Potty training

Diaper distraction

Make diaper changes with your toddler fun to prevent struggles

By Teresa Pitman
Diaper distraction

Remember the days when you could lay your baby down and take your time removing the diaper and cleaning everything up? Your little one might have fussed a bit — or even cried — but she couldn’t do much to evade the process. Then she learned to roll over, and it’s been downhill ever since (sometimes literally).

Your average toddler considers having her diaper changed an irritating intrusion into her busy life. With bugs to examine, magazines to rip up and adventures to be had, lying on her back while you change her diaper seems like a waste of valuable time. Her wiggling and attempts to escape can make things pretty messy. How do you keep everything under control?

There’s no one answer, but many parents of toddlers have found some strategies that work for them — at least some of the time.

Malgosia Halliop says her diaper-changing challenges started when her son, Lachlan, was just eight months old and learning to cruise around the room while holding onto furniture. “He hated being pinned on his back with his legs in the air,” she says. “My mother-in-law said she thought he found it undignified. I realized he’d be much happier standing up while I did the changing. So I had him hold onto the side of the bathtub while I dealt with the diaper.” This was also handy for a quick wash-down in the tub to clean him up if needed.

Things got trickier once Lachlan started walking, but Halliop says it was still easier to manage diaper changes with him standing. “You just have to be quick, so you can get the new diaper on before he walks away,” she says.

Other smart suggestions from parents of change-time challengers:


• Stand your child on a stool or chair in the middle of the room. That makes it harder for him to make a quick escape before you finish. Of course, for safety’s sake, make sure you are by his side the whole time.

• Involve her in the process: Ask your toddler to choose the diaper she wants from the package or from a selection you’ve laid out. Let her choose between lying on the floor or on the change table (or two other places you’re willing to use).

• Give him something captivating to hold in his hands. One mother keeps a stash with an old remote, an old wallet with some expired credit cards and an old cellphone — the kind of things her toddler is normally not allowed to touch. Being able to hold onto them while mom does the diaper change is a big treat and keeps his attention.

• Sing some of her favourite action songs as you go through the steps — “This Little Piggy” or “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes” — to keep her occupied.

• A mirror on the wall next to the counter or change table, so your toddler can see himself, can provide a good distraction.


• Try focusing on the fun activities that are going to happen after the trip to the change table: “Let’s change your diaper quick, quick, quick and then we can go outside and play in the sandbox!”

• Think it’s going to be a messy one? If you can stand him up in the bathtub while you remove the old diaper, rinsing him off will be easier. Getting the timing right helps too. If your toddler is busy exploring or engrossed in playing with some toys, perhaps the diaper change can wait a little while. Good times to initiate a change are when your little one is tired and ready for a nap, when he’s doing something quiet, such as watching a DVD, or when he’s feeling cuddly.

These tactics should help you through the diaper change battle. And before you know it, the diaper days will be long gone and your toddler will be proudly showing off her big-girl underwear.

Ready to use the potty?

If your toddler’s really resisting having her diaper changed, could it mean that she’s ready to start using the potty instead? Maybe. According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, your child might be ready if she:


• can walk to the potty or toilet • is stable while sitting on the potty or toilet (with a special seat) • can remain dry for several hours • is capable of following simple (one- or two-step) commands • can communicate with words or signs when she wants to use the potty • is interested in pleasing you • shows a desire to be independent • can control her bladder and bowels

This article was originally published on Feb 09, 2009

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with your baby's development, get the latest parenting content and receive special offers from our partners

I understand that I may withdraw my consent at any time.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.