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8 Tips to Potty Training a Toddler

April 9, 2017

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There are two days during the week where I must leave the house with my daughter.  There’s Wednesday, where we go to Toddler Class in the morning, and Sunday, where we go to church.  I read a lot of books, blog posts, and magazine articles on potty training a toddler.  Most seem to support a three-day training regime where you have your child butt-naked the first day, wearing underwear the next, and then go out with pants on and say you have successfully potty trained your toddler.  They also warn not to go back to using diapers once you have started training.  Something about your toddler figuring out they can go back to diapers if they make you annoyed enough.

I have attempted potty training my daughter three separate times using this three-day training regime and failed each time because inevitably, a Sunday or a Wednesday will come around and I’d have to leave the house with my daughter in a diaper.  The “experts” recommend waiting a couple months before starting again.  I made it one of my goals in March to successfully potty train my daughter during Spring Break where I could have the whole week, starting Monday, to devote to potty training.  Of course, life happens, and we didn’t start until Thursday, despite having no Toddler Class that Wednesday.

This time, I didn’t give up and did it the way I felt was right and on day 10, we had gone one full day without any accidents!  My daughter is 28 months old and I can see a diaper-free future ahead of me.  Now, here are the things I’ve learned from our potty training adventures and wish other parents have told me.

Things to Know Before Potty Training a Toddler

I read a lot about how you should have you toddler choose the potty and don’t let it become a toy.  Vice versa, some would say you should let your toddler get used to seeing it around and sit in it.  I want to emphasize to you that there is no one right way.  Potty training a toddler seems like it is a daunting task mainly because you have to actively teach your child to use the potty and your child will have to learn to use the potty.

  1. Your child is ready for potty training when she is able to sing the ABC song.  I’ve read long lists of “signs that your toddler is ready to be potty trained” and they get pretty long.  I would find three or four signs that fit my child, a couple that might be true, and the rest not related to my kid at all.  I had a hard time deciding if the time was right or not.  Our pediatrician gave us a simple way to decide.  If your child can sing the entire ABC song, your child is developmentally ready to learn.
  2. Buy a simple potty chair.  

    This affordable potty chair from Summer Infant is highly recommended by many parents I know and I would have bought one if I hadn’t already bought a musical one.  I bought a fancy musical potty chair and regretted it as soon as we actually started potty training.  This chair (pictured in first Instagram photo at top) plays a musical fanfare whenever one pees or poops into the potty.  It might be the weight pushing the container down that triggers it.  Anyway, the first day where she peed in the potty, the musical fanfare played and it scared her.  Terrified her.  I found out potty training is scary for little ones.  Simple potty chairs that are easy to use and easy to clean are best.  No music and no lid.  Pee shield is up to you, but be aware that if your child tries to sit on the potty chair and ends up sitting on the pee shield, the pain could discourage her from trying to use the potty on her own again.
  3. Potty training a toddler is not a race.  Try not to compare with other toddlers.  I actually knew of several parents who potty trained their kid at 18 months or so and I felt the pressure!  Wait until your toddler is ready (ABC song!) and you are ready.  This is a joint operation.

Tips for Heading Outside the Home

Once your toddler has the hang of things and knows that peeing in underwear and peeing in pants both result in uncomfortable wetness, you might feel ready to venture outside the home.  Our first outing was to get groceries.  Then, we tried going to church.  Here are some tips that are helpful when taking a potty training toddler outside of the home.

  1. Try to encourage your toddler to use the potty before leaving the house.  It’s easier when you know your toddler is leaving the house on a fairly empty bladder.  Keep your first few outings short.  Less than an hour is ideal.  Right now, our longest has been two hours for church.
  2. Don’t stress if your toddler doesn’t go before you have to leave.  Just trust that your toddler is learning her body signals and will tell you when she has to go.  Hopefully she’ll signal with a fair amount of time before release.
  3. Bring along an extra pair of underwear, pants, and socks.  You’ll also want a plastic bag to hold soiled pants and underwear in.  Bring along post-its to cover the sensor for automatic flushes.  You don’t want that scaring your toddler while she’s trying an adult toilet in some strange, new place.
  4. The safe way to protect a car seat differs by manufacturer.  Frankly, it is unsafe to place anything between toddler and the car seat that didn’t come with the car seat.  I know of two car seat brands that provide products to protect the car seat from potty training accidents and have been tested for safety, but I do not own one.  As such, I do not use anything and hope for the best.  If a potty training accident occurs, wash the car seat fabric according to directions in the manual.  You do not want to compromise the safety of your child because you don’t want to clean up an accident in the car seat.  Disclaimer: I am not a certified car seat technician, so I recommend taking your questions to the Car Seat for the Littles Facebook Group.  There’s a separate group for the folks in the UK, since the laws are different.
  5. Bring the potty chair with you, if you can.  At least, bring it along in the beginning until your toddler can handle using an adult toilet at home.  Then, she will be able to handle the ones outside of the home better.  There are portable potty seats you can purchase, too, if you plan on keeping one in your car, stroller, or diaper bag.  Since our potty chair is rather clunky, I’m considering bringing around a potty seat you insert on top of the adult toilet.



I hope these tips are helpful.  Good luck on your own potty training a toddler adventure!  If you enjoyed this post, I recommend reading 5 Simple Rules for a Clean Home and 10 Toddler Rules You Must Follow.  I’m currently working on a Spring Cleaning inspired series and will be going through what to toss and how to organize each major room in your home.  Subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date with the Spring Cleaning series.

Leave a comment and share what you found useful in your potty training adventure.  Any advice on getting a toddler to poop in the potty chair?

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