and occasionally the walking diaper change. I think the key is to do it fast.

  6. Stephanie B. Cornais   mamaandbabylove

    My daughter is just getting to the wiggly, I don’t wanna get my diaper changed stage. Giving her a toy, is helping for now. When I was a nanny to two toddlers, I would have them do a yoga pose while changing them. A pose where they were bring their toes to their nose, or out to the side for a stretch. Or even Down Dog (helpful for wiping butts when they are just starting to learn to go on the potty!) They were distracted and having fun, but were still in a position where I could change them super quick.

  7. Mariah

    Good tips. I’d like to add this one: get them involved in their own changes. When they are standing this is much easier. At this age they want control & to feel independent. This helps them get that feeling. Sure, the changes will take a bit longer & the toddler will not (initially) be very good at it. But, it supports where the kid is at & has the added benefit of helping at potty training time: they begin to see that this is about their initiative.

  8. So many great ideas! I like that yoga pose idea, too. It is funny to look back to this post and see K in diapers… since he was already out of them when I met him.

  9. Tickle time helps them relax to let me get the diaper off. With my 3 year old who hates diaper changes but refuses the potty, we count, taking turns saying the numbers. Sometimes he wants to sing the alphabet. The 2 year old likes to sign clean, dirty, wet, and dry as we go through the steps.

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