Toddler Diaper Changes Without The Fight

Toddler Diaper Changes (3).jpg

I didn't think I had a problem with diaper changes, until it dawned on me that chasing my 18 month old around (while freaked he’d get poop on the couch) became my normal. Eeks! Now I'm seeing diaper changes in a whole new light, and consider this time together very special. Instead of distracting him and speeding things up to get the task "over with," I'm slowing down (way down), and allowing him to be part of the experience. I’m also using this time to meaningfully connect with him.

Here are the 5 steps for easy diaper changes, as inspired by Magda Gerber's RIE® Educaring® approach:

1) First, tell your child that you’d like to change his/her diaper. if possible, wait until play is finished.

When I'm not interrupting what he's doing, he's much more cooperative during diapering. So I’ll tell him that I’ll wait a few minutes for him to finish playing, and then I’ll diaper him. I have never noticed a rash in such a short time. Yet, there are times when he doesn’t want to stop playing for a diaper change (makes sense, right?). Then we can calmly acknowledge and maybe offer a choice, “yes, you’re having fun here and I need to change your diaper. Do you want me to pick you up or can you walk over here? Okay… I’m going to pick you up…”

Then I'll ask him whether he'd like to stand up or sit down for a diaper change. These days he prefers to lay down. It's up to you if you'd like to offer a choice like this. I find it helps his cooperation to get started in a position where he's most comfortable. 

Diaper 1.jpg

There is no need to distract. instead, make the time meaningful.

This is a meaningful time for us to connect and be together, and a distraction would take away from this. Distractions might also sends the message, "I don't need your cooperation" and "lets get this chore over with." Holding a diaper or a wipe, however, is part of the diapering process and that can be offered. 

Instead of distraction, I talk to him about what I am doing. I do each thing slowly (very slowly), and make eye contact with him throughout the process. This sounds like, "I'm going to take off your pants from your left the right leg...." When I talk with my children about what's happening to them, the more they learn about themselves, and develop language and trust. I pause and allow him to talk. I like to learn about him during these times too. 

Diaper 3.jpg

Involve your child throughout the diapering process.

When he’s well rested, he becomes very cooperative when I ask him for help. I ask him to take off the sides of his diaper and give him some time to try. I ask him to lift up his bottom while I slowly remove the diaper. I ask him to feel the wipe (or the cloth wipe we use at home) to check the temperature so he's not surprised when I wipe his bottom. If you'd like, you can say the correct anatomical names. For example, “I’m going to wipe your penis with this cloth.” There are many benefits to embracing and understanding all of our body parts.

Diaper 7.jpg

Allow your child to see poop and pee in their diaper.

This is hands down my son’s favorite part of his diaper change! Toddlers especially are curious about their body and what it can do. His awareness about his own pee and poop has helped him begin toilet learning, and he also loves to help throw away his diaper and wash his hands afterwards. We have started potty learning and I keep a simple and small accessible training toilet for him nearby to practice. No rush. No rewards necessary.

I also never refer to his poop as "stinky" or use negative descriptions. This part is BIG. I want him to feel confident and positive about his normal body functions, never embarrassed or shamed over something so normal. Then we wash our hands together and continue this slow, gentle, connecting time during hand washing. 

Diaper 10.jpg
Diaper 11.jpg
Diaper 12.jpg

acknowledge the feelings if there is upset during a diaper change,

and carry on.

My son usually becomes upset having to put a new diaper on, and with carpet, I can’t let him walk around without one at this stage. I try to acknowledge his upset feelings about this by saying, "I can see you don't like having the new diaper on...can you pull out your leg?  You don't want to do that. Hmmm... I'll wait until you're ready." Sometimes he agrees right away to put on the diaper, and other times I'll wait and then say, "it's time to put your new diaper on. I'm going to help you get it on. Yes, I see this upsets you. I need to put it on because we're leaving the house soon."

Diaper 15.jpg

What are your thoughts? Do you struggle with diaper changes? What might you do differently to build more cooperation and/or connection?

PS - If you’d like a free training on how to do less & enjoy more at playtime, trade me your email and I’ll send it on over to you. :)

PPS- Come join the Bay Area Whole Child Activities group if this is your ‘hood, and hop over on Instagram for a peek into my child-led play adventures and self-care in Insta stories.

I also offer Parent Coaching if you’re looking for a positive, practical approach to benefit your whole family.

Sending you lots of love,


This is the ultimate interactive guide to transforming the mundane and tricky times into hands down, your family’s favorite times of the day.