When should I start potty training my child?
This is a fantastic, age-old question that doesn’t really have an exact answer. We can say that most kids are ready to start the quest to the porcelain throne between eighteen months and three years old. It’s also important to note that girls are generally ready to start potty training sooner than boys are, so take this into account when you are deciding when to begin. On average, parents usually launch into potty-training around age two and a half. Other signs that it’s time to start can vary from child to child–does he or she tell you when they’ve gone in their diaper? Does your child have a sudden interest in watching you use the restroom? Can your child follow simple commands? All of these are surefire signs that it’s time to begin!
How do I introduce my child to potty training?
There are lots of ways to introduce your child to the new concept of going to the potty. You can rely on books and videos–we really like Once Upon A Potty. With one for boys and one for girls, Once Upon A Potty walks your child through the process of potty training with clear language and gender-appropriate imagery. One mother potty trained her little boy in one week at sixteen months old with the help of the Once Upon A Potty book and DVD (both of which you can find at Target for around $12).
Another way is to explain the process to your child–odds are they’ll become fascinated with watching how it’s done from an old pro (you, of course). While it can be a little weird to pee with an audience, it also is a great way to show your little one that the potty is nothing to be afraid of!
Potty or toilet?
This one is totally up to you. Buying a practice potty or potty chair has advantages–it’s mobile and the perfect size for tiny buns; it’s familiar and can be decorated to make it an extra fun place! On top of that, some children find it less scary than the toilet, which is taller and must be flushed (which some kids find upsetting).
If you decide to go the portable potty chair route, try the Babybjorn Potty Chair–it comes in several different colors, is made of durable, safe, easy-to-clean material and will only set you back about $20 at Target, Walgreens or Toy’s R Us.
On the other hand, if you choose to potty train on the toilet, you’ll need two things–a step stool, and a smaller potty seat that fits inside the existing toilet seat (so your little one doesn’t take an unscheduled swim!). As for step stools, your options are unlimited. You can grab a Fisher Price step stool for $10, or you can hit etsy for a $45 handmade variety that has your kid’s name on it. Anything works. Potty seats are a little different–they come in tons of colors, with everything from princesses to Thomas the Tank Engine on them. You can grab a standard white one from Walmart for $10, find one with your child’s favorite superhero for just a few dollars more. Just be sure they fit your toilet!
What do we do that first day?
That first day is going to be a long one. It’s best to choose a day when you have no plans for leaving the house. Pick an easy-to-remove outfit for your little one, and put him or her in pull-ups! Let your child know what the goal is: to go in the potty every time and keep the pull-up dry! We do have a secret for you…it’s not going to happen that first day. While your child adjusts to the idea of potty training, they’re going to have accidents.
Pick several times a day to take your child to the potty–in the morning, 20 minutes after breakfast, after snack time, etc… you’re probably going to visit the bathroom probably a dozen times or so, but that’s okay! When your child does go in the potty, reward them with a sweet treat to reinforce the behavior! (Remember, gentle reminders are enough–you don’t want to hound your child. They also may not have to go every time you sit them down, and that’s perfectly fine too!)
After a few days, you can make a chart–that’s as easy as making one up on the computer and printing it out. Grab a set of character stickers (from the dollar store or Target) and let your child place a sticker on the potty chart every time they have a successful potty trip! Shoot for a weekly goal of successful trips–and watch the progress closely. At the end of the week, take your child to pick out their very first pairs of underwear as a reward! After the switch, the process will continue a little shakily for another few days or weeks–there will be accidents, so remember to pack spare everything when you go out.
What about nighttime training?
Potty training isn’t complete until your child can wake up dry! It helps to make sure that your child is well hydrated throughout the day, but also that they don’t drink anything after dinner or right before bed. At ten or eleven, gently rouse your child and escort them to the potty–remind them that they might not want to go potty right this second, but their body might want to. Repeat this process at six or seven in the morning.
Once again, expect accidents–children can wet the bed for up to a year after you begin potty training.
This is getting frustrating!
We know–it can become super annoying if your kid isn’t mastering the potty as quickly as you’d hoped. The key here is patience. We know you don’t have an endless supply, so it may help to split the responsibility between you and a spouse, babysitter, Nana, or other trusted caretaker. Remember that your child is trying–reward the successes, and don’t scold or punish the mistakes! You will get there!