Literacy and Numeracy with Poo

How can something so innocuous be the source of so much pain and suffering?

How can something so innocuous be the source of so much pain and suffering?

Well, despite all my misgivings (see posts one and two on potty training), the Boy has had a breakthrough with the potty and seems to be as sorted as you can be when you’re three.

So, of course you will now want to know: what was the secret? What made him decide to abandon the easy life of weeing and pooing where you stand, to having to go and take your trousers off and sit on an uncomfortable receptacle, followed by wiping and hand washing and all sorts of things that take you away from doing what you want for absolutely AGES?

Two things: chocolate and numbers.

This should not have been a surprise, really. From when he was tiny, the Boy has always been easily pacified and distracted by food, and, well, you all know about his obsession with numbers. We have yet to find anything that isn’t made better by adding numbers into the mix.

This is what we did:


1. Bribery: All the left over chocolate coins in the Boy’s birthday treasure chest were pressed into service as a reward for doing wees in the potty – TWO for a poo, as this was proving to be more of a challenge, just as Pirate Pete had said it would. The Boy soon cottoned on, and would come running in from a trip to the potty shouting: “One gold coin, Mummy!” He did struggle, however, to understand that it wasn’t so much the presence of a deposit in the potty that earned the coin as where it had originally been deposited. All too often he would poo in his pants, tip the poo into the potty and come and demand double rewards. (My apologies if you are eating while reading this, but then it’s your own fault, the word ‘poo’ in the title should have tipped you off)

DSCF45862. Reward chart with numbers: When the gold coins ran out, I switched to a sticker chart. This proved surprisingly popular. I thought he’d like it less as it drastically reduced the treat-frequency, but as it turned out numbers were more exciting even than chocolate. I drew ten footsteps per row, numbered them and ended each row with a star. The first two stars were some kind of edible treat and the third star was a small present (eg. a little wind up ladybird from Mothercare @ £1). He again earned one sticker for a wee and two for a poo. “Number 3, Mummy!” he would shout elatedly while pressing a sticker onto the footstep, “seven footsteps to go!” He was doing subtraction without breaking a sweat. We went through three of these charts before I just quietly didn’t make another and he didn’t ask after it.

3. Poo numbers and letters: By this time, the number of floor puddles had reduced to zero and he had stopped soiling his underwear. Poos were still an issue, though, and every other day we would have almost non-stop potty trips trying to get shy faeces to come out, until in desperation I just left his trousers off. It worked. He came running up to me in triumph, mostly naked, saying: “Come and see Mummy! I made a J for Judith!” In trepidation, I went to have a look. Resting neatly inside the potty, was a massive long poo, with a curve at the bottom. It was, in fact, a J. He hadn’t touched it with his hands, it had just come out like that. This moment marked a turning point for the Boy. Poo was no longer scary. Poo was a new opportunity to spot numbers and letters in every day life. I am now regularly called in to admire a “number 1” or an “opposite 7” (backwards) or a “letter R: down, up, round and FLICK!” (thanks, Squigglet). A slightly unorthodox method of learning to read, I believe, or even to potty train, but it works for The Boy.

So there you have it. The Boy appears to be mostly potty trained. It took about 6 weeks from the Day of Constant Puddles to now. The lessons I have learned from this would be, firstly, that the key to successful potty training is owned by each child themselves and has something to do with their character and special interests (really not rocket science, I guess) and secondly, that the key to successful literacy and numeracy teaching is, of course, poo.


7 responses

    • I resisted the idea of bribery for a while, but the whole potty training thing seemed so daunting that I thought I’d just jump right in with the treats to make it all pass more quickly…

  1. Great news hon, I’m really pleased to hear that you’ve cracked it. It took us a good month, and although it felt like hell at points it was worth sticking at and not going back once we’d decided to put her in knickers. Well done to you both 🙂

    • Yes, there were some pretty tough points but generally it’s been okay. It has also taught me to pay closer attention to him when he speaks. Before, I’d sometimes tune the endless chatter out, but when what he is saying could potentially mean a mad dash to contain a river of wee or to rescue the cream carpet from poo stains you learn to listen REALLY well.

  2. Oh well done the clever Boy for cracking it!! Huge cheers from the White Feathers family xx And how fantastic for him to have seen this as another opportunity for letter/number spotting. I’m intrigued – will poo-based literacy be making an appearance on Clean Slate?? xx

    • Oh if I ever get back into Clean Slate it certainly will! I’m despairing of it at the moment as I am so busy with work, all my brain seems capable of is reporting on poo…

  3. Pingback: Potty Training Confessions: 9 months down the line | Secrets of the Sandpit

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