Once your toddler turns two, it can feel like potty training lurks ominously ahead, a challenge that must be tackled before long. In reality, it’s rarely that bad, and with the right encouragement and preparation, it is possible to get your tot out of nappies in around a week!
But is this really an achieveable task? According to expert Amanda Jenner, founder of the Potty Training Acadamy, yes! And what better time to have a go at potty training than in lockdown!
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Potty training is all about helping your child to recognise the sensation of needing to go before they actually do, and it is a big learning process for them. So, although they may have the odd accident here and there, they're sure to be using the potty within three days of learning this method.
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How to tell they're ready for potty training
Before you even begin the potty training process, it's important to make sure your little one is ready. Here are the four signs to look out for that let you know your child is ready to pee and poop in the potty:
- When you see them stop in their tracks when they are playing, or go away and hide each time they do a wee or poo in their nappy, this means they are aware and acknowledging that something is happening.
- The gap between wetting and soiling their nappy is at least an hour.
- They have the physical ability to sit on a potty and get up from it.
- They respond to, and follow simple verbal commands.
Things to remember before you start potty training
- Potty: Buy a potty a couple of weeks ahead and leave it around the house so your child gets familiar with it. Take a look at our Mother & Baby potty training award winners here.
- Underwear: Amanda says: “Go to the shop and buy ‘big girl or ‘big boy’ pants together. Involving them from day one can really improve their chances of success.”
- Stickers: “Brilliant for reward charts to celebrate their little victories and also to decorate their potty and make it their own,” says Amanda. “Most children don’t want to potty train and need lots of encouragement. Give them a reason to want to do it.”
- Storybook: “A week or so before you plan to start training, buy a good storybook for your child that gets them used to the concepts and the words associated with toilet training,” says Amanda.
- Soap: Get them used to the idea of washing their hands early on. “A really nice children’s hand soap can add a bit of a fun to a routine task,” adds Amanda.
- Step stool: Handy for getting to the sink and, eventually, transitioning to the big toilet.
Get started straightaway by ditching the nappies as soon as your youngster gets up.‘Take her nappy off while she is still in her bedroom and get her to throw it away,’ says Amanda. Then put her big girl’s pants on and tell her that nappies are now only for bedtime. Sit her on the potty every 20 to 35 minutes, asking ‘Shall we try and get a star or a sticker?’ ‘Use lots of lovely reinforcing language and, if she asks to go back to nappies, tell her that you haven’t got any more for daytime,’ says Amanda. Keep plans for the first day simple – distractions are likely to lead to accidents. Venture out for your permitted daily exercise in the afternoon, for some fresh air – just for half-an-hour maximum – but take the potty with you.’
The second day of potty training is a great time to start encouraging your toddler to take the lead and become more independent. ‘Get her to start putting her pants on herself,’ advises Amanda, ‘and to show you where the potty is. Regularly remind her what to do, saying things like “Don’t forget to tell Mummy when you need a wee or a poo.’” Be prepared – on day one, using the potty was new and exciting, but by this point your toddler may start saying she doesn’t want to use it after all. Distraction is key, so put together a box of toys and activities your child can have fun with while on the potty. ‘Every day, change what is in it and only let her play with it while she is on the potty,’ says Amanda. ‘Blowing bubbles is ideal as it will help relax your child, in turn relaxing her bladder and bowel, too!’ Don’t be tempted to just put her in front of the TV – instead, give her something to do, like a simple jigsaw. It’s common for toddlers to have more accidents on the second day of potty training, so don’t be disheartened. Amanda says: ‘If she has an accident, stay upbeat and say “Wee doesn’t go there”.’ Change her pants and say: “You don’t get a sticker this time, but try again.” Stay very positive and calm, and never get cross.’
By the third day of the plan, potty fatigue may be starting to creep in. If you’re attempting potty training once social-distancing rules have been relaxed, now is the time to get a little more adventurous and leave the house for a bit longer. ‘The most important thing is consistency,’ says Amanda. ‘Use the same potty in and out of the home. If you go out and about, take your potty with you so you don’t have to worry about finding a toilet, and take a bag with stars in so she can still put them in the stars box if she does anything while she is out.’ Your toddler’s bladder is not strong enough to hold wee for long so, before you leave the house, make your little one sit on the potty and try to do a wee, and don’t give her a big drink just before you go out. Day three is a good opportunity to introduce flashcards showing pictures of children using potties and washing their hands. Talk to your little one about the cards and get her to tell you what she can see. And take time to relax yourself, especially once your little one has gone to bed. If you get stressed, your toddler will pick up on it, so plan something fun to take your mind off toilet training.
By now your little one should be visiting the loo consistently when they feel the need to go. On the fourth day, your toddler will be starting to become more aware and may have found that they want a little privacy when they use the potty. Amanda says: ‘Don’t stick the potty in a room full of people and make a spectacle of her. If your child prefers to go somewhere private such as behind the sofa to do a poo, put the potty there and tell her to call you when she has finished.’
There are ways that loved ones can join in and encourage your child to use her potty that don’t involve watching her use it. Get family to get on board by asking how many stars she has got. Or have Grandma phone up and talk positively about potty training. And if your child goes to nursery or a childminder, make sure they know you are potty training and request that they follow the same approach. ‘Ask if you can send in a bag of stars for them to give out to your child,’ suggests Amanda, ‘or if they can tell you at the end of the day how many stars your child has earned, so she can add them to her box when she gets home.’
On the fifth day, Amanda recommends becoming a little more sparing with the stickers and only giving them out when your tot has taken herself to the potty. ‘If she starts going on her own without prompting, say “Well done, I am proud of you”,’ says Amanda. ‘But don’t go too over the top, as this could put your toddler off.’ Don’t worry if your tot has the odd accident, as it is still very early days. It’s common for toddlers to be reluctant initially to use their potty for bowel movements – but stick with it. Amanda adds: ‘If she does a poo in her pants, get her to put it into the potty and then flush it away. Keep showing her the right place for her poo to go. If she insists she wants to do her poo in a pull-up, take it straight off as soon as she has finished and put her back into her proper pants.’
Top potty training tips
In the run up to your potty training week, let your toddler be naked as much as possible. An American speedy potty training technique – called Diaper Free Toddlers – is based around the idea that only by letting your tot run around naked as much as possible, will he really understand what’s going on. She says that underwear feels like a nappy to your toddler and makes accidents more likely to happen.
Let them watch you
In the weeks before you start, make more of your own trips to the loo, talking through what you’re doing and even (sorry if this sounds gross) letting him see exactly what you’re doing. Younger siblings usually have an easy time when potty training because they can watch their brother or sister.
Younger siblings usually have an easy time when potty training because they can watch their brother or sister
Make friends with the potty
Choose one together, make a fuss of him when he sits on it. Tell him he’s a big boy and if by any chance you do catch a wee while he’s sitting on it, heap on the praise.
Praise with others
Don’t just pile on the praise yourself, if you have a successful day of wees in the potty, make sure it’s the first thing you tell your partner when he gets home. Or you can even resort to ringing Granny to announce that first well-placed poo.
Work out your wobble
If you find your child often has accidents at the same time, take note of the time, place and reason for this. You’ll often find a pattern.
For example, you may find when he’s tired at the end of the day and sitting on the sofa, he needs an extra prompt to get up and go to the potty. Or it could be when he’s out at a playgroup and there are lots of toys about, he finds it hard to drag himself away.
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