How to teach kids to wipe

Find out how you can encourage your kids to feel fresh with our handy guide.

Content reviewed and approved by Amanda Jenner, the longest established and most experienced Toilet Training Expert in the UK today, and founder of the Potty Training Academy.

By the time your child has wowed you with their potty using prowess, you’ll find one more important step on this toilet training journey together – wiping.
Help your child learn how to keep themselves clean and fresh by teaching them to wipe their bottom once they’ve finished using the toilet or potty.
Because your little ones can’t see back there, for now it’s up to you to check they’re all clean. But by teaching them the right way to wipe their own bum, you can both be confident that they feel and are clean after wiping.
Some children might take longer to develop motor skills before they can wipe their bottom properly, but it’s only natural. What’s important is that you’re there to help boost their confidence while they work on it – and that you can help with wiping when needed.


When to start wiping training

If your child started potty training early in life, then they’ll be ready to begin wiping sooner.
One clear sign your child might be ready to start wiping themselves is when they tell you they’re finished. Knowing they’re done and ready to hop off the potty is a huge step. It means you can make your visits shorter and there’s less risk of using more toilet tissue than necessary in case your child wasn’t quite finished after all.
Even if your child isn’t ready to wipe their bottom yet, start wiping training from the time they first take to the potty. You may tend to wipe after a wee for both your little girl and boy – but feeling clean after a wee is a doddle compared to wiping clean after a poo.
Talk through what you’re doing as you wipe, so they start to associate wiping with that clean feeling. This way they’ll know the value of a proper clean - even before they try to do it themselves


Teaching your child to wipe their bottom properly

Teaching your child how to use toilet paper properly is an important step. Here’s how you can encourage them to do so and move towards toilet independence.

Unroll, tear and fold the paper
Check the toilet paper dispenser is within reach, or just encourage them to grab a loose roll that’s placed nearby. Show them how it tears easily and how to fold it.

Lay it flat
Get your child to practise laying the folded paper flat in the palm of their hand. Avoid scrunching – the idea is to cover as much of their bottom as possible and minimise the chances of getting poo on their hands.

Reach for the bottom
Make sure your child applies the paper to the correct area. This can be the tricky part, putting your child’s co-ordination and fine motor skills to the test.
Amanda’s Advice: Not all kids can reach their bums. This is not uncommon so don't worry. Continue to try and guide them until they can reach. This can be the case until they are at least six years old - it can take time

Wipe from front to back
An especially important step for girls, make sure your child knows it’s more hygienic to wipe from front to back.

The clean test
Check the paper to see if it’s clean and drop into the toilet.

Keep wiping until clean
Repeat the above until the paper looks clean.

Flush the toilet
Help your child achieve a sense of accomplishment by flushing away their poo.

Wash your hands
Always an important step, make sure it’s part of the ritual.

Wiping for boys and girls

Boys and girls should both wipe from front to back. It’s the most hygienic option and provides a more effective clean. But it’s especially important that girls are aware they need to wipe from front to back. Poo contains bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections if it’s wiped into the urethra.


Wiping tips and tricks

Teaching your children how to wipe is straightforward, but mastering it takes time – especially while they’re still fine-tuning their coordination skills. Be patient and encouraging when they’re learning. Stress the importance of getting that clean feeling and your little one will see (and feel) the benefit.

Talk about why wiping is important

There’s no need to get into the fine details at this stage, but take what your child knows about the importance of keeping away nasty germs through handwashing and baths and apply it further to having a clean bum. Context is everything – otherwise you risk the process of properly wiping becoming a chore, and they may resist doing it properly.

How much toilet paper should a child use?

You might not know how much exactly is needed when a child wipes themselves clean, but you can show them it’s important not to waste it. One idea is to put a marker on the bathroom wall – if your little one unrolls the toilet paper past this point before tearing it off, make it clear that’s a waste.

Should children use wet wipes?

While getting little ones familiar with using toilet paper to clean their bums after a poo is important, you could encourage them to finish with a flushable wipe . That way you can both be confident of a more thorough clean.  However, your child should understand that there might not always be the option to use a flushable wipe – if you’ve run out at home or are using different facilities. Achieving the same clean feel with toilet paper is just as important.

All finished?

Getting your child to wipe themselves properly is not an overnight job. You’ll need to be on hand for a while to ensure they can do it themselves. When your child has finished wiping, encourage them to check with you that you’re happy with it. 

You can either finish wiping with careful verbal feedback or congratulate them on a job well done. What’s important is that they’re aware of expectations – and you manage your own through coaching and support.

Teaching children how to wipe once they’re finished on the potty or toilet is a rewarding challenge – just like getting them on there in the first place was. Take heart that your child is showing the confidence to take care of such an important job and help them develop the skills they need to do so.

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