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Potty training…a very heated topic. There are a lot of schools of thought out there as to the best way to potty train. You hear about 3-day methods and gradual methods…which is best?
You may also be wondering how to avoid disposable pull-ups. Can you replace pull-ups with a cloth alternative?
It’s hard to talk about potty training without any sort of bias. With my oldest son, I feel like I tried it all, but only one thing worked for him.
When To Potty Train?
Many parents attempt potty training as young as 18-months, and others don’t even think about it until their child is close to age 3. Some parents spend months cleaning up accidents while in this period of training, and others claim their child never has accidents. What is the right age for potty training?
Honestly, I can’t pretend I’m a potty training or child development expert. But I can tell you what worked for us. With my oldest, we started trying to push using the potty around age two. We would go through phases where we would try different methods I read about online, fail, and then back off for a while.
Ultimately, no method of potty training worked for my son until HE was ready for it. And by being ready for it, I don’t mean the commonly quoted “readiness signs” like hiding to poop, telling you when their diaper is wet, etc. Those things are awesome, but they don’t matter if your child doesn’t WANT to use the potty.
The biggest thing that made a world of difference for us was when my son finally decided he wanted to use the potty.
Think about it–what your child eats and where they go to the bathroom are really the only things they can try to have complete control over. Toddlers like having control. Sometimes, that control is more meaningful to them than an M&M. If you have a stubborn child, you truly may have more resistance! If they simply don’t want to use the potty yet, it is going to be very frustrating and emotional for both of you to try to force it.
When you wait until your child actually wants to, it is 10x easier. I promise you. It doesn’t mean it is going to be perfect, but it will be faster and you will have significantly fewer accidents.
My oldest finally trained around 3 years, 2 months. We had been trying on and off since he turned 2. But finally one day not long into his 3rd year, I promised him some sort of reward if he started using the potty. He got excited and started using the potty from that day forward. He had maybe one or two accidents after making that decision for himself. He was even night trained with ZERO effort or initiative on my part by the time he was 3.5.
There is something to be said for waiting until your child is 100% ready to attempt potty training–100% includes the actual desire to use the potty.
So as for if there is a good age or time to potty train… I would say follow your child’s lead. Maybe he will be ready shortly after turning 2…maybe 3…maybe 3.5. Who knows! But there is no trophy for having a kid who is potty trained early. There is no shame in having a kid who doesn’t. Try not to give in to the pressure that you need to have a child who potty trains really young.
What Are the Readiness Signs?
You will know you’re getting closer to potty training time when your child does the following:
- Your child starts going longer between wet diapers
- Your child starts pooping on a more regular schedule
- Your child tells you when he/she has to go, or tells you right after they went
- Your child understands the vocabulary surrounding bathroom functions
- Your child can’t stand being in a dirty diaper
- Your child starts waking up dry from a nap
- Your child can dress himself mostly on his own
- Your child becomes interested in other’s use of the bathroom
- Your child hides to pee or poop
- Your child WANTS to use the potty
As I said earlier, until you hit that last bolded sign of readiness, potty training is going to be very frustrating for all involved. Many parents just push and push potty training far too early. This results in many accidents, constipation, and even UTIs, not to mention possible negative feelings between parent and child. There is no rush to have your toddler potty trained.
Many people think that if they’re pregnant with a new baby and their older child isn’t yet potty trained, that they HAVE to have their older one potty trained before the baby comes. They put that time limit and a deadline on their potty training and it just makes it more stressful.
If your new baby is born and your older one is still in diapers, it’s fine. It really is. You CAN handle two in diapers. It’s not that big of a deal. I was so sure I would have my older son potty trained before my youngest was born since they are exactly 3 years apart (well, 2 years, 11 months, 20 days apart). But despite many attempts, I didn’t. They overlapped in diapers for about 2 to 3 months, and it was no big deal.
What Do I Need To Potty Train?
Because we waited until my son was 100% ready to train and onboard with the whole idea, we didn’t need much. Here is what we used:
- A little potty
- A special seat for the regular toilet
- Wet Wipes
- Reward–we used mostly Hershey kisses because that’s what I had on hand already
We started by trying to use the little potty, but ultimately we let my son decide what potty he wanted to use and he liked the big potty with the special seat. Some kids may be afraid of the bigger potty, so just play it by ear and have options.
I did use flushable disposable wet wipes for toddlers with my son. It made wiping much easier. However, even wipes labeled “flushable” aren’t really flushable, so we threw them in the trash. I liked the wet wipes better than dry toilet paper–it was easier to make sure he was getting completely clean.
However, this was back before I hopped on the cloth wipe train. I didn’t start using cloth wipes until my second son came along. My youngest is close to being ready to potty train, and I plan just to keep the cloth wipes in a basket next to the toilet and use the sink to get them wet for wiping. Then I’ll toss them in the wash.
We went straight to using underwear and did not bother a lot with cloth trainers or pull-ups. My son was accident-free within a couple of days. When your child is finally down with using the potty, it’s better just to plan to stick around the house for a few days to a week to help them get in the potty routine. However, life happens and sometimes you need to get out of the house. Cloth trainers are awesome for this!
Awesome Cloth Trainer Options
Having a few cloth trainers on hand can be convenient for times you need to leave the house and want some extra security.
Most cloth training pants are not as absorbent as a diaper, so they are probably not a nighttime solution, but as with anything it just depends on your individual child and how much they wet at night. Most trainers should work fine for preventing daytime disasters depending on how you want to go about potty training, but I would stick to the nighttime solution you have already been using for a while while you potty train.
Some trainers have the option to add absorbency if you need it, too, such as the Grovia My Choice Trainers.
Grovia is a company I love to support because of their high-quality products and ethics. The My Choice trainers are great for those that would want to have options–you can add absorbency if needed, and you have snaps that can help you out when trying to deal with a poop accident.
The only downside to these trainers is that if you have a child that is really high on the growth charts, you may find these run a bit small. Also, some kids don’t like snaps when they’re potty training because while they are more convenient for the parent, to the kid it still seems like a diaper and they would rather have something more like underwear.
You can get the Grovia My Choice Trainers at Grovia’s website.
Lil Learnerz Training Pants is another great option. It has a good amount of absorbency to catch any accidents, and it comes in many sizes. The XS and S sizes have snaps to help when there are accidents, but M on up do not.
Many children love this because they act like true underwear. They are very easy to pull up and down and come in a variety of cute prints.
You can get Lil Learnerz Training Pants at Nicki’s Diapers.
I am a huge fan of Blueberry diapers, and their trainers are just as awesome! These trainers are very easy to pull up and down, and they act just like real underwear.
However, that means there are no snaps, so if your child is still having frequent poop accidents, they may not be the right trainers for you. It can be quite messy to pull down a poopy trainer–that’s why so many people love side snaps on trainers.
You can get Blueberry Daytime Trainers at Nicki’s Diapers.
Potty Training Tips & Tricks
Here are my top tips & tricks for potty training:
1. Use Timers
Set a timer for every half hour when you are first starting with the potty. Encourage your child to go sit on the potty for at least a couple minutes when the timer goes off to see if they need to go. After a day or two, trying lengthening it to 1-hour intervals, 2 hours, etc.
2. Offer Liquids
Offer plenty of liquids so your child has the opportunity to use the bathroom as much as possible. If this is difficult, try something special they don’t often get, like juices. Yes, juices aren’t good, blah blah blah. I’m not saying give them a gallon of juice a day. I’m saying buy one pack of juice boxes specifically for potty training uses. One pack of juice boxes never killed anyone. 🙂
3. Avoid too much tablet or TV
One thing I have read that people do is to sit their toddler naked on the little potty with the iPad, hoping that use of the tablet will keep them sitting there longer and then they will incidentally get some pee in the potty. What I don’t like about this is that you are banking on your kid being so into the show that they never get up, meaning that they’re so into their show they aren’t paying attention to their body to know if they have to go or not.
Any use of the potty during this time isn’t that intentional, and I don’t think it’s helping the child make progress like you hope it will. Instead, encourage your child to have some playtime. Take out the play-doh, crayons, puzzles, cars & trucks, whatever they like to play with.
4. Lots & Lots of Praise!
When your toddler uses the potty, use lots of praise and congratulations. This will help your toddler feel good about themselves and like they are a big boy/girl.
5. Have Rewards
When your child successfully uses the potty, have something ready as a little reward. If you’re okay with food treats, you can try M&Ms, gummy bears, jelly beans, Hershey Kisses (a favorite in this house), chocolate chips, skittles…whatever!
If you prefer to stay away from food rewards, you can try stickers. You could also do an assortment of little prizes from the Dollar Spot at Target or a site like Oriental Trading. Some of these can be choking hazards, though, so be careful.
Then, it might be helpful to have a big prize for the child to work towards. If they can go a full week using the potty, then they get (fill in the blank).
Having rewards makes this more fun for all involved.
Do you have any potty training tips and tricks you want to share? What’s your favorite cloth trainer? Let me know in the comments!