Ready to say goodbye to diapers? Great! Not sure how to begin? That’s ok! Potty training is a huge parenting hurdle, and once successfully conquered, one of the developmental milestones you’ll remember (and appreciate!) the most.
As a compliment to our post on nighttime potty training (read it here), my wife and I wanted to put this guide together to explain how we approached daytime potty training for our children, and the little tricks we learned along the way. If you are about to start this adventure, or are looking for inspiration, hopefully this helps.
You’ve actually done something very similar to this before
Taking that leap of faith and stepping into the unknown that is potty training can be a little daunting. But rest assured, you’ve actually gone through a process very similar to this before: introducing your child to solid foods. Transitioning away from breastfeeding/bottles and introducing solid foods can be really messy, frustrating, involve doing more laundry, and take a while to achieve success. Eventually, though, all children eat solid food.
Potty training is more or less just like this! So lean on your recent experiences as a parent and take a deep breath: you can do this!
One of the first questions you might have is “What do I need for potty training?” Here is our bathroom setup that we used for potty training (and still use for our potty-trained children).
Here’s why we are a huge fan of this setup and why it has worked so well for us:
- Potty training on an adult toilet (as opposed to a kid-sized potty training toilet) makes the process easier. You won’t have to transition from the kid-sized toilet to an adult toilet later on, and you won’t have to clean the kid-sized toilet.
- Many daycare centers and preschools only use adult toilets with potty rings, so you’ll eventually need to tackle the adult toilet anyway.
- The potty ring is easy to take on and off. This is just as important for you as it is for your child. For you, it’s really convenient to be able to use the bathroom easily without having to waste time disassembling something on the potty. It’s also important for your child to be able to put the potty ring on the potty easily (should it not be on in the first place).
- The potty ring fits all toilets perfectly. We have potty rings on three different toilets in our house. They’re all a little different in size. Two are more circular in shape, while one is elongated and elliptical. It fits all three toilets without any issue.
- The potty ring has handles on the sides for pushing leverage. In the beginning, and especially for poops, the handles on the sides will help provide some extra leverage so your child can “squeeze it out.”
- The potty ring is easy to clean. Since the potty ring is separate from the stool, it is a breeze to turn over and wipe clean with disinfecting wipes.
- The stool is lightweight and has two steps, which really comes in handy for hand-washing at the sink. After your child is done, simply slide the stool over to the sink and they’ll be able to step up and wash their hands. This is where the two steps of the stool are particularly helpful, as many stools only have one step and might not be tall enough for your child to reach the sink for hand-washing comfortably.
- The setup doesn’t take up a lot of space. When we adults use the potty, we move the stool to the side and place the potty ring on top of the stool. The two of them stacked on top of each other barely take up any space in the bathroom.
- The setup is portable and travels well. It’s easy to throw the potty ring in the car or in a suitcase for a day trips and other excursions. And since the potty ring and stool are both lightweight, it won’t be a hassle packing both in a car.
Here are links to the potty ring and step stool we use:
Replicate this setup on every floor in your house
When children have to go potty, they have to go potty…now! It takes a long time to develop bladder control. Save yourself the frantic dash up and down stairs in search of the nearest potty, and simply replicate your potty training setup in a bathroom on each floor of your house. That way, there’s always a bathroom equipped for potty training nearby.
A note on toilet paper
You might notice in the picture of our bathroom setup that we only have one roll of toilet paper, and it is on top of the toilet as opposed to on the toilet paper holder. We have found that our children are worse than cats in their desire to play with (and their ability to destroy) a roll of toilet paper! And if it’s on the toilet paper holder, they will unravel and unroll the whole roll of toilet paper in an instant.
Save yourself the headache – keep less toilet paper around, and keep it high enough so your children can’t get to it as easily.
Pick out pee and poop prizes
Some children go with the flow, while others don’t. Especially with our older daughter, there was hesitation and pushback toward potty training. So we went about setting up a positive reward system to encourage bathroom use. Initially we tried a sticker reward chart, but she wasn’t into that. We also promised to buy her toys, but the guarantee of future toys didn’t do much either.
Well, seeing is believing! Using the example of our older daughter, she was really into The Octonauts. So we bought her a bunch of Octonaut figurines, and put them on top of the refrigerator so she could see them easily and frequently, but not reach them. And we told her she could pick out one figurine every time she went potty. It was an instant success! She wanted to go potty so she could pick out which toy she would get!
This worked really well for pees, but we were still having trouble getting her to poop on the potty. If you’re familiar with the show, there’s a slew of underwater vehicles (called Gups). So we bought a bunch of these Gups and used them as poop prizes. We even set one aside as her special prize if she pooped at her preschool. This also worked like a charm. She really wanted to get these bigger, cooler toys and immediately started pooping on the potty too. Here’s just about all the potty training prizes we bought for our older daughter:
So our advice is to figure out whatever really interests your child, and then buy smaller “pee” prizes and larger “poop” prizes. Since they will pee more often than poop, buy more pee prizes than poop prizes. Have them visible but not accessible, and when they do use the potty, let them pick out their prize!
Sacrifice a long weekend (or a vacation week if you can)
In our experience, you’ll need three days specifically carved out to tackle potty training: the first day to start the process, the second day to practice, and the third day to reinforce. You won’t be able to travel, or really go anywhere since you’ll need to be by your bathroom constantly. And children have an attachment to their home and home bathroom, so it can take a while for them to get comfortable with the idea of using the bathroom in public places.
The more days in a row you can dedicate to potty training, the more practice and reinforcement your child will have to become a potty pro!
Keep your child well-hydrated!
As we mentioned before, some children go with the flow, while others don’t. To help your child have to go potty more frequently, encourage sips from a water bottle often (or use chocolate milk, orange juice, or their favorite drink). Even a resistant child can’t hold liquid in their bladder forever!
Use an hourly timer
Take your child to the potty every hour, whether they feel like they have to go or not. Initially, they won’t know that they have to go anyway until they learn how to listen to their body.
We found that a shorter time interval (for example, every half hour) leads to too many potty trips, such that your child genuinely might not have to go potty when you take them. And any longer than an hour can be too long such that accidents are more likely.
Make potty trips part of your daily routine
Taking your child potty after waking up, before nap time, after nap time, and before bed will become second nature. Additionally, be sure to have your child use the potty every time you enter and leave the house. We also take our children potty whenever we have to go to the bathroom, and “race” to see who can get to the bathroom first.
Keep outside play to a minimum
You’ll spend a lot of time for a lot of days cooped up inside the house during potty training. While it might be tempting to let your child play outside for a bit, in our experience this is almost always when accidents occur. They get so excited to be outside and play that they get distracted and forget to listen to their body’s cues. As a parent, you might also enjoy the break and fresh air, and forget to take your child to the potty. Furthermore, your child will likely resist pretty strongly when you want to take them back inside to resume potty training. And even if they tell you that they have to go potty, it might take so long to get back into the house to the potty that they might have an accident in the meantime.
We’re not saying don’t go outside at all. Just be aware that it can be an accident-prone setting.
Learn potty cues, and beware of hide-and-seek games
For a parent, part of the potty training process is learning your child’s cues that they have to go potty. These cues come in many different forms, from hold their crotch to doing a potty dance/wiggle. Learn these cues and look out for them – it will save many potty accidents from happening!
We also found that peeing on the potty came fairly naturally to our children, but pooping on the potty took a little longer. Our older daughter, in particular, would ask us to play hide-and-seek with her, then go off and hide and try to poop while hiding instead of using the potty. So we put a temporary ban on all hide-and-seek games, and made sure not to leave her alone for too long. Avoid these types of games and situations where hesitation and resistance to using the potty can cause potty accidents to occur.
Don’t start potty training too early
This is really the crux of the matter at hand: how do you know when your child is ready to start potty training? There are certain requirements, like being able to verbally communicate and follow directions. But for the most part, it’s a parent-led “guesstimate.” Most parents start at some point between the ages of 2 and 3. We waited until our children were about 3 (the exact timing depended on the closest long weekend or vacation week my wife could take).
In this age of social media perfection, it can be really difficult to hold off and wait to potty train. A lot of parents get caught in a trap that potty training is such an important developmental milestone that it must be tackled as early as possible. It’s a slippery slope, though, as starting too early can really delay the transition and, if not successful, can foster an aversion to using the potty. Starting too early is also how we’ve seen a lot of parents lean on pull-ups as opposed to going straight to underwear.
Please keep in mind: there’s absolutely no rush to potty train! Start when you think your child is ready and when you are ready to commit to the process.
Accidents will happen, even after potty training is over
A whole year after being potty trained, our older daughter had a poop accident. She was so caught up in a new sticker book we had gotten for her that she completely forgot to tell us she had to go potty. By the time she did tell us, it was too late.
Accidents will happen. It is unrealistic to expect perfection, particularly during the early weeks and months. We wanted to share this example with you, though, to emphasize that a potty accident does not imply that your child is regressing or forgetting how to use the potty. Don’t stress that all your hard work during those early potty training days will be undone – it won’t. Clean up the accident, get a change of clothing, and move on with the day!
Go straight to underwear
We transitioned straight to underwear. For us, our decision was more about helping our children make the mental connection that diapers were no more than it was about limiting how much laundry we’d have to do. Why use pull-ups and send conflicting signals and foster confusion in their minds?
Buy your children fun undies and have them help move their diapers to storage (or a younger sibling’s room!)
You’re still going to be wiping their bottom
Don’t ditch those diaper wipes yet! One of the misconceptions with potty training is that your child will now know how to use the potty. That’s partly true. But they won’t be able to wipe their bottoms (after a poop) by themselves with any reasonable success for many, many years. So keep some diaper wipes handy…you might still need them!
Did you find these tips helpful and useful? How have you tackled daytime potty training? Let me know in the comments below!
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