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Helping your child stay dry

Many pre-schoolers occasionally wet themselves during the day – usually when they are busy playing or excited by something. If daytime wetting is something your child is experiencing often, there are things you can do to help.

Why does it happen?

Daytime wetting is more common in girls and younger children, and often there’s no serious underlying cause. Here are some of the reasons it happens:

  • A change in routine

Any significant change in routine, such as moving house or having a new baby for example, can be unsettling to a child. Usually things will settle down again once a new routine is established.

  • Absorbed in play

Younger children especially can become so engrossed in what they’re doing that they either forget or ignore their body’s signs that they need to go to the toilet.

Child painting

  • Not completely emptying the bladder

Some children are in such a rush to get back to having fun, that they don’t completely empty their bladder when they go to the toilet, and wet themselves as result

  • Small bladder or overactive bladder

Some children have a smaller bladder capacity because it has not been stretched enough, while others have an overactive bladder and may need the toilet more often (usually more than eight times a day) or more urgently.

  • Drinks

Some drinks can affect the bladder meaning you need to wee more often. These include tea and coffee (which aren’t suitable for younger children anyway because of the caffeine content), drinking chocolate, fizzy drinks and ‘dark’ squashes such as blackcurrant.

  • Urinary tract infections (UTI)

It’s not uncommon for a child to get a UTI. A routine test by your GP will establish if your child is experiencing this.

  • Constipation

When children are constipated, it can put pressure on the bladder, which means children may end up wetting themselves.

  • Anxiety or emotional upset

If you think this might be an underlying cause, encourage your child to talk to you about their worries.

  • Physical or learning difficulties

Children with additional or learning needs may start potty training later than others, and may take a little longer to be consistently dry.

How can I help?

Your health visitor or GP can help you explore why your child is wetting themselves and ensure you are supported to resolve or manage this. There are also several practical strategies that you can try:

  • Use a reward chart and lots of encouragement

A reward or sticker chart accompanied with lots of positive praise will encourage your child to remember to go to the toilet on their own. If they tend to rush when they go to the toilet, encourage them to count to 10 slowly before getting off the toilet, to ensure they fully empty their bladder.

  • Make it easy

Your child needs to be able to remove their clothing easily if they’re going to use the toilet independently. Avoid things with fiddly zips and buttons while they’re mastering this skill.

  • Have a think about their drinks

If you think a particular drink is making your child need the toilet more often, substitute it with something else for a few days to see if it makes a difference. Your child should be drinking 6 – 7 drinks throughout the day. Drinking plenty helps ensure the bladder is able to work efficiently. When your child starts school, make sure they have a water bottle to take with them.

  • Get a balance

Make sure your child’s eating a varied diet which includes cereals, fruit and vegetables. This will help to prevent them becoming constipated.

  • Consistency is key

If your child attends a nursery, preschool or childminder, make sure they are following the same toileting routines as you do when they are at home. 

The most important thing is to stay calm. If your child has an accident, don’t get angry or upset, just focus on praising them when they do use the toilet successfully.

If they’re about to start school, talk to them about what the routine is in school and how they ask to go to the toilet. You may wish to establish a special arrangement with the teacher such as a card to show that they need to go to the toilet and can be immediately allowed to go. Review how this is working with your child and their teacher, change the system as needed. Your child may not need this for very long.

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Page last reviewed: 21-03-2024

Next review due: 21-03-2027