For many parents, potty training can be an overwhelming concept. However, you have to do what’s best for you and your little one. That means starting this incredibly rewarding, but also sometimes tenuous process when you and your toddler are ready and choosing the method that is best based on how your Boston Baby learns and responds.
Below are a few tricks to the trade as well as some suggested props for the potty, which may prove helpful as you approach this next benchmark in your child’s developmental process.
When “should” you start to potty train?
Potty training is a very personal choice for parents and should begin when the parent(s) and child are “ready.” *Most children show interest between 18-24 mths, while others may not show signs until 30 mths. See below for signs on when to know that your toddler is interested in the potty and may respond well to beginning the potty training process.
What are some signs that your little one is interested in the potty?
- Your child enjoys exploring the bathroom.
- Your child takes an extra interest in everything you do while you are going to the bathroom.
- Your child “helps” you while you are going to the bathroom…
- Brings in books so you can read to him/her
- Flushes the toilet
- Provides you with toilet paper
- Tries to wipe you or him/herself
- Wants to wash his/her hands
- Your child verbalizes “bathroom” words such as potty, pee pee, poo poo, dirty, wash hands, etc.
How do you prepare your little one for the potty?
- Based on the above clues, go off of your little one’s lead. Put some of his/her favorite books in the bathroom. These books should stay in the bathroom (although again, do not be overly strict on this, as not to make this a negative experience). When you go to the bathroom, invite your child in with you and read to him/her, placing the book (or your child) in your lap. Creating a fun environment in the bathroom and “housing” some of his/her favorite books will keep your kid coming back for more!
- Also, since toddlers love to be little assistants, let your child help you by handing you toilet paper, flushing the toilet, washing his/her hands, etc. Model for your toddler, say what you are doing and why. While it may seem silly since your baby may not understand everything you are saying or doing, you are demonstrating what you want him/her to do one day. Your toddler will surprise you with how much he/she actually absorbs and digests from your daily dialogue.
What props are preferred when potty training?
While this too is a personal preference, Amazon sells a very reasonably priced 3-in-1 potty that serves as a potty, stepping stool and removable seat for the toilet.
The ducky sings as a reward when the child pees, and is adorable, inviting and quite functional. The stepping stool enables children to step up to wash their hands after going to the potty, or brush their teeth after meals and can also be used in the kitchen to help Mom or Dad cook dinner. The stool (while a little unstable and children should not be left alone while one it) allows your little one to feel like a big kid and a great helper.
The removable seat can be conveniently placed on your “big kid” potty (toilet) when your child is ready.
It is important to continue the potty training process even when you are on the go. While this sometimes can pose more problems, it is necessary, especially as your little one starts to better understand the potty and asks to go on command, that you are prepared so it is not confusing for them to go potty one minute and be asked to simply pee in their diaper the next.
Consistency is important, as is your child getting acclimated to going to the bathroom in public places (not only in the comfort of their own home or stationary potty.) While there are many options for this as well, a travel fold up potty is useful (and can be conveniently stored in a bag or stroller). Again, Amazon is a great resource for this. Boston Babies recommends Mommy’s Helper Cushie Traveler Folding Padded Potty Seat with Carrie Bag.
Even your little one enjoys to ponder while on the potty. Providing him/her with some light reading material will make the sometimes lengthy potty process go by a bit quicker. It is also helpful for children to see other babies or even animals going potty, being rewarded and enjoying the whole process. See below for recommended reading material:
- The Potty Book for girls (also one available for boys) by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
- No More Diapers for Ducky! by Bernette Ford and Sam Williams
- Potty by Leslie Patricelli
Reward Chart and Stickers:
Many toddlers respond well to reinforcement and some established rewards process. It is often helpful to reward your little one with a sticker every time he/she sits on the potty. This rewards system reinforces good behavior and encourages him/her to keep revisiting the potty, and trying to go the bathroom.
How do you (literally and logistically) begin the potty training process?
What are the different “methods” of potty training…Do you go guerrilla warfare style and do the “weekend or 5 day” process (where the babies go bare bottom and learn to use the potty by going pee pee and yes, poo poo all over your floor)? Or do you go for the long haul of potty training by association over the course of a few weeks, or even months?
While there have been success stories for each technique, the choice of how and when to potty train is yours (and in a sense, your little one’s.) Think about what method is appropriate for your child’s learning style and what you and your family feel comfortable implementing. Boston Babies feels that combining both philosophies is advantageous. The information provided is based on potty training on a consistent (yet slower paced) basis, in an effort to build confidence, enjoyment and understanding surrounding the potty process.
At times (when you know your toddler has to go potty, but is not paying attention, keeps getting off the potty to play, and returning to the potty to read), it may be helpful to let your baby go bare bottom. While this is a risk, it sometimes encourages your child to keep trying to go to the bathroom without the time consuming process of taking diapers on and off. Children often enjoy the freedom of running bare bottom as well, and quickly gravitate towards the potty when they feel more ready to pee or poop.
Even if your toddler makes a mistake (yes, sadly on your floor) he/she is still learning. Pick your child up and place him/her on the potty and remind your Boston Baby (without scolding or making your toddler feel like he/she did something bad) that pee pee and poo poo goes in the potty. And then together you can say “bye bye” to the pee or poo (which children always enjoy). This final step helps your toddler part with something that came out of his/her body–a concept that is sometimes concerning or confusing for kids.
Once you have determined that your little one is “ready,” interested and actively engaged in the potty process (based on the tips listed above), it is helpful to put your toddler on the potty often, so he/she becomes acclimated and comfortable. Some suggested times to start off with introducing the potty is before and after meals, bath time and naps/night’s sleep. These are generally times when children (and adults for that matter!) have to go to the bathroom. The most challenging part will be helping your baby understand and make the association between peeing and po0ping and how those activities relate to the potty.
It is actually surprising how quickly children start to make the association, although the ability to time the bathroom break in order to reach the potty is the tricky part. Just saying “potty” or “pee pee, poo poo” (even if that means they JUST went pee pee or poo in their actual diaper) is a small victory. That means that your toddler is starting to make the association and understand what is happening to his/her body. The ability to control his/her urine or bowels (especially during the night) is a work in progress…but you are definitely on your way as your toddler begins to ask to go to the potty (even if to simply play with the “toys” in the bathroom) and acknowledges when he/she needs a diaper change.
The first time your toddler actually goes potty may be a pleasant surprise to both of you. While it seems common sense, it is not unusual that you will find yourself staring at your child thinking “now what?” You have pee in the potty, a baby looking up at you for advice and not really any clear game plan. If you choose to go with a potty similar to the one recommended above, have your toddler stand and carefully wipe them (with toilet paper, so they become accustomed to the process, although it is best to clean them more thoroughly with a wipe on their changing pad after you are finished with the bathroom). Then empty out the contents of the potty (there is a removable “bucket” that allows you to dump the “prize” in the toilet). After your your little one says good bye to the pee or poo, have your child wash his/her hands.
Boston Babies recommends rinsing out this bucket, wiping it, drying it and then using a disinfectant wipe as well (such as Babyganics All Purpose Surface Wipes-Grime Fighter). While this might sound like an extreme level of cleanliness, it is likely that your little one will enjoy “playing with” his/her new potty, taking it apart, emptying it in to the toilet and bringing it in to the kitchen to serve as a stepping stool. Keeping the potty, and all its pieces, sanitary is best!
While the potty training process may feel daunting at times, it is important to remain calm and patient. Like most things involving children, it is a day to day development. Some days your little one will not want to leave the bathroom (it may be wise to store reading material in there for you as well!) Other days your toddler may assert his/her independence by flailing and fighting to sit on the potty. Try to go off of your child’s lead and know that any unexplained fussiness will most likely pass (as do many of the tantrums throughout the “terrible 2’s”).
When “should” your child be potty trained?
Again, this is a very subjective question, lending itself to an equally vague answer. Boys and girls vary in this developmental milestone. Most girls are generally potty trained between 2-2.5 years old, while boys may not be trained until approximately 3-3.5 years old. Children between 3-4 are usually able to control their urine and bowels and can stay dry even throughout the nights around 5 years of age.
Of course every child is different and there is no need to stress over this target age. Your child will not be heading to his/her college interview in diapers–so take a breath and remember that children can sense your anxiety, and staying calm, positive and enthusiastic about this process (even during those more challenging moments) will allow your toddler to view this as an exciting and enjoyable adventure.