Gentle Parenting Ideas Series: Diaper Changes

This post is the fifth in a series about gentle parenting through potential power struggles with your toddler or preschooler. Each post will give you ideas and examples for using love, patience, and creativity to work through some fairly common parent/toddler areas of concern: brushing teeth, getting into the car seat, meals/eating, grocery shopping, diaper changes, and picking up toys. I welcome your gentle/respectful parenting ideas and feedback.


toddler cloth diaper

Ideas to Make Diaper Changes a Positive Experience

Let Your Toddler Choose the Location: since you probably aren’t using a changing table anymore, let your toddler pick the place. Remember that our toddlers are learning how to exercise their independence – so giving them some control is a theme that runs throughout this “gentle parenting ideas” series.

Songs/Rhymes/Fingerplays: occupy their hands by doing songs, rhymes, and fingerplays with (or without) hand motions: Itsy Bitsy Spider, Two Little Birds, Hickory Dickory Dock, etc.

Read a Book: some toddlers might want to hold a book and read to themselves, others might want to grab a favorite book that they can look at while you read (from memory).

Tell a Story: one of my biggest potty learning helps has been to ask Kieran to tell stories while he is using the potty chair. We have a notebook near the chair, and I actually write down his stories and read them back to him. If your little one doesn’t want to hold a book, this might be another way to occupy his attention while you change a diaper – you tell a story or help him make one up of his own.

Call for Reinforcement: there’s nothing wrong with asking for help, particularly if it will help everyone involved feel better about the outcome. Get someone else in there to entertain while you get down to the business end.

Practice Signing: if you are signing with your toddler, try practicing some sign language during diaper changes. If you aren’t doing sign language with your toddler, I whole-heartedly recommend that you start!

Let Them Help: trust your toddler with certain responsibilities: getting the wipe and new diaper ready; spreading out the changing mat; putting the used diaper in the pail; climbing up to the sink to wash hands; etc.

Presto, Chango: for easy changes, do it on the fly – standing up! Or on your lap. Or while your toddler is playing. Just do it fast!

Special Toys: save a few special toys/objects for diaper changing time only. Of course this will only work if you can then get the object back gently without causing a huge ruckus.

Consider Cloth: if you’ve never tried cloth diapers, consider making the switch. You can still save money and do your part to help the environment. More importantly, I know for a fact that many kids would choose cloth over plastic for the comfort factor alone. When I try to put plastic on Kieran, he pleads and begs with me, “cloth, mama, cloth!”

Nurse: there have been many occasions where I nurse while papa changes. It’s awkward, but it makes for a very peaceful change.

Naked Time: if you haven’t instituted some regular naked time in your household, now might be a good time to start. Toddlers love to be naked. I was worried that I would end up cleaning lots of accidents, but Kieran was surprisingly good about going on the potty chair when he didn’t have a diaper on. Plus, sometimes it helps to just walk away from a stressful situation – as long as the bottom is clean and it is safe for your toddler to run around without a diaper, it might be easier for everyone to forgo the new diaper until you’ve had a chance to breathe and get into a more playful mood.

Warn Them First: it’s hard to be ripped away from a fun activity to go get a clean diaper. Instead of picking your toddler up like a piece of furniture, respect her feelings by asking her if she’s ready for a change. If she’s not ready, give her a warning. Some kids do well with a timer, others just want the verbal signal.

Try a Snack: grab a snack safe for little fingers and let your little one chow down (this might work better for standing-up diaper changes).

Make a List: how many animals can your toddler name? How about animal sounds? Colors? Shapes? Make diaper time a fun recall activity time – but make sure it’s fun and not stressful for your little one. If they are uncomfortable being put on the spot about their recall abilities, it won’t make diaper changes any better.

What ideas do you have to help make diaper changes a positive experience? Please share them in the comments.


This post has been edited from a previous version published at Code Name: Mama.

Author: Dionna

Dionna writes at Code Name: Mama, where she shares information, resources, and her thoughts on natural parenting and life with a toddler/preschooler.

3 thoughts on “Gentle Parenting Ideas Series: Diaper Changes”

  1. Thanks for this post! Baz has never liked having his diaper changed and these days it’s getting worse. Some of these suggestions are ones I haven’t tried, yet, and I’m filing them away. I can’t wait for him to be able to talk to me – that alone should ease some of the frustrations!

  2. I let my daughter choose the nappy – and if there is more than one adult present instead of just me I ask her who shed prefer to have change her nappy – she always chooses one of us which means she has her nappy changes rather than just running away.

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