Getting ready to potty train is a big step for both parents and kids! Make sure your child is showing interest in potty training and follow signs that your child is ready to potty train, rather than focusing on the right age for potty training. While many kids show interest in potty training around age 2, it could be up to 3 years old until they are truly ready. Signs that a child is ready for potty training are:
- showing interest in the potty
- wanting to wear underwear
- telling you through words or gestures that they need to go to the bathroom
- complaining about being in a wet or dirty diaper
- trying to remove a wet or dirty diaper themselves
Consider if your child can follow basic directions from you and if they are able to stay dry for long periods of time during the day (2-3 hours, or more, at a time).
OK - so you’re ready to potty train! Here is some guidance to get you started:
1. Get The Right Equipment
Purchase a potty for your bathroom and make it fun. Summer Infant has a potty that flushes, or you can let your child decorate their potty with stickers to make it exciting. Show them where the potty is and encourage them to sit on it without a diaper. Purchase books about using the potty, such as Everyone Poops or sing fun songs, like the Potty Song. Make it exciting by purchasing cool, new underwear with your child’s favorite character on it and to make wearing it special. Veteran tip: get a toilet seat cover than you can put on a large toilet for poops (you do NOT want to be cleaning out a kid's toilet basin full of poop) and that also is easy to pack up and travel with for when you leave the house and/or go on trips.
2. Start A Potty Schedule
Throughout the day, have your child sit on the potty for several minutes without a diaper. You can keep them on the potty for these several minutes by reading a book, or singing a song. Stay with them while they are sitting on the potty. During the day, when you notice them showing signs that they need to use the toilet, such as squirming, squatting or holding their diaper area, get them to their potty quickly and praise them for letting you know they had to go.
3. Try Naked Time During The Day
Most kids who are ready to be potty trained are more aware when they need to use the bathroom when they are naked. In most cases, kids will have one accident while naked, and then use the potty without issue when they are naked from then on. In fact, there are many resources that suggest starting potty training by having one entire day to being in the house naked so that your child can learn what it feels like when they need to use the bathroom but don't have anything to catch the pee (i.e. diaper or underwear). Also, try putting tinkle targets in the potty, such as Fruit Loop, Cherrios, or Toilet Targets for your child to aim at when peeing.
4. Offer Praise or Rewards
Sing a song that is fun and upbeat to celebrate after your child has used the potty. Consider incentives such as stickers to reward your child after using the potty. Veteran tip: Don't let offering sweets be beneath you, this works like a charm! But only offer these types of incentives for pooping in the potty, as your child will ask for a sweet after every time they pee in the potty (which could be A LOT) if you start these types of rewards from the get-go.
5. Be Consistent And Let Caregivers Know You Are Potty Training
Make sure school, daycare, and/or your nanny is aware that you are potty training, so everyone is kept in the loop. These people are also usually great resources as they have likely potty trained or helped potty trained many other children.
6. Stay Consistent When Out Of The House/Traveling
You can purchase a potty for your car that is easily transported. (Here is an example.) Be sure to always go out with an extra pair of underwear and pants. Try not to get frustrated and fall back into using diapers/pull ups as this is more confusing for your child.
7. Limit Drinks Before Bedtime
Your child will be very good at using the potty daytime hours after a few weeks. However, learning to use the potty or stay dry for naps and nighttime takes much longer, sometimes months to years. Make sure you have disposable training underwear for naps and overnight, and waterproof mattress protectors. Veteran tip: We all have more than one crib/bed sheet, but not everyone has more than one waterproof mattress cover. Be sure to invest in at least two of these so you don't have to worry about washing the one you have before the next use. If you have a child that wets the bed frequently, put a clean sheet under the waterproof mattress pad, so if there is an accident in the middle of the night, you can just pull off the wet sheet and waterproof mattress cover and have another clean, dry sheet already there and ready to use.
8. Talk To Your Pediatrician About Potty Training
They can help you assess your child’s readiness and offer support and tips. If your child is resisting using the potty, or not getting the hang of it after a few weeks of trying, just call it quits and wait a few months to try again. Potty training is a big step, and it is important that your child is physically, mentally, and emotionally ready to train. Timing and patience is key.
For more information about potty training, and other essential topics related to babies and small children, join our Boston NAPS community on Facebook. Do you want a customized potty training plan for your child? Schedule a potty training consultation with our pediatric nurse practitioner.