As a childminder taking care of young babies, toddlers and children, I understand the different stages they go through and potty training is a skill they need to learn, but it takes time and patience, so it’s best to take it slowly and go at your child’s pace. It can be a frustrating journey, but lots of praise and encouragement will help them feel more at ease as they progress from nappies to underwear.
In this blog I can hopefully impart some of the tips I’ve learnt over the years to help you manage this stage of your child’s development.
Starting Potty Training
Your child will learn to control their bladder and bowels when they’re physically ready and when they want to be dry and clean. By the time they reach 1, most babies have stopped doing poos at night and by 2, some will be dry during the day, but it’s still quite early to expect them to do it all the time.
Once they reach 3, they should be dry most days, but even then, they can still have the odd accident every now and again, especially when they’re excited, upset or distracted. By the age of 4, most children are totally dry during the day.
It may take a little longer for your child to stay dry throughout the night, but most learn this between the ages of 3 and 5.
Many parents start potty training when their child is around the age of 2 to 2 and a half, but as mentioned, try to go at the pace suitable for your child. It may be easier to start in the summer, when there are fewer clothes to take off and washed clothes dry more quickly, but I also think a good time to introduce potty or toilet training is when they start to feel more conscious about going to nursery or school in nappies. This is a good indication that they are more aware of being wet or dirty in a nappy. Encouraging them at this stage is likely to be less of a battle.
It’s important to stay consistent and build it into their everyday routine so you don’t confuse them. So, perhaps if you had set times when you would change their nappy, you could switch this to having them use the potty or toilet instead. Maybe start off with 1 specific time like after their breakfast and then increase as they become more confident.
If you need to go out, it may be an idea to take the potty with you, so that you can maintain their training and they get to understand that it’s not just what they do at home. Check with other carers who look after your child so that they can help with potty training in the same way you do.
Other Signs That Your Child is Ready for Using the Potty:
Other signs that you can look out for when thinking of starting potty training is that your child will know when they’ve done a pee or poo in their nappy or they tell you when they’re doing it and they may even say in advance. Also, if the time between each pee is at least an hour, you will know that they can hold their bladder for a longer period of time. They may also start fidgeting when they need to go or hiding somewhere when they do it.
Getting Your Child Ready for Using the Potty
As using a potty is a new change that effectively, they need to be in control of, they need to get used to it gradually. So, as mentioned, maybe swapping one nappy change time for the potty instead to start with. Here are some steps you can take to get them started:
- Talk about your child and show them the differences between wee and poo when they have their nappy changed.
- Start by seeing if your child is happy to sit on the potty for a little while so they get used to it. This could be when you’re changing their nappy, or when you’re getting them dressed for the day or ready for bed at night.
- Having a book to read or toys to play with can help your child sit still on the potty and, demonstrating with their toys how and when to use the potty can also help.
- Leave the potty where your child can see it and explain what it’s for.
- If you don’t already, start to change their nappy in the bathroom, that way they get to understand that this is where they use the toilet (or potty) when they no longer need nappies.
- Children learn by watching and copying, so if you have an older child that is already potty or toilet trained, it may help your younger child to see them using it which normalises it for them. It can also help to let your child see you using the toilet and explain what you’re doing.
- For boys, start them off sitting on the potty and then when they feel more confident they can stand up.
- Get them to help you flush the toilet and wash their hands after a nappy change, so they get used to doing that too.
- Encouraging your child to sit on the potty after they have eaten is also a good idea as food often leads to an urge to do a poo.
- Notice when your child regularly does a poo and if you see a pattern of a certain time each day you could leave their nappy off and ask them to use their potty instead. However, if they start to get upset, just put the nappy back on and leave it a few more weeks before trying again.
- Encouraging them to use the potty when they want to wee will help build their confidence for when they are ready to use it to poo.
Dealing with Accidents!
Encourage them to use their potty when they know they need to go, but if they don’t quite make it and have an accident, the best thing to do is just clean it up and wait a little while before you try again.
Try not to make a fuss or get upset when they have an accident a this will make them feel anxious and put off from using the potty. Just keep encouraging them and maybe make it a game, so they get a star for a pee and two for a poo. It’s not a good idea to use sweets or other treats they like as rewards.
Ensure they wear clothes that are easy to change, so avoid tights and clothes with zips or lots of buttons that would be difficult for them to remove if they really need to go.
Keep up the praise for when they do manage to go or even if they try and don’t quite make it. They will be really happy when they succeed and see how pleased you are with them, which will only serve to encourage them to use it again.
Using Potty Training Pants and Pull-ups
It may be useful to try disposable or washable training pants or pull-ups when you start potty training as this can help your child feel more confident and because they are less absorbent than disposable nappies, your child will know when they are wet, if they forget to say they need to use the potty.
Night-time potty training
I definitely recommend getting your child dry during the day before you start leaving their nappy off at night. It’s harder for your child to recognise the signs of needing to go to the toilet when they are in a deep sleep.
When you notice that your child’s nappy is dry or only slightly damp when they wake up in the mornings and this continues for a few days, you can try nigh-time training.
Get them into a routine of not drinking at least an hour before they go to bed and using the potty before they go to sleep. Ensure it’s close by, so they know where it is if they do need to get up and go in the night.
For added protection from any accidents, there are also waterproof sheets you can use under the mattress, and absorbent bed mats that you can use on top of the sheet as well.
As with day-time potty training, keep praising your child for staying dry or using the potty during the night. Sometimes, they fall back into wetting during the night at which point you should go back to nappies or pullups and try again in a few weeks’ time.
Some children prefer using the toilet instead of the potty because they see you using it and they don’t want to feel different. So, you can get a child’s toilet seat that fits onto the normal seat to make it easier and safer for them to use.
Learning to use the potty or toilet is an important milestone for your child, not to mention the additional money you will save on not having to buy nappies! The most important things to remember is not to rush them into training; go at their own pace and; keep praising them when they do well. They will get there eventually.