Potty training is one of those inevitable things that all parents and children must face sooner or later. We have just about succeeded with our first daughter, who is pretty much ‘potty trained’ in its truest sense; she knows when it is coming, where to go and how to do it.
It was a little tricky at first but after just one week she got the hang of it and after another week or two she insists on doing everything herself. There are still a few very rare occasions when she has a small accident but that is to be expected in a two year old.
What is Potty Training?
Potty training is the process that you go through in order to teach your child not only how to recognise that they need to use the toilet but also to teach them how to do it. As I said before, any child can be made to sit on a potty or a toilet until they go but they will not be fully potty trained until:
- they can tell you that they need to pee or poop
- can control their bladder or bowel until they can pull their clothing down
- are able to pull up their underwear and clothing afterwards
Until a child can do all of this unaided, they are not properly potty trained. Even being able to tell you that something is coming may not be enough if they cannot get their clothing down in time.
When and How To Introduce Potty Training
So, you may be wondering how to introduce potty training to your toddler. I use the term toddler frequently throughout this article, simply because it is the next stage up from being a baby and it is during the toddler stage that many new skills and abilities develop, such as potty training.
There are different schools of thought on when to first introduce the potty to your child. There are some experts who will advise you to do it early on before your toddler is ready to begin to process. Common sense would suggest this is a good idea; getting them familiar with the potty, to know how it feels and how it can be carried.
However, there is always a risk that a young toddler may just play with a potty and use it as a handy place to store their building blocks or toys. If this happens they may not really get to grips with it when the time is right. What we did was to introduce the potty to our daughter when we began to train her. That way it became relevant at the right time and its presence was only for one purpose, which she soon realised.
Introducing The Potty
A useful tip is to buy two potties, one for upstairs and one for downstairs. If you are lucky enough to have a toilet downstairs as well as upstairs, keep both potties in the bathroom or toilet. This way there is an association with these rooms from the very beginning. By having one upstairs and one downstairs it also increases the chance of getting to one of them in time, no matter where in your home you are.
When your toddler shows most or all of the signs that they are ready (see the next section) a good way to introduce the potty to them is to involve them. Toddlers love to be involved in things and they also like to copy. Encourage them to sit on their potty often and demonstrate to them what this is all about, telling them what you are doing. Here is an example:
“Mummy (or Daddy) needs a pee pee.” – take them by the hand and lead them to the bathroom.
“Mummy does a pee pee in the toilet.” – point to the toilet and show them where the pee pee goes.
“Mummy is pulling down her pants.” – show them how you pull down your pants.
“Mummy is going to sit on the toilet, you can sit on your potty.” – as you sit down, get them to sit on their potty but without taking their nappy off. Give them praise and tell them how clever they are for sitting on their potty.
“Mummy has finished her pee pee and is pulling up her pants.” – demonstrate how you pull up your pants.
When Should You Start Potty Training?
A common question for many parents is, ‘When should I start potty training?’ The answer to this question can often come down to the individual child and how developed they are. Most children under 18 months will not have the ability or muscle strength to hold their bladders or bowels sufficiently for any kind of control. Therefore, it is usually the case that a toddler is ready for potty training from 18 months. Many may not be but many will; you know your child and what they can do already. A safe age range to plan for is between 18 – 24 months.
How Do I Know My Toddler Is Ready For Potty Training?
Again, you know your toddler best and you know what they can and cannot do. In most toddlers there will be a number of signs that show they are ready to progress with potty training.
Signs to look for:
- They are over 18 months old
- Their nappy is dry after a lunch time nap. Similarly if their nappy is dry after a couple of hours since their last change.
- They are aware of doing a poop; they go quiet and show signs of concentration. Maybe they point to their nappy and say pee pee or poop when they have done one.
- They can understand and follow basic instructions, such as put your shoes at the door, or pick up your juice.
- They start to try and dress themselves or are eager to take things off by themselves, like shoes and socks.
- They can point to parts of their body as you say the name, for example, ‘where’s your tummy?’ or ‘where’s your arm?’ and so on.
- They can sit still and keep themselves occupied for 5 – 10 minutes with a book or a toy.
It is important to realise that although your toddler may display a number of these signs it may not necessarily be the case that they are ready. Consider a child who has a dry nappy after a few hours and can tell you they have done a poop. Actually getting them to sit still on a potty for long enough to train them will be very difficult if they cannot follow instructions and sit still for more than a minute or so. For the quickest and most effective potty training wait until both you and your child are ready.
Things You’ll Need
There are going to be some things you will need to consider using or buying before you start potty training. You may be able to cope without all of them, or you may find you need as much help as you can get. In either case here is a list of just a few items we found useful during this process:
- Two potties – one for upstairs, one for downstairs.
- Plenty of cheap underwear – by getting cheap underwear you can simply throw them in the trash if you get a poop accident. It isn’t really worth going to the trouble of washing them every single time. For pee its easy enough but poop…
- A step – useful for your toddler to climb up on to the toilet by themselves, if you are going to use the toilet as well as or instead of a potty.
- A toddler toilet seat – these are great and we have found ours very useful; I recommend that you get one as your toddler will continue to use it beyond the training stage. It’s a regular toilet seat but has a smaller seat within it. The toddler seat flips up when not needed and is held to the lid out of the way by a magnet. It is only when a toddler needs it that they have to release it. When in use the toddler seat just sits perfectly within the regular seat and gives support to those little toddler cheeks!
- A travel potty – I recommend one of these for potty training a toddler when on the go. We have one which can be used as a potty on the ground with a plastic sack that holds the pee or poop. It can also be placed upon any toilet to give a toddler a comfortable seat. It is slimmer than a regular potty and takes up less room when out and about away from home.
- Anti-bacterial wipes – After making use of the potty you should rinse it out then give it a quick wipe to get rid of germs. Also, like us you will no doubt want to keep your toilet even cleaner now to reduce the risk of your little one picking up a bug from touching the seat and bowl.
- Flushable Wipes – a good idea to keep near to the potty and toilet. They are moist and just the right size for a toddler to clean themselves with. Unlike regular baby wipes they are able to be flushed down the toilet and are often biodegradable.
- Star chart/ reward chart – when potty training a toddler the use of reward charts or star charts can be useful. We didn’t bother using one but for some children it will really spur them on and encourage them if they get a personal reward and recognition of their good work. They are also a good idea to use if you have toddler sleep problems.
If you have any other suggestions on what is useful, use the contact form to drop us a line and we will add it to the page for others to benefit from.
Words and Phrases
It is advisable to choose a set of words that you will use to refer to certain things; pee, wee, poo, poop, toilet, potty, fanny, bottom, bum, foo foo and so on. These are just a few of the word commonly used by parents and children when referring to bodily functions and anatomy. I should probably highlight the cultural differences between the UK and the US when it comes to fanny and bum! If you don’t know what I mean, Google it :o)
If you have common words that you use with your child to describe things tell other people that may visit or help take care of your toddler. Tell them the words that should be used during potty training moments so that your child does not get confused. Otherwise, just as you start to make progress a different word that they don’t know may result in a backward step.