• Panda Mandarin

Potty Training Time is Language Learning Time

Updated: Aug 23, 2019

Summer is potty training season for many parents of toddlers; fewer clothes to clean, warmer days, and playing outdoors are all things that can make those first few steps towards toilet independence a little bit easier. Potty training can also be a time of stress; one more mess to clean up in an already hectic day.


However, when we take the time to look at this time a little differently, it can also be a great opportunity for language learning. Children are already going through time of learning and growth, so piggybacking a little bit of fun language learning is a great way to pack more excitement and accomplishment into the experience. Research also shows that making language learning part of every day routines such as potty training, meals, or bedtime routines is one of the best ways for toddlers to learn. 


One way which I recommend for parents to add some language learning is through a “Mandarin Potty Chart”. When my daughter first started potty training, this was a tool which really helped her to get excited about both potty training and learning new words in Mandarin. (See pictures below for reference) 


Here’s what you can do: 

  1. Create a board game-like poster board, with a path and Mandarin words on each square of the path. 

  2. Clearly write down the rules on the board so that your child knows when to expect rewards.

  3. Decorate it with your child, make it colorful and exciting for them (our boards featured animals, and "Frozen” characters).

  4. Then explain the rules clearly at the beginning so your child will understand how to earn prizes.

  5. Try to reiterate the rules every morning so your child will remember the chart and rewards throughout the day.

To start out, we would put a sticker on a square every time she successfully used the potty (one sticker for a pee, two stickers for a poo). Then we would learn the word at the same time when she was pasting the sticker. Every time she used the potty I would make sure to give her a lot of praise, and adding the learning to that celebration means that there is a positive association with learning as well.


Once your child gets to one of the designated "Prize” squares, they earn a prize. I suggest customizing the prize to their interests. For example, if your child loves stickers, books, or surprise eggs, draw those as possible prizes they could earn. Let them choose between the prizes, this adds a sense of participation and accomplishment for your little one.


As your child progresses on the toilet training journey, you can create a more challenging chart. In this second chart your child will earn one sticker for every accident free day. They also will learn the corresponding Chinese character that day, repeating it often. Designate a "Prize day” once every few days. Since the chart is more challenging, you can also make the prizes a bit bigger to help them stay motivated. For example, we added options like Kidville, and dinner outings to the prize chart if my daughter was accident free for one week and learned all the 7 corresponding Chinese characters.


Make sure to review the previous characters every day so that by the end of the week. If your child learns just one character a day, they could recognize dozens of characters by the end of a summer of potty training! How amazing would that be?


For some, this may seem a little daunting at first. However, I have found that much of our kids’ attitudes about learning comes from us as parents. If we as parents view it as fun, easy, and part of every day life; our kids will start to adapt the same attitude.


Sometimes the key to setting our children up for fun-filled learning is a little intentionality and creativity on our part as parents. So give it a try, and let us know how your Mandarin chart works!