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Potty Training 101 – Everything You Need To Start Potty Training Your Little One

By Essa | July 19, 2020
Potty Training 101 – Everything You Need To Start Potty Training Your Little One

Last updated on October 14th, 2020

Learning how to use the toilet or “potty training” is one of the major milestones that every child goes through during their toddler-hood years. It marks the end of a parent’s diaper-buying period and is one of the hallmarks that a child is finally turning into a “big kid”.

However, just like how the age span of toddlers covers a long span of time (between one to three years old), so does the achievement of potty training. It greatly varies between children. Some kids are eager and can master it by 18 months, while others take their time and go for as long as three years in their diapers.

Learn the do’s and don’ts of potty training

Before you start the process of potty training, you will want to equip yourself with all the necessary information there is in order to do it successfully. You also want to be well informed to avoid problems down the road such as discouraging or causing any aversion from your child towards potty training.

Below are some of the most important Do’s and Don’ts of potty training:

Do’s

  • Assess for readiness. Only proceed if you are sure that your child is ready. There are specific signs that you should watch out for to gauge this.
  • Document your child’s peeing and pooping schedules. Usually, you will notice a pattern which you can use as a basis for your potty training schedule.
  • Get rid of diapers in the daytime for your child to actually feel the sensation of having to “go”.
  • Coordinate with your child’s daycare, preschool, or nanny and get them on board.
  • Make the potty a fun thing. Sing a special potty song, celebrate a potty party every time they use it, make it a rewarding and motivating experience.
  • Be generous with positive affirmation, motivating words, and encouragement.
  • Be patient, calm, and optimistic.

Don’ts

  • Start the process when your child is clearly not ready yet.
  • Give any more fluids before bed.
  • Make use of pull-ups or any absorbent undergarment.
  • Expect immediate results.
  • Compare your child with others. Kids learn at their own time and at their own pace when it comes to potty training- for as long as within the normal range of learning how to use the toilet, which falls between one to three years old.
  • Turn it into a battle. If your child refuses to go to the potty, calmly remind them of the potty schedule and what they can expect after accomplishing it such as a reward or privilege.
  • Be inconsistent.
  • Use time out as punishment for refusing to use the potty. This will allow them to make use of the time out to escape the potty.
  • Force your child to sit on the potty against their will.

When and when not to potty train

Little baby sitting on potty with toilet paper and water bottle.

How do you know when it’s time to introduce your little one to the wonders of using the toilet? How do you know if you should hold it off and stick to the diapers for a while? There are several signs of readiness that you can observe with your child.

If you notice these signs, that means that you can proceed and try your hand out at potty training your kid. However, if they do show the opposite or if they show signs that they are not ready yet, you should totally take those into account as well. Potty training is all about the right timing.

Potty Training “Go” Signals

  • Follows basic instructions.
  • Understands the words “pee” and “poop” or any equivalent.
  • Is able to pull pants up and down.
  • Able to sit down and get up from a potty chair.
  • Your child shows an interest in other people using the potty such as older siblings, or parents.
  • Pointing, pulling, or attempting to take off a dirty or wet diaper.
  • Hiding when peeing or pooping.
  • Pooping at around the same time almost every day.
  • Telling you that they just peed or pooped in their diaper, or telling you that they’re about to pee or poop.
  • Consistently having a dry diaper for longer than usual (make sure that your toddler is still getting enough fluids throughout the day. Dry diapers can also signal dehydration)
  • Waking up from a nap or an entire night with a dry diaper.

Potty Training “No” Signals

  • Your child is younger than 18 months old.
  • Your child has not yet learned how to walk unassisted.
  • He or she can’t understand and follow basic instructions yet.
  • Your child does not show ANY signs of readiness.
  • Your child can’t reach the potty, can’t sit on it, or get out of it by herself.
  • There is currently a major life event going on around your children such as the arrival of a new sibling, the first week of school, and illness.

Are there consequences if I choose to potty train too soon?

Potty training before showing signs of readiness or if the child is too young has a higher probability of failure because the child’s bladder is not strong enough to hold the fluid in for prolonged periods. This will only result in a lot of frustration for both parent and child and will give you a messier house.

It also has a host of health risks associated with it. It puts your child at risk for urinary tract infections and constipation if they are holding their bowels in for longer than they should. Remember that children have very limited bowel and bladder capacities compared to adults, so pressuring them into holding it in may be physically harmful, if not totally impossible.

Potty training preparation tips

Dad showing his son how to potty train on a toilet

If you and your child are ready to give potty training a good go, you might want to look into methods, steps, strategies, tips, and tricks to get the job done. You want this to be as smooth and as pleasant as it can be for the both of you.

Here are a few things you can do to help you get your child (and yourself) ready for potty training season:

  • Take your child with you to the toilet whenever you have to go. Children are often great imitators. If they show signs of interest in how you do your business, it will give them a rough idea as to how they should do theirs.
  • Seek help and cooperation from other members of the family. Let everyone in the house know that your toddler is potty training so that grandma, grandpa, aunty, uncle, or any other adult living with you won’t accidentally dress them in diapers. Older siblings can also help the little one through encouragement and example.
  • Involve your child in the preparation process. Have him or her choose the type and color of his or her own potty. Your child can also have a special potty-only toy or book that can keep him occupied while on the potty.
  • You can get a potty seat early on so that your child can practice sitting on it even with diapers on.
  • Identify signs or patterns of behavior that your child is about to go. It could be grunting, hiding, perspiring, or any behavior that usually precedes elimination. Point this out this by saying things like “Are you going to poop?” to help your child acknowledge the feeling of having to go.
  • Plan ahead and set aside ample time when you can start the process. Do it at a time when things are not busy at home and your child is not going through something that can distract them from it.

A step-by-step guide to successful potty training

Little boy cleaning his hand in the bathroom during potty training.

Step 1: Introduce the potty.

Explain what it is for and show them how to properly use it. You can use several methods or ways that you feel your child will understand. Do a demonstration, have them watch a potty-training show, or use a doll to mimic what they need to do. Take this time to preempt your child that the diapers have to go.

Step 2: Pick an ideal location and position for the potty.

Potty seats are ideal because they are child-sized so your toddler won’t have to climb or be carried and propped up an adult toilet. Another great thing about potty seats is that they are easy to transfer wherever they are needed. It should be accessible at all times.

Step 3: Dress your toddler in a shirt and big-kid underwear.

Keep a stock of underwear ready and expect a lot of accidental wetting. Wetting themselves makes them familiar with the discomfort of having peed in their pants, and allows them to identify the feeling of needing to go so that they can catch the potty before getting wet.

Step 4: Give your child plenty of fluids.

While potty training, a lot of parents make the mistake of withholding fluids to avoid accidents. However, they need those accidents and the urge to pee in order to fully practice peeing on the potty.

Step 5: Take your child to the potty every 20 minutes.

They might or might not have the urge to pee, but still take them anyway. As they progress, you can stretch the time in taking them to 30 minutes and more little by little.

Step 6: Encourage your child to tell you if they need to use the potty.

Empower your child by giving them a sense of control over when they want and need to use the potty. Encouraging them to tell you when they feel the urge allows you them to further recognize the urge to go as they verbally acknowledge it.

Step 7: Make it a fun experience.

Tons of patience and a sense of humor goes a long way when potty training. Accept that you will have to deal with plenty of soiled undies in the next couple of days, and treat your child with patience and understanding. Learn how to deal with accidents by doing tons of research before you start the training process.

Three types of potty training methods

Little boy sitting on the toilet while potty training.

The steps discussed above are the general steps taken by parents and recommended by experts. But did you know that there are several methods you can choose from to carry out those steps? Depending on your preference, your child’s temperament, or your household set-up, you can choose between the following methods:

1. Child-led Potty Training

Just as the name implies, this potty training method lets your child call the shots. This is probably the method that ensures 100% cooperation from a child since they start when they are physically, mentally, and emotionally ready, which happens sometime between 2 and 3 years old.

If you’re not in a rush to potty train and are willing to diaper your child for a longer period (roughly three years), then you might adapt well to this method. This method is also perfect for parents who do not want to have to fight and argue through a potty training session.

How it’s done: Parents can make an initial move by talking about using the potty, encouraging but not pushing them to follow through. Parents have to wait for the child to initiate potty use and take them to the potty whenever they asked to be taken or leaving them to use it by themselves if they decide to go ahead without asking for help.

2. Parent-Led Potty Training

This kind of potty training is right for parents who like to keep a schedule. your child’s potty training is under your control, provided that you give them lots of opportunities to relieve themselves during Step 5 of the potty training process discussed above. This process is ideal for households with multiple adults present to accommodate the child and the schedule consistently.

How it’s done: There are several variations to this method, but the idea is simple. Parents take the child to the bathroom at fixed intervals. For example, the child may be led to the bathroom every hour or two, or every after meals or snacks to take advantage of food and drink pushing down stomach contents. When the child asks to be led anytime outside of the fixed schedule, the parents should oblige.

The only downside is that since adults have full control of bathroom visits, the child may not immediately learn about their own bodily signals and the feeling of the urge to pee or poop.

3. The Weekend Warrior

According to research, this method, paired with high levels of child-readiness, is one of the most successful ones. To top it off, this method makes potty training a quick 3-day life-changing event. It is ideal for kids who are about to start school as it works best for kids who are at least 22 months old.

How it works: The whole household sets apart three days to dedicate to potty training. On the first day, all diapers are thrown out and the steps discussed above are consistently followed. If the child starts to have an accident, parents need to scoop them up and let them finish on the potty. A lot of patience and understanding is called for within these three days. Eventually, the child will quickly understand the use of the potty and identify the urge to go.

Expect a lot of accidents to happen within this three-day period. That is why you schedule it properly so that all adults in the house are available to focus on the potty training. However, you can expect your child to get exponentially better with each passing day.

Infant Potty Training

Infant potty training guide

Can you potty train infants? It’s called natural infant hygiene or elimination communication and is a common practice in some parts of Asia and Africa. It has several benefits including having to use fewer diapers, a lesser incidence of diaper rash too since the baby won’t be sitting on a soiled nappy for long periods. Others also note that this method is an extension of attachment parenting and promotes a deeper bond between parent and child since it encourages parent’s presence and undivided attention.

How it’s done: The process is done starting at around the baby’s first month, and any type of diaper (especially disposable ones) are avoided. Instead, the parent pays close attention to the child’s cues. They may rely on signals, timing, or schedule. When the baby has to go or is already in the process, the parent rushes the baby into the toilet or any other acceptable place to pee or poop.

As you can see, this method is labor-intensive and requires a parent’s full-time attention for a sustained period (we’re looking at months). This would not work so well if there are multiple caregivers or if both parents have to work and must leave the infant with a nanny or carer. It could be also a challenge even for a stay-at-home parent if there are other younger children at home to look after.

What to do about potty training regression: accidents and bedwetting

Bedwetting accident by a child going through potty training.

Accidents are a normal and expected part of any potty training process. It’s like learning how to ride a bike where you can expect a few bumps and falls. Accidents should not be a cause for frustration for parents, just as it should not result in a child becoming discouraged with potty training.

So what do you do whenever these “accidents” happen:

  • Comfort and reassure your child that it’s okay and that accidents happen. They’ll get it next time when they’ve had more practice.
  • Don’t compare your child with others. Achieving toilet independence varies greatly from child to child.
  • Figure out if something is causing the accidents. Is your child sick? Stressed? Tired? Going through something? A lot of factors could be at play.
  • Make things easier by placing the potty somewhere accessible. Dress your child in bottoms that are easy for them to remove.
  • Training pants can make things less messy for your child during the first day of potty training.
  • Be generous with praise when they get a successful pee or poop in the potty.
  • If accidents persist or your child regresses for over three weeks, it might be because your child is not yet ready. No matter how much you force the issue, you’ll only end up frustrated and probably traumatize your child with the potty. Give it a rest and try again in a few months.
  • Avoid giving fluids at night. Make sure that your child has weaned from night feeding and the bedtime bottle before attempting to toilet train through the night.
  • If your potty-trained child starts bedwetting, try to assess if there might be an issue that is causing it such as sickness, stress, or going through a major life event such as starting school.

Parent-approved potty training must-haves

When you think of potty training, the potty or toilet adapter is probably the first thing you think of buying. However, there are other things you can acquire that can help you through the process. They may even ease things up for you and your kid. Here are our top picks:

Best potty training videos on YouTube

Helpful list of potty training videos

If your little one enjoys watching videos, YouTube has a host of potty-training material that kids will love. Lots of parents sweat that it helped encourage their children to love their potty.

Princess Polly’s Potty

A potty adventure fit for any little girl. Princess Polly’s potty is based on a book with a similar title. The illustrations are dainty and bright.

CoComelon Potty Training Song

CoComelon makes fun and educational nursery rhymes and videos for different life situations such as the first day of school. Here, they’ve made a catchy tune that talks about using the potty.

Tom’s Toilet Triumph

Tom’s Toilet Triumph is perfect for potty training toddlers who have older siblings as it encourages proper potty use and even hygiene by setting a good example.

Whiskers Wet his Pants

For kids who have to deal with learning to potty AND going to school, Whiskers shows them that it can totally be done, and they can conquer the potty whether at home or at school.

Elmo’s Potty Time

Elmo’s Potty Time is a classic that even some of the older generation have been helped by. It tackles different aspects of potting while also giving reassurance about things like accidents and that it’s okay.

Best potty training seats

This article includes Amazon affiliate links. We may earn a small commission for links to any Amazon products or services that we mention in this article.

Since the seat is the centerpiece of the entire training, it has to be perfect for your little one. Here are the best-selling potty training seats on Amazon:

Simplicity: Ikea Lilla

No other potty can be more straightforward and simple than the Ikea Lilla. It’s easy to dump the contents and clean, and the surface is seamless so that a quick wipe-down will do the trick to clean it. It also has an anti-slip material at the base for your child’s safety.

Realistic: Nuby My Real Potty Training Toilet

If you’d look at it in pictures or from afar, you’d think it’s a real adult-sized toilet. This potty is perfect if your little one likes to imitate you. It even comes with its own flush button that makes a realistic flushing sound that your toddler might enjoy.

Realistic but easy to clean: Summer MySize Potty

It has the shape and make of an adult potty and comes in a kid-size, just like the Nuby variant. However, this one is easier to empty and clean with a fill-up lid and detachable easy-clean bowl.

Multi-use: Summer MyFun Sticker Potty

It functions as a stand-alone potty, a detachable training potty you can use to fit your bathroom toilet, and when closed, becomes an automatic step-stool so that your toddler can independently climb up and sit at the bathroom toilet.

Most Fun: The First Years Training Wheels Racer Potty System

If your tot has a natural need for speed, this potty will surely entice them. It looks just like a race car, so your little rider will feel more encouraged to sit on it. It also comes with an extra tall pee guard for little boys.

Travel: Kalencom Potette Plus 2-in-1

It is a stand-alone potty that you can transform into a toilet seat adapter by just folding in the legs. No need to remove or detach any parts with this one. It is light and portable enough to bring while traveling.

Best potty training books

Sometimes, tagging a book along to read while on the potty can help your little one sit patiently until they’re fully done. Here are our top picks for potty training books on Amazon.

P is for Potty! (Sesame Street)

If your child liked Elmo’s Potty Time on YouTube, you can complement it with this fun and colorful lift-the-flap book. Elmo tells boys and girls all about using the potty with the help of thirty sturdy flap-lifting pages that any toddle will surely enjoy.

Potty Time! (Daniel Tiger)

Another lovable character that toddlers can appreciate is Daniel Tiger. It’s an interactive book with buttons and sound effects that your little one will surely enjoy while sitting on the potty. It comes with a sturdy handle too so they can take it with them to the potty with ease.

Dino Potty

If you have a little dinosaur enthusiast in your hands, this illustration book with step by step instructions that rhyme is a wonderful read. It gives your little one encouragement and boosts their confidence to use the potty on their own.

Best potty training accessories

Potty training accessories

You can augment your visual material with other accessories that can make potty time even more fun for your little one. Having extra accessories also allows you to smoothly go on with your potty training schedule even while you are out and about.

Dinosaur Potty Training Chart

A potty training chart is not just a way for parents to monitor the progress of their potty training. It also encourages little kids since their potty sessions are rewarded with stickers. They can also have a visual clue that they are doing so well. There are several potty training charts available on Amazon. This Dino potty chart is the best in terms of quality.

Sesame Street Potty Topper Disposable Stick-in-Place Toilet Seat Covers

Sometimes it’s inevitable that your child has to go potty while you are out and about. The thought of having your child sit on a grimy public toilet might put you off and tempt you to go back to diapers. Having a disposable toilet seat cover that sticks in place allows you to continue with your potty training mission even when shopping, visiting, or running errands with your child.

Kalencom Potette Plus Potty Seat Liners

These disposable liners fit into your child’s potty seat to catch all the pee and poop for a mess-free cleanup. It is useful for potties that do not have a detachable bowl. You can dump it in the bin just like a diaper.

Kalencom Potette Plus Collapsible Reusable Liner

If you don’t like the idea of throwing away soiled liners, a reusable liner such as this can substitute as a detachable bowl if your potty does not have one. It is easy to empty and clean with running soapy water. It is also collapsible for easy storage.

Squatty Potty

Squatty potties were originally intended for adult use to improve alignment, comfort, and efficiency during bowel elimination. For potty-training kids, it is a step-stool that gives them easier access to the grown-up toilet if they have an adapter. It’s also more convenient since they can flush and you no longer have to deal with cleaning a full potty bowl.

Conclusion

You can make potty training a fun and exciting experience for your little one. After all, it is a major milestone that is certainly worth celebrating. Not only do you, as a parent, graduate from buying nappies, but your child begins to ease slowly into becoming more and more independent and confident.

Making this a happy experience will ensure that your child transitions out of those diapers as smoothly as possible. Remember to embrace those accidents as learning opportunities and don’t be discouraged if your child encounters potty training regression at some point.

What’s important is for you to have tons of patience and encouragement for them to fully achieve potty training success.

About Essa

EssaVanessa is a freelance writer and a two-time certified boy mom to a toddler and a preschooler. She believes that raising happy kids is a delicate balance between doing your best as a parent and seeking help when you need it.

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