Potty training is serious business. It takes lots of prep work and oodles of patience. Having these eight potty training tools for toddlers on hand will make your life a little easier.
Before You Board the Potty Training Train
There is one very important question to answer before you start potty training your toddler.
Is my kid ready?
Notice the question wasn’t, “How old is your child?” or “Are you ready to stop changing diapers?”. Potty training is truly up to your child, and there is no defined age when a child is ready for potty training.
Being ready for potty training is a combination of factors – physical, cognitive, and behavioral – that determine when your kid is ready to try potty training.
And – here’s the thing that may be hard to hear: your kid’s ready-to-potty-train age may be later than what you want it to be. (I’m a mom to twins – trust me, I fully understand the desire to be done with diaper changes all day and all night!)
From experience, I will share that I tried to potty train my twins a little before they were truly ready. While they eventually did figure everything out, it caused lots of stress, lots of cleaning, and some tears (both theirs and mine.)
The bottom line: successful potty training depends on physical, developmental and behavioral milestones, not age.
Some children may start showing signs they’re ready for potty training as young as 18 months, while others aren’t ready until they’re closer to 3 years old.
To know if your toddler is ready for potty training, ask yourself these six questions:
- Can your child walk independently?
- Can your child put on and take off her clothes?
- Is your child able to follow simple instructions?
- Does your child express discomfort or annoyance with a wet or dirty diaper?
- Has your child shown interest in using the toilet?
- Has your child stayed dry through a nap or overnight?
If you answered mostly “yes” – then you may want to consider potty training and investing in the . If you had a few “no’s” sprinkled in there – then you may want to save yourself some heartache and check back in on these questions in two or three months.
The Mayo Clinic also advises that if you’re about to undergo a large lifestyle change, such as moving to a new home or welcoming a new sibling, you’ll want to hold off on starting to potty train.
What Potty-Training Method Will You Use?
There are many methods to determine how to best potty train your toddler, and like so much of parenting, it really comes down to personal preference – both yours and what you think will work best for your child.
Whether you choose the no-nonsense, six steps of “Oh Crap” or the three-day promise of “Potty Training in 3 Days” or some customized toilet training plan that you’ve created, it’s important to stock up on patience and positivity.
Again, words of wisdom from the Mayo Clinic: “Keep in mind that accidents are inevitable and punishment has no role in the process.”
By preparing yourself – mentally and physically – for toilet training and starting the process during a time when you and your other caregivers can be fully present to be consistent during potty training will be key to your child’s success.
If you’re ready to embark on the tiring – but eventually rewarding – potty training journey, here’s 8 potty training tools for toddlers that you’ll want to add to your tool box.
1. Skip Right to the Step-Up Potty Training Seat
While you may be tempted to buy a stand-alone potty that can sit right next to the grown-up potty, from experience, I’d recommend jumping straight into a step-up potty training seat.
A very wise neighbor-friend, who has four littles of her own, gifted one of these set-ups to us when we were potty training our twins. “It’s so much better teaching them to walk up and go directly on the big potty,” she said. “It saves you the mess of cleaning that little stand-alone potty.”
Truer words have never been spoken. We bought a second because we loved it so much, and then we could keep one in both the upstairs and downstairs bathroom.
By contrast, while it looks like the stand-alone, pint-sized toilets would be good potty training tools for toddlers, just remember that you’ll have to empty and clean the chamber-pot like bowl after each use.
With a step-up seat, your toddler can get used to the toilet and the flushing sounds that it makes. And it’s one less thing for you to clean. Huzzah!
2. Invest in an Emergency Potty
Another wise neighbor (I love my neighborhood!) recommended we purchase a little travel, emergency potty.
She has little boys, but her sister swore by it for her daughters. It made sense to me – little boys can jump out of a car on a long road-trip and do their business on the side of the road in a pinch, but — how to put it delicately — it’s harder for little girls to do the same thing.
We bought the emergency travel potty from OXO and splurged on the specialty bags that come with it.
The travel potty from OXO is pretty ingenious because it folds up small and yet can quickly and easily expand to full-size when it’s time to go. After placing a plastic, disposable bag around the base of the seat and tucking in the bag to secure it on the sides of the toilet, your little one will be ready to go.
While any disposable bag (without holes!) would work fine here, the nice thing about the specialty bags that OXO sells is that there is a little absorbing pad to catch the pee, and the bags fit on the travel potty just perfectly.
We have used the emergency travel potty from OXO more times than I can count – during road trips, trips to parks that don’t have restrooms, and more!
Also, instead of opening the travel potty all the way to serve as a stand-alone seat, you can open the legs and place the seat on top of the big (and dirty!) toilet seats in public restrooms.
The travel potty is small enough to fit in our diaper bag, too. I love this seat, and I consider it a must-have, especially for parents of girls.
3. Read Potty Training Books
I’m a huge believer in reading books to help with key milestones and transitions.
As a parent, these milestone books are helpful – but I’d also recommend buying books that you can read to your toddler.
When we were potty training our twins, we had two books that we read pretty much non-stop to help our girls understand the process and expectations for successfully using the big-kid bathroom. Seeing other little kids go through the same learning process – experiencing the same lows and highs as themselves – was so very helpful in helping my daughters see the reward in sight.
4. Choose a Reward System – and Stick with It
Regardless of what else you implement, positive reinforcement is one of the most important potty training tools for toddlers.
In retrospect, we had a pretty complicated system that involved chocolate chips, chocolate kisses and stickers, because we had so much input from preschool and grandparents, and we were working with two toddlers, but it worked for us.
(If you’re curious, our girls got a chocolate chip for trying to go to the bathroom and washing their hands; a chocolate kiss if they actually went to the bathroom and washed their hands; and a sticker every day they kept it up.)
Your reward system doesn’t need to be this complicated – but you should have a system in place. Do your best to be consistent wherever you are – preschool, daycare, with babysitters, etc.
5. Let Your Toddler Choose their Big Kid Underwear
We made a big deal about letting our daughters choose their big kid underwear. Allowing the girls to choose their big girl underwear – in their favorite colors and with their favorite characters – helped with the understanding that they shouldn’t get their new underwear wet or dirty.
6. Buy Flushable Wipes and Disinfecting Wipes
Flushable wipes are a handy hybrid between baby wipes and regular toilet paper, and are so helpful in the transition to big potties.
As for disinfecting wipes, just trust me and add to cart. There will be spills.
7. Dress Your Toddler in Elastic-Waisted Bottoms
This is not the time for snaps, buttons and zippers.
Eventually your kiddo will be able to control her bladder well enough to unip and unbutton her pants – but today is not that day.
When nature calls, you’ll want nothing to stand in between your toddler and the toilet. Easy, elastic-waisted bottoms are your friend here.
By choosing your kiddo’s attire wisely, your little one will be able to assert independence and master potty training with fewer accidents.
On a related note – especially in the early days – choose shorts or pants that you don’t care too much about if they get permanently stained or need to be thrown away. (Sometimes, it’s just easier that way.)
8. Get Something Nice for Yourself
I’m an advocate for being nice to yourself, always.
And potty training toddlers is serious hard work. It takes willpower, stamina, and lots and lots of patience.
So after day 3, or whatever your magic day is, doing something nice for yourself. Get a massage. Go for a walk solo or take only potty-trained companions with you. Listen to your favorite podcast. Open your favorite bottle of wine.
Taking care of yourself is just as important, if not more important, than helping your little ones learn to control their bladders.