Key Take aways:
- Surprisingly, there are a lot of things you will want to consider when you start potty training
- Parents of boys will have a few different considerations from girls
- The weather outside may dictate how you potty train
- Things to think about when you finally decide to venture outside the house with your little potty master
- Be positive, flexible, supportive, encouraging, and have fun!
article summary: Choosing when to start potty training is perhaps the first big decision you will make when it comes to embarking into this phase of child-rearing. And, when it comes to deciding when the right time is, you will want to ask yourself several questions to help determine if the experience will be positive and successful for your kid.
Parents of boys will have different considerations than girls. For example, should they be trained only to sit down, or do you intend to have them learn to pee standing up? There can also be seasonal implications to potty learning. Many parents have their child go nude during potty training so they can experience the immediate cause and effect of bathroom duties (i.e. my feet and the floor are wet, so that urge I felt must mean I need to go to the potty). However, going without clothes can be harder in colder weather or when your schedule is busier, such as the fall.
Between making potty schedules, potty training outside, and preparing for being on the go, we’ll help you forecast anything that can interrupt your plans.
Boys: Standing up or sitting down?
The American Academy of Pediatrics says boys are often encouraged to sit down to get familiar with the process and to keep the mess down. They will likely begin to copy their fathers and friends quickly. Hopefully, by then they have the process down and can focus on aiming.
A note for standing boys: Check how quickly and easily your toilet seat falls—show your son how to make sure it is fully raised and will stay there before he begins. Also, consider putting a few cheerios in the center of the toilet to give him a target to help keep the mess down.
Are you planning on letting the kid go naked?
Letting your kid go commando can be a great way to help them instantly identify when they go to the bathroom. Why? Because diapers, pull-ups, and underwear often don’t give a child the feeling that something is amiss right away. After all, they have been using a diaper their whole life. So, being naked can instantly trigger them to recognize that their legs are wet or something plopped down between their feet.
If you are able to let your kiddo go naked, there are a few things you will want to do to keep messes at bay. For starters, protect your home interior by:
- Rolling up rugs
- Buying a cheap shower curtain for the couch
- Make a play space in your house that is near the bathroom and off the carpet.
Keep in mind, not all kids like to be naked, or the temperature of your house may not be conducive to full-frontal nudity. If that is the case, let them wear a t-shirt or short dress that doesn’t get in the way of potty time.
Are you going to let the kid be naked outside?
Being in the buff outside is often a win-win for both you and your kid. You won’t be so worried about messes in the house and your kid will have a blast.
Being naked outside can be especially beneficial for boys because they can learn to go while standing without worrying about making a mess and upsetting the adults. Furthermore, boys often get bored with performing the same task over and over, so peeing outside on a tree or patch of grass can be a nice change of pace from spending time in the bathroom.
Of course, being nude outside does present a few additional challenges. Weather and privacy-permitting, make sure to:
- Sunscreen your kid regularly, or have them wear a sun shirt and hat
- Bug spray as needed
- Be prepared if they need to poop, such as keeping a child-sized potty and wipes outside.
Is there an ideal potty schedule?
Nailing down an ‘ideal’ potty schedule is one of the biggest tasks for potty training parents. The fact is, you need to create a schedule around your child’s natural rhythms. Forcing them to poop in the morning when they are more likely to go after lunch will frustrate both you and your kid.
Start with observation.
To tap into their natural rhythms, begin by observing when they most often go to the bathroom. Do they fill their diaper immediately after a meal, or are they more likely to go after playing for a bit? Also, watch for their signs. Does your kid migrate to a specific place when they have to poop, or do they start tunning around? Take note of those cues so you can start to help your kid head to the potty when they exhibit predictable signs.
Create a consistent routine with meals, play, and rest.
You and your child will equally benefit from having regular meals and rest times. That way, you can also integrate regular potty breaks and anticipate when they might be inclined to use the potty.
Think about upcoming plans that may derail your potty goals.
Vacations, long car trips, schedule changes, or big events can interfere with your potty learning progress. Thus, it may be beneficial to wait to start the process until after the schedule conflict passes. For example, air travel often presents a new set of challenges for potty trainers, such as quick access to bathrooms, irregular meal and drink times, and a fasten seat belt sign that won’t turn off.
Alternatively, these events can also be a great goal for you and your kid if you want to tackle potty training beforehand. However, do not be afraid to pause potty learning if it seems like it is going to cause any stress for you or your kid.
There is no need to make things hard on either of you. You have our permission to let it take as long as it takes.
Are pull-ups an asset or a setback?
There is debate among parents and child experts about whether or not pull-ups should be a natural part of the potty training process. That is, some people believe a child should go from diapers to pull-ups to using the potty. Others find wearing a pull-up just prolongs the process. Whether you want to transition to pull-ups or not is really a child-specific decision.
Pull-ups can make a child feel like they have a little more independence than diapers without the risk of accidents. However, they also offer the same moisture-wicking technology as diapers, which doesn’t help the child learn to associate the need to pee with the outcome: peeing and feeling wet.
Most pediatricians will agree that it is best to get out of pull-ups as soon as possible. That is, of course, easier said than done. If your child resists giving up their pull-up or diaper, don’t force them. Just back off and try again in a few weeks.
How many bowel movements a day is normal?
Every person has their own pooping pattern, so what is normal for one kid may differ from the next--even among siblings. Ideally, most children should poop once a day. But, some children do go every other day. If your child has been constipated in the past, pooping once daily is a good goal.
General rules of thumb when it comes to the normal number of bowel movements:
- Pooping 3 or more times a day is considered diarrhea (and may also be the result of constipation)
- Pooping less than 4 times a week is often a sign of constipation
How to handle diarrhea
Learning how fast you may need access to a bathroom with diarrhea is a tough lesson to learn. And let’s be real: many adults wish they could use a diaper as a backup plan when they have diarrhea.
Give your kiddo a lot of grace and encouragement when they have an upset stomach. That may look like forgoing potty training for a few days until their stomach goes back to normal, or offering them a pull-up to help them in their efforts to get to the potty.
Keeping your child’s diet pretty consistent and full of fibrous, healthy foods can help keep their bowels more regular. Similarly, drinking plenty of fluids can help prevent your kid from cycling between diarrhea and constipation.
For When You Are On The Go
A big milestone with potty learning is being able to leave the house without a diaper. And for parents and kids, this can feel pretty daunting, especially when you do not have access to all of your potty supplies in the cleanliness of your own home.
Start by taking a small trip away from home, such as down the block or to the post office. Try to limit it to about 20 minutes, so that your kid has a high chance of staying dry. Maybe then escalate your outing to a friend’s house.
Make it a point for everyone in the family to go to the bathroom before leaving the house. If your child sees you doing it, they will learn this is just part of the process of getting ready to leave home.
Always keep a “go-bag” handy that has a few essential items if you get in a bind while you are away from home. Think about including:
- An extra change of clothes (...or two)
- Disposable plastic bag (like from the grocery store)
- Paper towels
- A towel (for the car seat, or to lay on a not-so-clean surface if you need to lay your child down)
For longer car trips where public restrooms are not readily available, you may want to bring your child’s potty.
Bear in mind, it is not uncommon for kids to regress when their environment changes. Being able to anticipate this can help both you and your child feel okay when things don’t quite work out.
How To Take On Public Toilets When Potty Learning
Most parents fear the first few trips into a public restroom when their child is learning the ropes with the potty. Primarily, you are both out of your home environment and everything feels (and generally is) gross. So, not only are you trying to tackle using the potty successfully, but you are also demanding that your child does not touch anything.
Here are a few tips that can help you master public toilets while potty learning:
- Use a public bathroom as early as possible to overcome any fears about going out in public during this phase
- Try to go into a larger stall if there is no one else in need of it at that time (like someone wheelchair-bound)
- Dress your child in easy-to-remove clothing, such as elastic waistbands or dresses
- Hold your child while they are seated
- Prepare them for any automatic flushes, as that can be startling (and wet). If your child is worried about automatic flushing sensors, throw a sticky note in your bag to cover it until your child is finished.
Potty Learning For Children With Special Needs
Tackling potty training can be particularly complex for parents of children with special needs. Yet, this milestone can be especially powerful for children with physical, developmental, or intellectual disabilities. Moreso for children with special needs, potty learning can be a celebration of their overall growth and can make a big impact on their self-esteem.
Signs of readiness are the same for all children, so keep your eye out for cues that your child is ready to begin. Before embarking on your child’s potty learning journey, lean into the help of your child’s pediatrician, as they can assess your child for physical signs of readiness. Leaning into other trained experts and support groups can help you and your child feel encouraged and empowered.
All parents require a bit of emotional preparation when it comes to starting the potty learning process. However, parents of children with special needs may need further emotional readiness, as it can take longer and some children do not become fully potty trained until age 5 and beyond. (Of course, many children may require lifelong potty support depending on their abilities.)
We don’t claim to be experts in anything save for supporting parents in potty learning. So, for more solid potty training information that is specific to different physical and developmental needs, head to the American Academy of Pediatrics.