Family Magazine

Potty Training 101: How to Start Potty Training Your Toddler

By Hemapriya Natesan @MyLittleMoppet

So you've decided to take the plunge and start potty training your toddler - congratulations! This is a great milestone in your child's life and you want to make sure that it is as enjoyable and stress free as possible for both of you. It goes without saying that the more you plan, the more prepared you'll be to handle your child's moods and adjust accordingly. Now comes the next important question - how to start potty training?

Potty training is a long and gradual process, even for those who claim to potty train within 3 days or 3 hours. The more familiarity and prepared your child feels, the less traumatic it will be for him. So we recommend some pre-training prep work that'll ease your child into this new phase rather than thrusting her directly into it. Check out the tips below on how to start potty training without losing your sanity or your hair!

Potty Training 101: How to Start Potty Training your Toddler

1. Start the Conversation

The best way to start anything with a toddler is by - talking about it! A while before you actually plan to start, start introducing the concept of a toilet or potty in daily conversation and let them get used to it. Nearly every Mom has experienced having their little one as an audience when they go to the toilet themselves, so make use of such an opportunity to explain about using the toilet. Talk about how everyone does pee and poo poo in a toilet or potty, so that their clothes are clean and dry. If you have older kids, watching them use a toilet will be extra inspiration to your toddler.

When talking about the toilet, bladder or bowel movements or the genitals, use the right words, and talk in a matter of fact tone, so that your child knows exactly what is what. This way, it's easier for him to carry on the conversation and ask you any questions he may have.

2. Decide on the Kind of Potty

Potty Training 101: How to Start Potty Training your Toddler

The central point of your potty training journey is obviously going to be the potty, so you need to get it right! There are many types of potties out there now, and you need to choose one that you think will work best for your child. Basically, there are two kinds - a standalone potty and a toilet seat that is placed on an adult toilet.

A standalone potty can be placed anywhere in the house, and your child can get on it and off it by herself. However, it's not exactly a stylish addition to your decor and cleaning it can be a nightmare. A toilet seat makes cleaning a breeze; just flush and it's gone. However, your child will require assistance getting on it and off it, and you'll most probably have to buy a step stool to go with it. An adult who needs to use the toilet may find it cumbersome to keep taking it off as well.

If you do get a standalone potty, you'll quite likely have to get a toilet seat for later to help your child graduate to using the adult toilet. Many parents skip the potty and go straight for the toilet seat due to this, but some kids may get scared of being at such a height or may be more inclined to use the potty if it's near her play area. Choose a kind based on your child's personality and your family circumstances.

3. Go Shopping Together

Starting potty training is a momentous occasion, so celebrate it with a shopping trip with your child! Once she's used to the idea of potty training and you've settled on the kind of potty you want to buy, take her to the store. Buy a potty, a step stool (for a toilet seat) and a splash guard if you're potty training a boy. In addition to this, you'll have to get a new potty training wardrobe - underwear in your child's favorite character and pants/shorts that can be easily taken off. Some Moms find that moving their child from regular diapers to diaper pants offers an easier transition to underwear. Besides these, make sure you get lots of water proof sheets and mattress protectors to keep your carpets, beds and sofas safe from the many 'accidents' that are in store!

4. Choose a Reward System

Potty Training 101: How to Start Potty Training your Toddler

A reward system provides your toddler with an extra incentive to use the potty and is a good motivational tool! You can decide how you want this system to work, whether you reward your toddler when he tells you that he's soiled his diaper, or for peeing or pooping in the potty. Set small goals initially, and gradually raise the bar as he masters each level.

There are many potty training charts that you can download for free, and keep a pack of stickers for your toddler to stick on them when he has a potty training achievement. We like this one from Tots Schooling and this one from Reward Charts 4 Kids.

5. Buy Potty Training Books

Potty Training 101: How to Start Potty Training your Toddler

With kids, one of the most effective ways to introduce them to a topic is by reading about other children having similar experiences. There are several potty books for boys and girls, and you'll soon find us doing a post on it! Include this book among your child's regular book roundup, so she gets used to it. Books also help to get kids to use the correct words related to potty training, and it helps them realize that this is something all kids all over the world go through.

In addition to books, you can also check out some videos on Youtube which are funny and informative in equal measure. If it features your child's favorite character, then you're in luck!

6. Introduce Good Habits

Before actually starting potty training is a good time to introduce your child to good toilet habits like washing hands and flushing after use. Start by taking your child's diaper to the big toilet, dumping the contents in and then flushing, to let her know where all waste material is supposed to go. Washing hands is an extremely important skill to learn, and you can check out Living Montessori for songs, videos and pictures to help little children learn it properly. Most kids enjoy flushing, and you can use colored water in the toilet to make it more fun.

7. Include Healthy Snacks and Hydration

Potty Training 101: How to Start Potty Training your Toddler

Trying to make your child 'go' in the potty is not going to work if she's constipated or dehydrated! It is important to ensure that her diet includes adequate quantities of fruit, vegetables and other high fiber foods. Check our list of foods to relieve constipation so that your little one doesn't have to struggle when she has to go. This is one of the reasons that ensuring regular bowel movements is an indicator of potty training readiness.

The same applies to hydration, especially in summers. Remember, if your child's asking for water, it means that her body is already dehydrated, so make sure she keeps sipping on fluids throughout the day.

8. Delay Night Time Training

Potty Training 101: How to Start Potty Training your Toddler

For any Mom, getting up in the middle of night to change a pair of wet pajamas along with a soaked bed sheet is not her idea of fun! Besides being stressful for parents, night time potty training is also hard on kids, who may feel like they're doing something wrong. Put your child in regular underwear during the day, but switch back to diapers at night. In general, it takes much longer to be completely dry at night, so it's best to leave it for the time being. Most experts suggest thinking of night time potty training as another process altogether, so don't stress about it now. We'll tell you more about how to tackle this milestone later in our series.

9. Inform your Child's Playschool

Potty Training 101: How to Start Potty Training your Toddler

If your child has already begun play school, then you'll need to inform the staff so that they're up to date with your progress. Most play schools have their own systems for using the toilet, and you are probably aware of them by now. Try to gel your process with theirs, so that your child doesn't have too much of a deviation when he comes home from school and vice versa. For a child who's already going through a pretty big change, too many differences in process can confuse him and derail his progress.

You also need to inform any extended family members, housemaids or baby sitters about this new phase in your child's life. Having everyone on board makes the journey a lot easier for both you and your child.

10. Get all your Cleaning Gear Ready

Potty Training 101: How to Start Potty Training your Toddler

Like we mentioned, potty training is not something that happens overnight, and even when you think you're almost done, there are bound to be accidents. So be prepared in advance; rolling away that expensive carpet now will save you a lot of heartbreak later! Stock up on all kinds of cleaning essentials - mops, disinfectant, floor cleaners, absorbent cloths, carpet and furniture cleaners. Prepare all surfaces of your home too - put away rugs and throws, and have a water proof sheet in every room so that you can protect fabric couches and mattresses from messes. Additionally, it's also a good time to make your toilet or 'potty corner' a pleasant place, with air fresheners and things, so that your toddler finds it inviting enough to do his business!

These tips should help you get started on your journey, and once your toddler is more involved in the process, you can start actually potty training him! Watch out for more in this series in our upcoming posts!

Main Image - Flickr: ChadSellers

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