“At what age should I start to potty train?” and “how long will it take?” These are two questions that most parents ask themselves at some point in their parenting journey. Of course every child is different and there is no one solution that fits all, however I really wanted to share with you my take on potty training and the success I have had with my own children. I used a basic two week plan which has resulted in both Ari and Chloe being basically potty trained during that timeframe, with no regressions.
Both of my children were potty trained at the age of two years and three months. There were certain signs that I looked out for, like when they would tell me that they needed to go to the toilet or they would go in a different room to do their business (in their nappy.) These are just a few of the signs that made me realise that they might in fact be ready to potty train. Basically at this point they were aware of their need to pass urine and have bowel movements, and we are capable of going to the potty, pulling down their pants and potentially using it.
It is important to note that the success of potty training isn’t just a result of your child being ready, but also you being ready too. It takes dedication on both parts to master this life changing event. All too often mothers share stories of how difficult it was to potty train, what a nightmare it was and how long it took, however I would offer the opinion that perhaps they themselves weren’t quite ready yet to take on the task. (And that is totally understandable!) It’s important to choose the right time to potty train, for example not right before you head off on a trip, move house, or before a new baby comes along. To train your child quickly and successfully it is very important that you are in a relaxed state of mind, and also that everything around you including other siblings are relatively stress free and organised too. This way you will be able to concentrate on the potty training that is about to happen.
Here is a list of signs which helped me to know that my children were ready to potty train:
1. Their nappies were frequently dry when they woke up from their lunch naps. This was a good indication that they had some bladder control.
2. They showed signs that they were aware they are going to the toilet.
3. Eagerness to take their own clothes off and put them back on.
4. The ability to be able to occupy themselves for five or 10 minutes with something like a book.
5. Understand simple instructions like ‘Can you put that toy away?’
There are a few things that you will need to start potty training so I have put them in a shopping list below:
1. One or two potties. If you live in a home with one floor you can probably get away with one potty, however if you have two floors you will want to have one on each level of your house.
2. One or two children’s toilet seats to progress onto.
3. A dozen pairs of underpants purchased in a couple of sizes bigger than what you would normally buy. I suggest buying in a bigger size so that they are able to easily pull their pants on and off with little assistance.
4. A selection of story books or movies on your iPad. This is to provide some entertainment if your child needs to sit on the potty for a while before any business happens.
5. A star chart is a great idea to encourage positive reinforcement. With Ari and Chloe made our own star charts which made things even more exciting for them. We had days listed Monday to Sunday, with several places to be able to pop sticks when they did each urine or bowel movement. At the end of the week they were rewarded with a toy for their efforts.
6. A booster step is important to enable children to be able to reach the basin themselves to wash hands. They loved this!
7. Lots of spare clothes which obviously don’t need to be newly bought, just be aware that you will want to take lots of spare clothes wherever you are for a few weeks.
Stage one of potty training:
First of all I spent a minimum of two weeks preparing my children to potty train. I did this in a number of different ways, such as pointing out the fact that I was going to go to the toilet myself. I would tell them that I needed to go to the bathroom and let them know that they could come with me if they wanted to. When I went to the bathroom I would explain in a step-by-step process what I was doing, for example ‘Mummy is pulling down her pants now,’ then ‘Mummy is going to the toilet,’ and so on right up to washing and drying my hands. When I washed my hands I always encouraged them to join in.
As they began to show more interest in what I was doing, I would allow them to sit on the potty with no nappy on for 5 to 10 minutes as I prepared their evening bath. If they did anything on the potty I would praise them very excitedly. It was important to praise them by saying how clever they were for sitting on the potty, or for how clever they were for going to the toilet on the potty. This is as opposed to saying that they were a good boy, as they may start to think that they are a bad boy if they don’t. Once the children were happy to sit on the potty at bath time I moved to sitting them on it after breakfast, and when they would wake up from their lunch nap. During these two weeks, once I felt like they could control themselves a little more, I started to put underpants on them when we were home.
After a minimum of two weeks of stage one I moved onto the next stage of potty training. I have laid out below that I did each day for 11 days.
Firstly it was very important to choose a week that is free from activities so that you can both focus on what you’re about to achieve. Personally I cancelled all activities, or chose school holidays because that is when all of our plans cancelled for the term. (Your child needs constant attention and encouragement during this first few days, so it is important you are able to provide this to them otherwise they will lose interest quickly.)
The first point I want to make is that when I took the nappies off I did not under any situation or circumstance put it back on, other then for sleep times.
On the first day of training after they had breakfast I put them straight into their big girl or boy pants. At this point they already had some knowledge of what was expected of them because of stage one. I explained simply that they were now a big girl or boy, and could wear pants like mummy and daddy, and that they were able to use the potty now if they needed to go to the bathroom. I continued to take them to the bathroom with me whenever I needed to go and explained what I did. I would suggest that they sit on the potty at the same time that I went to the toilet. During the first couple of days they needed constant reminders of going to the toilet. Ari needed to go at least every 15 minutes, whereas Chloe could wait an hour, so it’s important to be guided by your child. Each time I would sit them on the potty for about five minutes unless they went sooner. During this time they would read a book or listen to a movie.
The length of time it takes to get children to regularly use the potty depends on each individual child.
If they have an accident don’t make a big fuss or show that you might be displeased. The trick is to be really enthusiastic with the encouragement and not show when things haven’t gone as well as you had hoped, because at the end of the day children respond better to encouragement. Lots of praise, hugs and reward as well as using the star chart is what I found to be the key to success.
A great idea is to have a separate chart for your own progress reporting. Have a column for time, a tick column for potty, a tick column for accident and a comment section to write what kind of movement they had. This way you will start to see a bit of a pattern as to what is exactly happening. In the comment section be sure to include the time that your child use the potty.
So by the second day of potty training my chart began to show a bit more of a pattern of regular intervals between the time that they needed to pass urine. This served a guide to show me how often I needed to remind them to sit on the potty. Obviously the aim was to have fewer and fewer accidents, and a longer stretch between going to the toilet. As time passed I gradually moved the potty from right next to us to inside the bathroom. It was important to slowly allow them some responsibility over going to the bathroom. So I changed my process from telling them we needed to go to the potty, to asking them if they needed to go.
One day three I had a definite pattern of how often they were using the potty. The progress chart helped when planning the best time for our first outing. Ideally you would choose a short visit to a friends house where there is a toilet. With Ari I couldn’t leave the house until day six, but Chloe was ready to go to play group on day three. Before leaving home it was important to encourage them to go to the toilet to avoid accidents in the car. (Do not be tempted to put a nappy back on them as this causes confusion.) I have always stayed nappy free once taking the nappy off, other than nap time and bedtime. Consistency is the most important thing here. It is advisable to take some spare changes of clothes where ever you go and plastic bag to put items in. Until the children were used to going to the toilet on an actual toilet I took the potty with you. I have a portable potty which is in the shape of a ladybug, it has a lid on it, and the children love to use this.
Days 4 to 11:
By the fourth day, Chloe especially, was able to regularly use the potty without prompting. Just with the occasional accident here in there. Over the next few days I put the potty closer and closer to the toilet, until I eventually took it away, and the children went to the toilet on their own seats. I did this once they showed signs that they were able to hold their bladder for long enough to get to the bathroom. By the end of the first week they were dry most of the time, with the very occasional accident. I want to stress again that I never put them back in nappies unless it was for a sleep time, as this would only confuse them.
Day 12 and beyond:
After almost 2 weeks potty training I could successfully call my children potty trained. Of course we had the occasional accident, and we still do from time to time. Once finished I found no nappies to be a breathe of fresh air, and honestly not as challenging as I ever thought it would be.
I hope that this information serves to help you and your little ones in their potty training journey. It was a busy and testing time, but mostly I found it to a bonding experience, where I felt so proud of us both once we were finished.