When your child makes her first pee inside the potty you smile, clap your hands and congratulate your little one. When s/he does her first poo, you scream with excitement, clap even harder. When s/he starts doing it permanently (and loses diaper for good) you actually cry with joy- you’ve got your proud mama moment!
After the training was ‘completed’, I remember thinking to myself: you’ve nailed it! Who would ever think seeing my daughter wee and poo inside of a plastic potty will make me so ecstatic? Well, it did because it took couple of long weeks for her to learn (I don’t believe in 3-day potty training). And even after, there were days with an ‘accident’.
It’s actually pretty normal- potty training can last for many months, especially if you started before your kiddo’s 2nd birthday. Readiness, your patience and your creativeness are the 3 main factors for a successful training.
Today I’ll be telling you when and how to potty train a toddler; I’ll be giving you some tips from my own experience as well as advice from other parents who went through this process.
Signs your toddler is ready to be potty trained
Your child has to reach a certain developmental stage in order to be ready to use the potty. If s/he’s not, even the best methods won’t do the job.
Some signs of the so-important readiness include:
- less frequent nappy change: roughly up until 20 months old, toddlers will pee often. Once you start to notice the nappies don’t get wet after an hour or two, that’s a green light for introducing the potty
- number 2 happens on a regular basis- when your kiddo’s bowel movement appears more often (and around the same time of the day)
- you can tell when your toddler is doing his business- if your child is trying to show you his intentions (whether with voice, a weird face expression or by fidgeting and hiding somewhere quiet), it’s time to dig into potty land!
- your little one stops tolerating dirty diapers- when you notice s/he gets uncomfortable with a full diaper, it’s a great moment to start the training
What’s the best age to start potty training?
Children are usually not ready before their second birthday, some even refuse to use the potty until they’re 3 years old. However, it does not mean you can’t try to potty train your toddler earlier than that ( if you think s/he is showing the signs of readiness).
I introduced the potty when my daughter reached 18 months old, during spring time as she seemed eager to start. The weather was warm enough to use fewer clothes (which meant I could take them off fast when needed) and when they got wet, it didn’t take ages to dry them off.
The best time to start potty training is when there are no major changes in your family routine.
Fun fact: most kids can control their bowels before their bladder. However, it does not mean they will learn how to poo in the potty first (it’s actually quite the opposite).
How to start potty training?
First you need your kiddo to get used to the idea of using a potty. Show and explain him what’s it for and how to use it. I repeated myself all the time (still do) saying ‘pee on the potty’ and pointing at it (about 1000 times a day).
Since children at this age love to copy everything adults do, simply demonstrate it yourself. You can pretend you’re sitting on the potty, then sit on a toilet and make sounds of a flowing water (or for a better effect you can actually pee in front of him!).
If your little one decides to try sitting on the potty (even for a short while), you’ve already got your fist success! Before you start taking his clothes off, encourage him first to sit down with the nappy on.
Best ways to incentivise your toddler to use the potty
1. Entertain your toddler
If your child is very energetic and doesn’t want to stay on a potty for too long, it’s best to try entertaining him with anything you have around. Whether it’s a toy, book, TV or you performing as a clown- do whatever gets his attention.
2. Get the right potty
If your toddler seem very resistant to even sit on the potty for a while, getting the right potty may help. You can get a normal potty and make it look appealing by putting some stickers, for example with your kid’s favourite cartoon character.
There are plenty of fancy potties to choose from- with lights, music and flushing sounds. While I’m a believer of ‘the more simple the better’ mantra, I got a potty with a flushing sound button as my girl seemed more eager to use it than the traditional one.
3. Go bottomless
I found out that letting my daughter run around with naked bum worked magic. Sometimes it took us 10 minutes to get anything out of her system, sometimes even 30 minutes. But eventually, she managed to pee (and make me happy!)
Of course, accidents will happen (more than once) but don’t make a big deal out of it or else your toddler may feel anxious and discouraged.
4. Use a reward system
Apart from loads of verbal and non-verbal praise and encouragement (I clapped my hands a LOT), it’s a good idea to use some kind of reward system. I’ve used stickers that my daughter was collecting on a ‘special’ board each time she did her wee wee or a poo.
It could be something else as well but make sure your reward system won’t give you any problems for the future (offering sweets or toys can spoil your kid very quickly).
5. Stay consistent
Every time you’re about to change your little one’s nappy, show her the potty and explain that now is the time to use it. At the beginning I’ve been encouraging my daughter to pee every 2-3 hours and gradually I went down to 1,5 -1 hour. If your child wets her diaper more often, then you should follow her ‘schedule’.
You could also get a potty watch – it will remind your little one to sit on a potty every 30, 60 or 90 minutes (depending on the way you set it up). The colourful lights and music makes it super-cool to wear as well!
If you’re going out it’s best to take the potty with you- this way you’ll let your toddler know s/he should use the potty even outside of the house. If you have a nanny (or anyone else looking after you child) ask her to follow your ideas, otherwise your little one may get confused.
6. Give your child lots of water
You should be giving your toddler plenty of water anyway but for the sake of potty training offer water or any other (healthy) fluids even more often. For obvious reasons, it will make your kiddo want to wee more often.
If you’re hoping to catch number 2, it’s probably best to make your child sit on the potty after meals- food digestion process will usually get things moving faster after eating. However, getting her poo in the desired place usually takes much longer than teaching her how to pee.
7. Buy potty training pants
Disposable or washable potty training pants (pull-ups) were very helpful when we started potty training. They don’t soak up wee as well as disposable diapers, so my daughter could let me know when she got wet (and I could actually see it through her clothes).
Once she figured out it’s not a nice feeling and that she can pee in the potty instead, it was only a matter of time for her to start doing her business in the potty on a regular basis.
Soon after your kiddo starts to pee in the potty regularly, it’s time to get washable cotton training pants. Small tip: make sure you buy colourful pants with your kid’s favourite character! If you remind your toddler that these are the pants grown-ups are using, s/he may just get more motivated to earn wearing them.
8. Keep the potty in the right place
Although it’s best to keep the potty in the toilet, not all kids will want to stay there long enough to do their business from day one. Think of the place where they spend most of the time (like their room)- that’s where is best to put the potty as your child will have his own ‘private’ space.
This way when it’s time to move the potty from room to the toilet or bathroom, your kid shouldn’t make a big deal out of it.
My daughter mostly plays in our living room so that’s where I first encouraged her to use it. Each evening, before the bath time, I’ve been taking her clothes off and showing her it’s time to pee by sitting on the toilet myself. She loves to copy me so she sits on the potty and we pee together. How fun!:)
I also found out that running the tap helps to speed up the process.
9. Act it out
Another great thing to do is to put your child’s favourite plush toy on a potty and pretend s/he’s peeing in it.
Psychologist confirm that pretend play with dolls and stuffed animals can help children overcome any fears or anxieties they may be experiencing. It basically boosts their confidence and allows them to feel in control.
10. Make a game out of it
As we all learn the best through fun, why not make a game out of it?
Some parents said they set their alarm clock every hour or so and when it ringed they shouted: ‘potty time!’. Then they encouraged their children to race to the toilet and chose if they want to use a potty chair or the toilet trainer seat.
Many kids enjoy climbing at this stage so if you don’t mind buying both, it sounds like an exciting game!
11. Get a book
As mentioned before, children at this age like to imitate everything they see or hear. For this reason, reading a book about using a potty (by someone else) might be just what you and your toddler need!
This book illustrates accurate body parts and their functions and shows how the little girl does her wee wee and poo. It’s worth trying as I found it super helpful for my little one’s potty training process.
12. Be kind and patient
Easier to said than done, I know!
But patience is really the answer here. If your child is developmentally ready, s/he will eventually get a hang of using the potty. For some kids it can take a week or two to learn, for others it can take months. It’s important not to get frustrated- ironically, if you start to nag too much, your little one will only resist more.
Every child is different, so don’t compare your little one with others. For the potty training to be successful you need to have loads of patience, positive attitude and offer lots of praise. And remember, all kids will control their bladder and bowels at their own time.
Forcing a toddler to sit on the potty is something you should avoid- if you can see s/he is too upset about the idea, s/he is most likely physically not ready. In that case the best thing to do is to wait another week or two before trying again.
Hopefully this post answered all your questions. If you have any other valuable tips about the potty training, please share with us in the comments.
Take care now and good luck!