Socialization over Video Chats, Toilet Learning, and Screen Time – A RIE Chat Summary

(Beginning in mid-March 2020, when the world shut down, I began a bi-weekly conversation with the parents who had been in my RIE classes. Since not every family could make it to these conversations, but each conversation touched on important elements, I would often write up a summary of the conversation. What follows is one of those summaries.)

Hello on a beautiful Saturday afternoon! I hope you all were able to get out and enjoy the sunshine and warm air for a bit today! I took a little walk before the call today and it was like a little wake-up call for my heart…as was the chat today.

I had a really lovely time checking in with two families from one of my Saturday classes…and their daughters(!) 🙂 in the first part of the call. It was so interesting to see how they related to one another through the screen. Much of the time, they simply did their own thing in the backgrounds while the adults chatted (or were happy to have us adults witness their skills in climbing, stickering, dancing, and playing musical instruments), but I loved it when one girl brought out her Minnie Mouse doll…suddenly, the other child disappeared, only to return with her OWN Minnie Mouse doll! And later, when one child strummed her daddy’s guitar in her mommy’s lap, the other brought out her ukulele! They most definitely were connecting. <3

We adults connected over the stress in the changes of life and schedules, talking about the anxiety that is present, but also in things that are working for them and new things they are trying (like potty training and climbing the Pikler triangle with one hand…).

As for potty learning, I recommended using thick cloth underwear, rather than pull-ups which are so absorbent, children won’t feel the difference after relieving themselves. The heavier cloth underwear won’t prevent accidents and messes, but they will help contain any that do happen.

And remember: signs of readiness for potty learning include

  • Waking up from nap with a dry diaper
  • Throughout the day, going longer between wet diapers
  • Telling you that they need to urinate or defecate, or that they just did
  • Seeking privacy for defecating, even in a diaper
  • Having the physical ability to take clothes off and put them back on

There’s also the emotional component of readiness…which is harder to ascertain, but you can tell by their interest: they will be interested in watching you or siblings use the potty. I recommend having a small potty out and available (or having a stepstool and small seat on the toilet always at the ready*) for them to use as ready, and simply offering it when you change their diapers. You may also consider emptying the contents of a poopy diaper into the toilet as an intermediary step. When they are showing the signs of readiness outlined above, that’s the time to offer those thicker underwear (during the day…plan to use diapers during naps and at night).

*You may want to simply opt for the stepstool and small seat on the toilet…the child size potties are great, but you will have to transition to the larger potty along the line, which may prove a challenge…or you may run into what one family is now dealing with…the desire to empty the potty anywhere except the toilet!!

One last item on potty learning…I was asked for a book recommendation and to be honest, I don’t have one! I’m still from the age of “Everybody poops” but I never really found it particularly ‘helpful.’ One family recommended “Super Poopers” which sounds exciting, but I haven’t read it. Anyone have any favorites they care to recommend?

We also talked about toddler activities for children who don’t like to be messy (play-dough, kinetic sand, food coloring drops), various ways to get physical activity in for toddlers (walking and running, sure, but also dancing and climbing (we discussed as we watched one child climb over and over her Pikler triangle, balancing really well and I commented on her core strength, which she heard clearly, proclaiming “I’m working on my core!”) J. And we talked about screen time and what children have been watching…the most popular by far was Coco, and I recommended the Train from Bergen to Oslo…which is literally just 7+ hours of a train traveling through Norway (it’s part of a movement called Slow TV…actually intended for adults (and it is amazingly soothing), but I like it for its slowness and realness as well as for the lack of any edits or storylines to follow…it invites you to talk about what you’re seeing…).

Toward the end of my call, the conversation got more philosophical…we talked about work…and explaining “work” to children who are now, perhaps for the first time, hearing you talk more explicitly about this thing you are doing when you step into another room and close the door. Why do you do it? What are you doing? Can your child also work? Of course, play is the child’s work…they do their work, we do ours. I’m curious: how are you talking to your child about this idea of work?

We also discussed something that has been on my mind recently…the evolution of Child Development. Think about it: just as there was a Renaissance in the arts, there was also a sudden Renaissance in the field of early childhood development…there was a sudden awareness of children as…people…people who aren’t simply mini adults, but who think differently and develop over time. Scientists and researchers started to collectively turn their attention to infants and toddlers…Piaget, Montessori, Pikler, Gerber, Steiner…What was it in history that made this realization and attention possible? We have our answers…what’s yours?

And rather than leave you on a philosophical note, here’s something more utilitarian: We also talked about the challenges of food delivery and I wanted to remind you all not to forget CSAs! They can deliver or often have curbside pickup!

Happy Easter to those who celebrate, and happy weekend to you all,


Okay, I can’t help it…I will leave you with a bit of philosophy in the form of today’s reading from The Parents’ Tao Te Ching

65. Knowledge or Wisdom?

If you try to teach your children
all the facts and answers
you think they need to know,
they will end up knowing nothing.

If instead you help them look
deep within themselves,
you will have led them to the source,
from where all answers flow.


Don’t look to schools
to teach your children wisdom.
Being “Student of the Month”
will not ensure happiness.
Your children will have to learn the Way
from other sources,
perhaps from you.