Mastering the art of shoe-tying, using a fork and brushing teeth--such everyday activities mark milestones in a small child's life, but none loom as large as the skill that must be learned before that all-important transition from diapers to "big kid" undies.
Potty training, not the usual children's TV fare, is admirably addressed Sunday in "When You've Got to Go!," a special episode of "Bear in the Big Blue House," the Disney Channel's preschooler show from Jim Henson Television, starring all manner of funny, friendly creatures looked after by ever-patient, 7-foot-tall Bear.
Dr. Barbara J. Howard, a specialist in child development and toilet training at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, served as consultant on the episode, which was written and directed by series creator Mitchell Kriegman with appealing humor and reassurance.
It revolves around Tutter the mouse and Ojo the little bear's potty anxiety--Tutter, playing checkers with big Bear, is uncomfortably squirming in his chair, afraid he'll miss some fun if he goes to the bathroom. Ojo, the little girl bear, is unhappy because she waited too long and had an accident.
Big, cozy Bear comforts and encourages his small pals and viewers, calmly cleaning up after Ojo, talking about listening to your body's signals and offering potty hygiene pointers.
Treelo the lemur, who is beyond diapers, remembers how hard it was to climb trees wearing one; the purple otters, Pip and Pop, induct everyone into the Mystic Order of the Toileteers. When evening comes, Bear quietly recaps the day's lesson with Luna, the moon.
For parents who might welcome a bit of positive reinforcement, this no-pressure, when-you're-ready, everybody-does-it, demystifying approach is it.
* "Bear in the Big Blue House: When You've Got to Go!," the Disney Channel, Sunday,8 a.m. Repeats March 6, 8 a.m.; March 10,10 a.m.; March 15, 1:30 p.m. TV-Y (suitable for very young children).