Potty training is a nightmare for some families. It’s especially hard when you “think” you’re doing all the right things but it feels like it’s not working at all. Be kind to yourself and remember a little patience can go a long way.
While there is no right or wrong way to potty train, there are some things that we learnt (sometimes the hard way) to make the experience even better. And if you’re wondering when to start potty training, know that there is no specific age to start potty training (some people start as early as 18-months, others closer to their third birthday).
Watch to see if your child is showing signs they’re ready to get out of nappies. They might be able to tell you when they’ve done poo in their nappy, or they might show a keen interest when you use the toilet, both signs they might be ready.
When it’s time to potty train, here are 4 of our favourite gentle potty training tips to help ease stress, and make toilet training your little one at home a fun and rewarding experience.
Tip 1: Get prepared
You need to think ahead and get everything you need to start potty training including..
• A potty—have fun shopping for the potty together with your toddler. They’ll get a sense of empowerment when they can help you choose.
• Stock up on underpants or cloth nappies—new fun prints make it feel a bit more ‘special’. When using cloth nappies you can simply remove the liners and use them like underpants.
• An easy to access location for the potty—some families move the potty around the home, but we liked to keep it in the bathroom or toilet. That’s where they’ll go when they grow so why not practice there from the start?!
• Have lots of time at home—potty training while out and about requires a whole new level of preparation, so make sure you have a solid 3-5 days at home to focus on potty training before venturing out.
• Expect accidents—the first day or two will probably be messy, that’s normal. If you’re mentally prepared for this, you can proceed with patience and compassion.
Tip 2: Find fun ways to educate your toddler
Explore potty training videos, read a special book about potty training, or choose a favourite potty themed song with your little one. There are plenty of options out there!
When talking about the toilet you explain how everybody makes poo and pee. Even let them join you in the loo to see how it’s done! Remind them it’s a natural process and nothing to be afraid of. The more relaxed you are, the more comfortable they’ll be too.
Tip 3: Repeat phrases often to remind them of the goal
You’re going to feel like a broken record, but your toddler will need constant reminding of what’s going on here. One phrase we found useful was simply checking in with them throughout the day to ask “Are your pants still dry?” and they would check and remember that that is the goal. If yes, praise them “well done” and follow that up with a statement like “Just let mum or dad know when you feel like you need to pee or poo—we can go together.”
Keep it simple, keep it consistent. They’ll feel supported this way. If they have an accident, there’s no need for punishment, simply remind them “honey, pee/poo goes in the potty/toilet—let’s try again next time.”
Tip 4: Shower them with praise and celebration
A sticker or rewards chart can make potty training an extra special time. Once they fill the chart you could take them out for a special playdate or let them choose a little present.
Some reward accompanied by lots of praise like “well done, you kept your underpants dry” “nice work, you did a wee in the toilet/potty” will make them feel amazing. And even if they sit on the toilet and nothing happens, still praise them for trying.
Ever wondered if using cloth nappies can help a toddler potty train more easily?
While there are no official studies, our personal experience and that of other parents suggests yes! Read this blog to learn why cloth nappies can help make toilet training even more successful.
Remember to stay positive, loving and encouraging. Never make your little one feel bad for having an accident, and don’t force them to sit on the toilet when they’re not ready (that might create more anxiety and fear). By creating a safe environment and staying present with your child, you’ll be able to watch for clues and guide them through this transition.