We share our top potty training tips as heard on BBC radio with essential advice on how to potty train your little one without the stress.
Potty training can turn into an incredibly stressful experience for both you and your baby not least because of the pressure its so easy to feel if your friends children have already learnt to nip off to the loo on their own accord. With this in mind we share our top tips for making potty training as fuss free as possible.
Take your time
To adults, potty training seems like the simplest thing in the world, however for a young infant its a hugely complicated task made up of lots of different actions that need to be remembered in order. Because of this, the key to successful potty training is to wait until your child is ready to cope with this step both on a physical and developmental level; this applies regardless of their age.
Signs of potty training readiness include:
- Your baby stays dry for several hours at a time and starts to have reasonably regular bowel movements. This is a sign that they are gaining control over their elimination muscles which is a necessity for successful potty training.
- Your baby begins to notice when they are wet or when they have a dirty nappy. They may show this by pulling at their nappy, showing signs of discomfort or signalling to you that its time for a change. This shows that they are starting to recognise how it feels to be wet or dirty.
- Your baby squats, hides or grunts when they have a bowel movement. This is a good sign that they're beginning to associate the sensation of needing to go to the toilet with the action of doing it.
- Your baby can understand and remember basic instructions and sequences of behaviour and has an attention span long enough to make it to the potty and remember what they need to do there.
- Your baby has a basic understanding of the words your family uses for both going to the toilet and the various body parts involved.
- Your baby has the hand and finger coordination skills to dress and undress themselves when wearing loose elasticated clothing.
Introducing your baby to the concept of potty training slowly can actually help to make the transition a little smoother as it removes any pressure and helps your little one to understand and remember what they need to do and why.
Choose the right time
- Start by shopping for a potty or two (it helps to have one upstairs and one downstairs just in case) with your baby. They're likely to feel much more interested in the potty if they helped to pick it out themselves.
- Get your child used to being on the potty by sitting them on it (with nappy still on) at roughly the same time each day, ideally around the time they usually have a bowel movement. This will get them used to being on the potty before any of the hard work starts.
- Next try some nappy free time. Sit your baby on the potty without the nappy and explain this is where they should go if they feel like they need the toilet. Showing your baby what the potty is used for can help them to make the association - you can do this by emptying the contents of his or her nappy into the potty each time they go.
- As young infants have very short attention spans, when your baby first starts to use the potty you'll need to remind them to go at regular intervals. Taking the potty to your baby and getting them to use it is the first step in getting them dry.
- After a while your baby will start to remember about going to the potty him or herself. You'll notice this as they'll begin to tell you when they need to go or may even go looking for the potty on their own - keep it in roughly the same place so that its always accessible.
- Once your baby has learnt to use the potty unaided you're ready to move the potty to the bathroom and introduce the next step of using the 'grown up' toilet.
Each day your child is learning and experiencing more about the world and they have so much to think about and do other than remember to go to the toilet. For this reason potty training works best when its integrated as part of your child's regular routine. Times of change, whether this be the arrival of a new baby, a house move or even teething, are best avoided as your baby already has so much to adapt to it simply adds another upheaval for your little one to deal with in one go.
Make potty training fun
To start with getting your child to sit on the potty for more than 5 seconds may be a chore. However, you can help capture their attention by making potty time fun. Why not choose a potty that changes colour or displays colourful pictures when it gets wet, have a special potty song or even place boats or flowers in the potty as targets. Getting your little one to want to sit and stay on the potty is half the battle!
Model potty training behaviour
In general, infants with older brothers and sisters learn to stay dry much faster than those without in all likelihood because they have someone to watch, learn from and copy. Even if you only have one child you can still model potty training behaviour by letting your little one see you and your partner use the bathroom. This will also help them to understand that going to the potty isn't something 'dirty' but a normal behaviour that everyone does, even mummy and daddy.
The idea of being a grown up boy or girl can be very appealing to some children and reward charts can work wonders with potty training. Draw up a chart and mark on a star each time your child uses the potty or tells you they need to go to the bathroom. You can start small with this rewarding any potty related behaviour and then extend it to a star for every dry day when your little one starts to get the hang of things. Once your baby gets a certain number of stars on the chart reward them with whatever works best.
Like it or not your toddler is unlikely to grasp potty training straight away and there will be accidents especially if you go straight to cloth pants. However, hard as it may be try not to get stressed by this. All children develop at a different rate and your little one will get the hang of things eventually. In the meantime try not to feel too anxious and let your tot take potty training in their stride.
If you're in the middle of potty training and have any questions or useful tips visit the AskBaby forums and share with other parents going through the same thing.