Signs your child may be ready to begin potty training:
- child holds his urine then floods his diaper when he goes all at once
- child shows interest in the potty itself
- child can undress himself
- child tugs on or takes off diaper as soon as it is soiled
- child tells you when he’s soiled himself
- child wakes up from nap/bedtime dry
- child can wash his own hands
Things you need:
- at least 6 pairs of underwear or 6 Lalabye Baby cloth diapers
- a looootttt of patience
- someone to support you while you support your child
- time and energy to dedicate to watching your child like a hawk (so no busy outings scheduled for at least a few days)
- a potty chair that does NOT look like a toy (this is important to avoid confusion so that the child doesn’t potty in other actual toys) or a potty seat that is comfortable and easy for child to use in however many bathrooms you want to have your child be able to use in your house (ideally all of them).
- sturdy step stool(s) so child can reach toilet and sink
- a small wet bag for on the go or a larger wet bag for storing at home accidents
- paper/unpaper towel and your choice of carpet cleaner (if you have carpet in your home)
Other nice things to have:
- a faucet extender makes it easier for your kiddo to wash up on his own
- Sprayer and Spray Pal for cleaning up accidents
- potty chart/rewards system (if this works well for your child)
Preparing to potty train:
- Gather your supplies and make sure that what you buy is the right size/height for your child. Involve them in the purchasing process if possible.
- Set up extra supplies in each bathroom so that you don’t have to run around the house looking for wipes while your wiggly toddler is sitting on the seat covered in yuckies.
- Stock up on clothes that are easy for your kid to use himself. Girls: short dresses are perfect for potty training because it doesn’t require much work on their part to lift up the excess fabric of the dress to use the potty. Boys: elastic waistband jeans, sweat pants, or basketball style shorts are much easier to take down than anything with buttons or snaps. If you have your kiddo go sans pants or underwear, you don’t have to worry about this step!
- Take your kid to the bathroom with you and verbally walk them through what you are doing.
- Let your child sit on the potty whenever they are interested. You can ask them if they want to try while you are going on the big potty.
- Limit the space where the child will be allowed and make the potty a central focus (place a potty chair in the living room/kitchen/wherever you plan to corral yourselves)
- Get off your phone– pay attention to your child’s often miss-able cues so you can help him be successful more often in making it to the potty.
- Leave the child naked from the waist down OR put the child in underwear/trainers OR continue to use Lalabye Baby cloth diapers, but be sure to snap the insert on top of the shell (using it as an all-in-two) and only using one insert so that the child notices immediately when he is peeing, and simply loosen the fit of the diaper to the next colored snap out so that the child can easily pull the diaper up and down like training pants. This is particularly helpful because the TPU shell will still prevent major floods getting all over your floors/furniture while your kiddo is learning.
- Allow your kid to drink to thirst but don’t overdo it on the fluids.
- Take your child to the potty every 20 minutes or so and encourage them to try going- praise them for trying even if nothing happens. This creates a positive association with the potty. (You can use a timer if you wish to remind yourself, but I would leave it on vibrate instead of making a noise audible to your kid. You want them to listen to their body not a timer.)
- Above all, praise your child like crazy when they actually go and especially when they initiate trying on their own. I’m talking clapping, smiling, cheering, saying things like, “WOW! Mommy is SO proud of you!” “Are you proud of you too?! You should be!” “What a big boy/girl!” “Great job going on the potty!” “You listened to your body!” Etc. If you’re going the reward route, this would be the time to give them that sticker/treat/small toy. (We used a small bag of dollar store toys/goodies at the beginning that he got to choose from when he went on his own.)
- Be sure to take your child to the potty first thing in the morning, 10-20 minutes after a meal, before nap, after nap, and before bed. This is a good routine to establish at the very beginning and can help train their bodies to go at these times.
- Encourage them to go when they feel like they need to as well- don’t make it all about the clock!
- Remind them often that they are wearing underwear. “Don’t forget, bud. You’re wearing underwear, so you need to pee in the potty (or tell me) when you need to go!”
- Songs are great reminders too. We love Daniel Tiger. “When you have to go potty, stop and go right away! Flush and wash and be on your way!”
- If your kiddo does not have any developmental delays or other complications preventing potty training and is older than 3 or 4 and has been struggling for a while, cut out diapers/disposable trainers altogether. (WHAT?!) Yup. Disposable trainers are still very absorbent and do not do a good enough job of letting the kid know they are wet- they don’t make them uncomfortable enough to care to want to stop going in them. Cold turkey, folks. Get rid of them. Yes, even at night. I know it’s a huge pain in the butt and super inconvenient for you (you’ll be washing bed sheets and that car seat a few times- hopefully you picked one that comes apart easily) but honestly it’s the best way to get through to them that diapers are OUT.
- Regardless of gender, encourage your kiddo to sit down to pee. This can help them to feel comfortable sitting on the potty so that they aren’t scared to sit for long periods of time to poop.
- When they need to poop (and usually we know when that is) comfort them and remind them it’s okay to sit for a while to accomplish this task. Read with them, sing with them, rub their back (whatever usually helps them feel comforted or relaxed), or let them tell you a story or even play on the iPad/phone if that’s your thing (the Elmo potty app has a great little story with songs that my kiddo enjoyed when learning how to hang out on the potty). Some parents even put the potty chair in front of the television during this time to help them relax and not want to run around. Eventually, my kid started yelling, “PIIEEVASSSEEEEE!” and kicking me out all together. Whatever works for your kiddo!
Should you venture out:
- Bring a wet bag, a travel potty seat (which fits great in one of our wet bags), extra clothes (maybe two sets depending on how long you plan to be gone), wipes, and extra diapers/underwear/trainers.
- You may also consider bringing a sheet of stickers. Some kids do not like the loud noise of the flush of an industrial potty. If you happen upon a potty that is self flushing, this can scare the jeepers out of your kid if it flushes with them on the toilet, and it can turn them off from wanting to potty outside the house. Simply put a sticker over the sensor before your kid gets on the potty to prevent this, and toss it when they’re done.
- Take them to the potty immediately before you leave the house and immediately upon arriving at your destination. Be sure to take them immediately before you leave your destination too.
- Be sure to point out that everywhere you go has a potty available to him/her. Sometimes you can intrigue them by asking, “What do you think the potty looks like here?”
- Consider keeping a potty chair, wipes, a wet bag, and a few grocery sacks in the back of your car for emergencies and especially for longer road trips.
- Do not go back to super absorbent diapers when leaving the house just to make it easier on yourself. (I made this mistake.) It confuses the child and can complicate and lengthen the process of getting them to learn that they have to use the potty everywhere, not just at home.
Night training/nap training:
- These are often the last trouble spots to eliminate. Lay down a folded over towel under your kiddo before nap/bed (make sure you have a waterproof mattress pad on the mattress under the bed sheet) and let them sleep in underwear or nothing at all.
- You want them to feel immediately when they start to go. Sometimes the towel will catch just enough if they kiddo realizes he’s going in time to stop and get to the potty, but sometimes you end up washing it with the sheets. At any rate, the towel tends to help contain the mess a little.
- You can also use the following layering technique so that changing out the top layer of sheets in the middle of the night is easier: mattress, towel #1, sheet #1, towel #2, sheet #2. If kiddo has an accident, just peel off the top layer of sheet and towel and go about your night.
- Some parents choose to put an additional potty seat in the child’s room next to their bed and next to a night light to encourage the child to go during the night in the potty without having to be afraid of going down the hall or too afraid to walk by themselves to the potty. If you go this route, I encourage you to put down a towel or a waterproof mat under the potty just in case.
- It takes some children a lot longer to get the hang of this, but if their body isn’t given the chance to recognize they are going, their brain and body won’t learn.
Above all, remember to try to have patience, be kind, and when your child has an accident, don’t scold them. Remember, they’re learning. Accidents happen. Even though they’re really frustrating for us, they’re also frustrating for the child too. Usually, your child just wants to please you, and you don’t want them to associate negative feelings (disappointment, fear, and failure) with trying to potty train– that doesn’t increase success.
If you try training and it’s too much for the both of you, then stop. Try again later when your child is more ready. There is no magic age. Some kids potty train at 18 months, others train at 3 years. Just like with walking and talking and all the other developmental milestones, it varies from kid to kid, and your child using the potty earlier or later doesn’t determine his worth or intelligence.
Good luck and happy training!