Potty Training 101

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Is it time to say goodbye to diapers, but you don’t know where to start? Or have you been working on potty training with your little ones for awhile without success? Take a deep breathe, and try to relax. Potty training can be a stressful transition for both you and your child. Every child is different, and some can take a little more patience and understanding than others.


Have A Plan


11First and foremost, make sure that you (as the parent or caretaker) are ready to begin potty training as much as your child, and have a plan. Children thrive on balance and routine, so when you are ready to start the process be sure to choose a potty that is right for you and your child, and be prepared to add potty breaks periodically throughout your child’s day. Make sure you stick to it on a daily basis. If you don’t take potty training seriously your child won’t either, and they are just as quickly to fall out of routines.


Times that are good to work scheduled potty breaks into your daily routine are when your child wakes up in the morning, an hour after breakfast, before or after lunch, before and after nap times, before and after baths, and before bed for the night. Pay close attention to your child’s body language. If they are grabbing the front of their pants or they get unusually quiet and seek out privacy, it may be a good time for your child to take a break and sit on the potty. When it is time to take a potty break do not ask your child if they want or have to go to the bathroom, tell them it is time to take a potty break. When giving a child the option to go or not go to the bathroom (especially during the earlier stages of potty training) you will receive a “no” 9 out of 10 times. Instead say, “Ok, big boy (or girl). It’s time for a potty break. Line up!” and proceed to march with your littles into the bathroom. Try not to take “no” for an answer when you deem it time for a potty break. Remember to stick to your potty training schedule. Routine and repetitiveness are the keys to potty training.


There is no magic age or time I can say that you and your child will be ready to start training to use the potty. It varies parent to parent, and child to child. For most children the necessary physical and mental skills needed for potty training develop between 18 and 24 months, while others aren’t quite there until they are closer to 36 months. It is important to watch your child for physical, cognitive, and behavioral signs that they might be ready to give it a try. Once you and your child are ready to begin, make sure your daycare provider and/or any other caretakers are aware of your potty training game plan and are willing to follow through with it when your child is in their care.


Make It Fun


Do a little dance. Make a little noise. It’s potty time! Make training fun by doing a potty march to and from the bathroom, and save a special dance for after they have used the potty. Even if your child has not yet succeeded or has a set back, remind them that you are proud of them and they are doing well.


14If there is a way to involve a reading activity with children I always recommend it! Use this opportunity to take your child to the local library or bookstore and allow them to pick out a few short books to read together while sitting on the potty. There are a lot of great books with tales especially made for potty training that can be useful when talking about the subject with your child. Keep in mind that some children also prefer a little privacy during potty time, so at times it is best not to hover. Giving a child a book to flip through on their own will provide something to hold their interest while sitting on the potty doing their business. Just make sure to not let them sit too long unattended, and keep the door open when you are not with them. Using a kitchen timer can sometimes be encouraging for children in determining when it is time for a potty break and when the potty break is over.


You can also allow your child to pick out a special potty training buddy (stuffed animal or toy) to bring along with them on their trips to the bathroom. For those children feeling a little unsure or those that stubbornly refuse to sit, act out going to the potty with their stuffed animal, followed with “Wow! Teddy showed you how to go potty like a big bear cub.  Can you show Teddy how you go potty like a big boy?”


Feel free to mix it up a little and sing a few songs together or make up a game to keep your child happy and sitting on their potty. There are quite a few potty training tools geared towards kids to help when introducing the potty to your child. You can find a list of my favorites here.



Reward System


I’ve had many discussion with parents who like to reward their children with treats or new toys for going to the potty. While you can do that, make it a little more worthwhile and a little easier on your pockets by incorporating an easy-to-make sticker reward book.


All you need for this is a notebook (I found a colorful, spiral, index card notebook at Target for $1.87) and stickers. You can even make it travel size by keeping it all together in an according file folder, making it perfect to take with you for trips outside of the house. I also included a picture of the child’s potty and wrote his name on the front cover of the notebook for visual encouragement.


4Each time your child successfully uses their potty reward them with a sticker. I used the idea that one small sticker was rewarded to the child to place in their sticker book for going pee, and one large sticker for going poop.  If you’d then like to further reward your child with presents, have them work for it by earning a certain amount of stickers before they get their special treat. Remember, you don’t always have to resort to candy or gifts. Talk with your child and fill a paper bag with ideas that they can later pick out for special one-on-one activities or trips you and your child can take together at the end of the week, month, or when enough stickers have been earned.


Whether giving extra rewards or not, it is important to praise your child through each step of his or her potty training process. Once your child has successfully used their potty, high-fives are definitely in order. If your child has an older sibling, let them offer their encouragement and congratulations as well. You don’t have to go too overboard. It’s the little things that count.



Target Practice for Boys


6If you have a boy that is able to practice standing in front of the toilet and aiming, one handy and fun trick to get them into it is to have some target practice. I have often heard of throwing cheerios or fruit loops into a toilet for target practice, but I prefer not to show the kids how to waste un-eaten food down the drain. You can also find flush-able, store-bought targets to purchase, but they just seems like a waste of money to me.


Instead, draw a target on one square piece of toilet paper using permanent marker as washable markers will run when wet, and lay it on top of the water in the toilet bowl. Be careful when drawing your target as to not ripe the toilet paper. I usually ripe off two or three squares of toilet paper and lay them on top of each other for added padding before I draw. Then gently tear the top square off so it doesn’t get weighed down in the water. Its easy to do and works like a charm. Make sure you are providing your child with a step stool if they are using an adult-size toilet.



Leaving Diapers Behind


9There are two ways to introduce the idea to your child of leaving diapers behind and wearing big boy or girl underwear, with the possible exception of naps and over-night. One way, of course, is to wait until your child has been successfully using their potty and making it lengths of time accident-free. Make it special for them and celebrate their achievement by taking them to the store to pick out their very own pairs. When first transitioning into big-kid underwear it is good to continue to use diapers or pull-ups over night, and perhaps nap times. You may also want to get use to carrying an extra change of clothes for your child when you are away from home in case of accidents. Once your child has mastered the potty and can make it through the night with a dry diaper, say goodbye to those diapers!


The second way is to buy a few packages of plain underwear and start using them right away after explaining to your child the differences between diapers and underwear. Unlike diapers, underwear provides zero absorbency and more times than not the child will not like the mess or feeling. The trick to this method is, they won’t like going in them and you won’t like cleaning up the mess. In return, you both may put a little more effort into potty training. Be sure to provide them with comfort and encouragement during any accident. Because you bought extra plain underwear in this circumstance, any underwear too dirty to save you can toss.



Accepting Accidents Happen


8Last but not least, accidents happen. It is a fact a life and potty training is no different. Infact, it is highly likely that your child will experience multiple accidents before they have successfully completed their potty training. Whether your child doesn’t want to stop an activity they are already engrossed in to go to the bathroom or they accidentally wet the bed, always approach the situation with calmness. Do not get angry and punish your child. They have only recently learned how to sense a full bladder. Get your child cleaned up, offer them a comfortable hug, and encouragingly suggest that next time they try getting to the potty in time.


As for parents and caretakers, don’t get discourage. Each child learns at his or her own speed and your own will get the hang of the process in due time. Just be ready to put forth the effort yourself and keep to a set potty schedule.


Did you find this article useful, or do you have some tips and tricks of your own that you think should be included in the next potty training segment? Leave us a comment below or send a message via email.



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