You’re so ready to ditch the diapers and potty train your child - but when, and how, do you begin? There are so many methods and techniques for potty training, ranging from the ever popular “3 day method” to long term practice. Don’t stress, we’ll cover all the basics you should know before starting this venture with your little one.
What are some signs my child is ready for potty training?
While every child is different, there are many standard “signs” that signal that your child might be ready to begin using the potty. Here are the most common ones:
- Your child hides to pee or poop
- Your child asks to follow caregivers or siblings into the bathroom
- You notice fewer diaper changes during the day
- Your child wakes up up dry from nap or at night
- Your child poops at the same time each day
- Your child tells you when he’s peed or pooped
- Your child goes long periods without needing a diaper change
- Your child becomes uncomfortable in a dirty diaper
- Your child is able to use words, sign language, or other signals to communicate about using the bathroom
- Your child is able to perform basic dressing and undressing skills
- Your child asks for a potty seat or to try underwear
Just because your child shows one or more of these signs, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to start potty training. Only you can make that call, but usually children are ready to potty train between 1.5 and 3 years. Some children will potty train earlier, and others won’t be ready until later. However, being potty trained is a basic requirement at most preschools, so keep that in mind when you consider when to begin potty training.
If you and your child are ready to begin, embrace the excitement and use that momentum to encourage your child to use the potty instead of a diaper.
The more excited you are about potty training, the more excited your child will be. Children are very sensitive to caregivers’ emotions and it’s important to set a positive, easygoing tone about the new venture into early childhood. Go into potty training with an optimistic mindset, and you’re more likely to experience success. Go into it with a sense of dread, and your child is likely to feed off your hesitation and fight using the toilet. If you personally are not ready, perhaps it’s not the best time to start.
If your child is eager to be a “big boy” or “big girl,” embrace that enthusiasm and run with it! Take your child on a shopping adventure to grab all the basic supplies you’ll need:
- A small potty seat or a plastic seat that goes on top of the toilet
- A step stool
- Flushable wipes
- A rewards chart or sticker chart
- A portable potty seat to keep in the car or diaper bag
- Disposable toilet liners
- Plastic bags for soiled clothes
- A timer
- Lots of underwear
- Rewards, if you choose to go that route (stickers, small candies, small toys)
It doesn’t make much of a difference whether your child uses a toddler-sized plastic potty chair that sits on the ground, or if your child prefers a seat that goes over the big toilet. Let your child choose what she is comfortable with. One upside to using a small potty chair is that it is portable and can easily be carried from room to room or stored in the car. You might find this helpful because when your child says she needs to go, she means now. Having a potty seat on hand makes it easier than sprinting to the bathroom several times a day!
A step stool is helpful for positioning your child’s legs when he is sitting on the toilet. It can also help him climb onto the toilet by himself, and can be moved to the sink so he can wash his hands after using the bathroom.
A timer is a great item to have on hand because when you begin potty training, you will need to plan on taking your child to the bathroom about every 10-20 minutes. You can set a timer on your phone, on a kitchen appliance, on your watch, or use a potty watch. The more visual cues your child has to when it is time to go to the bathroom, the easier it will be for him to understand how much time he has. This is helpful because many children don’t want to leave an activity in order to use the bathroom!
Lastly, you’ll need supplies for when you leave the house. As a parent, you probably already know to expect the unexpected, and this applies to potty training as well! Brace yourself for a lot of accidents - it’s ok. It will take time and patience before your child is fully potty trained. Any time you leave the house, always bring several changes of clothes for your child. Pack some small bags to put dirty clothes in. Bring a portable potty seat or toilet covers for when your child uses a public restroom. You might also want to buy some kind of waterproof liner for the car seat in case your child has an accident in the car.
So now you’re ready. How do you begin?
Carve out several days or weeks to devote to potty training. During the first few days, your attention needs to be fully devoted to potty training. Put your social calendar to the side, and plan to stay home for at least a few days while your child learns to use the potty. For the first few days, take your child to the bathroom about every 15 minutes, around the clock (minus nap and bedtime). Give your child a chance to pee or poop on the potty, and then return to your normal activities until the next interval is over. Track your child’s progress and praise your child for using the toilet! Many parents choose to use some kind of rewards system, so pick one that you feel comfortable with. No matter what potty training method you choose, be prepared to fully embrace it and stick with the plan, even if you’re met with resistance from your child. If it seems to be extremely difficult for your child, pause and wait another few months before starting again.
You can continue to use diapers during naps and bedtimes for as long as you prefer. This is a harder time to potty train for most children and requires bodily awareness and control.
Take your child to the restroom upon waking, before and after each meal, before naps and bedtime, before you leave the house, and when you reach your destination. Set a timer for 15-20 minute intervals throughout the day until your child develops enough awareness to realize when she has to go to the bathroom.
Remember, this isn’t a simple task for any child to learn. After all, the use of diapers begins at birth! Wearing a diaper can be a comfort to children, so be compassionate in acknowledging that this may be a difficult skill for your child to learn. It’ll happen in time, as long as you are consistent and stick with the method you choose!
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.