Ditching nappies is a daunting task, with no quick wins, and often one of the most emotionally challenging milestones to reach. As parents we're always so keen to Get It Right, but when it comes to starting potty training, how can you be sure your toddler's really ready? As the UK's leading toilet training expert, I set up My Carry Potty to make the journey an easier one for everyone involved, so I'm always keen to share my potty training tips, especially with the KIDLY community!
Make sure your little one is showing all the signs that they're ready before you start. Just because a well-meaning friend or older relative is putting on the thumb screws doesn't mean the time is right. Don’t be coerced by others!
1. Time it wisely.
First things first. It's best not to start potty training if there's been a change in circumstance: for example, your toddler is unwell, there's a new baby taking everyone's attention (grrrr!!), you've just moved home, they've started a new childcare setting, or there are any other family problems you're dealing with. Starting too early can lead to failure, so make sure your little one is showing all the signs that they're ready before you start. Just because a well-meaning friend or older relative is putting on the thumb screws doesn't mean the time is right. Don’t be coerced by others!
2. So what are the signs?
There's no set age for potty training, but most parents do begin around the age of 2, as they start to see these giveaways:
Your kids stops in their tracks when they wee or poo, as they start to become aware that they're filling their nappy.
They may even hide behind a sofa, curtain or a door when they're pooing: this is another sign that they're becoming conscious of what they are doing. Many believe that the reason toddlers do this is that pooing takes a bit more focus and they want to find a corner where they can 'perform' without distraction.
It's also fairly common that, when asked, a toddler will deny that they are pooing: possibly because they don't want to be taken away from their play to get their nappy changed or, occasionally, they believe it's dirty and messy. Again, this is another sign that your child is ready.
They're using the words wee or poo, and pulling on their nappy, as their way of asking to be changed. When they're doing all this, then their language and cognitive skills are sufficiently developed, and if they can communicate this to you, it's another good sign of readiness.
3. Let everyone know.
Trailing a banner from a biplane is taking it too far, maybe, but you definitely need to tell staff at your nursery, or anyone else who looks after your child, that you've started toilet training. Let them know what techniques you're using, like the good old reward-chart-or-sticker-system, so they can keep everything consistent and avoid training set-backs. Don't be tempted to interrupt stop toilet training if your child's spending a night away at granny's or a friend's house: interruptions in the process will confuse them.
4. Start any month of the year.
There's no season for potty training. This can be done at any time of the year. If your they're showing signs of readiness, get ready too! Don't wait for the summer to arrive because you think warm days and the chance to run round naked with make things a doddle. If you delay training until the summer you may find they've gone off the idea and you've missed your chance.
5. Get all the props & books you think you'll need.
A book or some downloaded film clips all about potty training that you can look over with your tot can help you both to prepare the way, mentally, for what lies ahead.
6. Get the right clothes...
You don’t want to spend ages changing your toddler’s clothes, so make sure what they're wearing is easy to remove, like looser-fitting or elasticated trousers or joggers. You can try using training pants. Some toddlers like them, while others just think of them as a different type of nappy (which is confusing). Most toddlers are encouraged by having real underwear instead: it makes them feel grown up.
7. ...& the right kit.
Getting the right equipment for potty training is always a good start. An old-school potty, a carry potty or a special seat to attach to your regular toilet is a must. Whichever you choose, make sure they can sit comfortably.
8. Let your kid choose their throne.
And why not involve them in the selection? (Although of course you'll be doing the actual choosing, you can get them involved by clicking to purchase, or choosing the colour they like most...) After all, they're going to be using it! It is always helpful to have both a potty and a trainer seat to hand. Choosing a seat that matches your child’s potty in colour or design keeps training consistent and will help make the transition to the toilet smoother. This is the thinking that inspires our matching designs in the My Carry Potty range.
9. Be prepared at home & away.
If you live in a two-storey house, keep a potty upstairs and one downstairs. Teach your toddler from day one that this is the 'new normal', at home and anywhere else you go. Take your potty and/or training seat with you wherever you go. Remind them that they have it with them, as this will help them feel secure and confident. It'll also help reduce accidents, as often you get little warning when they need to go!
10. Give looooaaads of encouragement.
Praise and play-based learning has been proven to be an effective approach for potty training. Use reward charts, stickers, a special box filled up with their favourite treats - and a good toilet training story book to keep up the momentum.
11. Don't scold or raise your voice.
Accidents will happen, so remember to keep calm. Scolding your child will result in a fear of toilet training and this will only cause set-backs.
12. Don't compare your child.
Kids develop at a different rates. That goes for eating, walking, talking and all the other milestones, so try not to compare your child's potty training to anyone else's. You will always get those parents who gleefully tell you their toddler was trained before their first birthday 🙄 Trust the signs you're getting from your own child, and go with them.
13. Roll out the rewards.
Every toddler loves to feel special and to please mummy or daddy - especially when it comes to potty training. Rewards are a great way to encourage them to sit on the potty or the toilet, whether you use the chart and stickers methos or even a magical star box. Remember: it's important to reward even if they try but don't 'perform'. Sometimes sitting down on the potty or toilet is more challenging than others just needs a little extra encouragement. Make sure you reward them immediately so they get that all-important instant gratification that toddlers are hard wired to love so much!
Kids develop at a different rates. That goes for eating, walking, talking and all the other milestones, so try not to compare your child's potty training to anyone else's.
14. Roll with regression
Even when your child has been successfully potty trained and dry for many weeks, accidents will happen, often due to life changes, such as moving home, starting a new school or nursery. Getting angry, impatient and stressed will rub off on them and could even lead to them ‘withholding’ (holding in their poo) and getting constipated. So don’t get upset at your little one: this is a very stressful time for them and getting upset only makes them anxious.
15. What about bedtime?
Don't start bedtime training until they've been consistently dry in the daytime for at least 6 weeks. The same principles as daytime apply. Make sure there's no stress in the household and remind them to go to the potty or toilet before they say goodnight. Try to reduce their liquid intake (which includes fruit) around 30 minutes before they hit the hay and invest in a little night light, as getting up in the dark to use the potty or loo in the night can cause anxiety and bed wetting. If you're using a potty, then keep it in their room, and remind them where it is so they feel confident and secure. Finally, invest in a good bedtime story on potty training to read to them before they go to sleep. This helps to stimulate their imagination and keeps potty training in their minds!
So there you have it - I hope that your potty training journey is a smooth (-ish!) one. For more information or support, have a look at the My Carry Potty range for exclusive bundles and helpful blogs.
And try not to get stressed. You'll get there in the end - believe me!