Potty training doesn't have to be a pile of pants: we speak to an expert (and share our firsthand advice!) on how to persuade your tot to use a pot...
There’s always a small part of us that wants our babies to stay tiny for as long as possible. But there’s also part of us desperate not to have to buy a nappy ever again – or any other baby equipment for that matter!
So, if you think your toddler is ready to ditch the diapers and wave goodbye to the baby wipes, then you are going to need the following: a) Patience (in abundance). b) A mop. And c) this potty training survival guide to help make this new phase of independence for your little one as easy as a-b-c (and maybe a pee)!
We spoke to potty training guru Shona Sanosi from Blue House Nursery and International Preschool for her tips on how to successfully potty train your child. And we also got some great advice from the HoneyKids mums on how they managed to get their kids nappy-free too…
Top tips to start potty training
Potty training isn’t something that magically clicks overnight (we wish!). So, here’s the scoop: start by working on daytime potty training to boost your kiddo’s confidence. Once they’re feeling like a champ during the day, then it’s time to tackle the nighttime potty training with all the energy and determination they’ve got.
Daytime potty training
1. Watch for toilet cues
Look for the signs that your child is ready, for example vocalising when they have a dirty nappy, or having a dry nappy for longer periods during the day. Don’t be tempted to start too early. It is better to start when they are ready so it only takes a short period of time.
2. Prep ’em with the potty
Prepare your child by talking to them one or two weeks in advance about what will happen. Read books about potty training and watch older children who are already toilet trained. Siblings are great for this!
3. Be prepared, and take your kiddo potty shopping!
Buy everything in advance that you will need. You can also involve your child in the purchasing of the potty, toilet seat, step etc. When the time arrives, clear your diary for one week and try to stay home. Invite people to your house instead.
4. “No more nappies!”
It is important to just say ‘no more nappies’. Only use nappies for naps and bedtime. If you need to go out then ask the child to do a wee before leaving the house and as soon as they reach the destination. Put a towel or a special ‘piddle pad’ in the car seat. Take spare clothes with you and expect accidents!
5. Cut down on the drinks
If you have a child who drinks water constantly all day, you may need to reduce the quantity of fluids for the first two weeks of potty training. Only reduce the fluids if your child is not sick, and only reduce them to a safe amount.
6. Don’t ask, just tell
Don’t ask your child if they need to do a wee, they will always say no! It is better to say ‘it’s time for a wee’ and perhaps go with your child. Boys love to wee with daddy! Children normally need to wee 15-20 minutes after drinking something.
7. Undies are key
Don’t be tempted to let your child run naked. It is better for them to wear underwear because then they can feel when they are wet. Take them underwear shopping to get them excited! Just be prepared for lots of accidents; don’t be cross with your child, just clean up without any fuss.
Nighttime potty training
8. Say goodbye to those diapers once and for all
It’s time to bid those nappies adieu, especially during naptime! Dress your little one in cozy bedtime clothes and be sure to keep spare outfits within reach for any unexpected accidents. For added peace of mind, have spare bed mattress protectors on standby as well. Making the transition as smooth as possible!
9. Cutting back on fluids before bedtime
Reducing your toddler’s fluid intake right before bedtime is a great way to ensure a full night’s sleep. However, if they still crave a little sippy comfort in the middle of the night, the next step will be a lifesaver…
10. Set the alarm
This tip is especially handy during the early stages of night potty training. Try setting an alarm for a middle-of-the-night bathroom break. Wake your little one and guide them to the toilet to show them that it’s perfectly okay to wake up and use the bathroom if they feel the urge during the night. It’s all part of the learning process! In our experience, they sleep much sounder for the rest of the night after that midnight wee!
11. Keep that toilet light on
As you guide your toddler towards independence in responding to nature’s calls, consider leaving the toilet light on as a gentle reminder. This small gesture can serve as a subtle nudge, helping them build the confidence to get out of bed on their own during nighttime and make their way to the toilet. It’s a practical step in nurturing their independence.
Positive reinforcement works!
Use plenty of positive reinforcement from day one. Give lots of praise. And even use a sticker chart if the first week doesn’t go well as an extra form of encouragement.
Make it fun
When you’re gearing up for potty training with your toddler, why not make it an adventure together? Take them shopping for their potty and let them choose some cool underwear too. And here’s the fun part: invite their favourite teddy bear to join the party! Your little one and their teddy can have their own mini-potties side by side, making potty time an absolute blast!
If there is no major progress after two weeks then the time may not be right. Be prepared to have a break and try again in another month or so.
Potty training tips and survival stories from the HoneyKids mums
Ania – mum to Oliver and Lucia
One technique that I found worked well with my little one (even when she was still wearing the nappy), was whenever I needed to change her, I’d put her on the toilet to wipe/clean her (one big bonus of living in Singapore is having the shower hose right near the toilet!). This meant that she got used to going on the toilet, so was never scared of it. This led to a very easy transition, and we ditched the daytime nappies completely before her second birthday.
Chris – mum to Evie, Louis and Darcy
I am definitely no expert at potty training, in fact, I can easily provide the what-not-to-do guide. For my eldest, I started potty training before she was two years old. I’d read about teaching children sign language so they could be potty trained earlier than two. She was in reusable nappies, so that was part of the drive for me! I bought a sign language DVD and everything, but unfortunately it seemed Evie was not as keen as I was! I think I was potty training her on and off for about two years!
For my second child, I decided I would try another approach and wait until he showed signs of interest. I did have to wait until he was about three years old, but then he was trained in a week and has never wet the bed. So round three is now upon me: my youngest is 2.5 years, and I am going with my second strategy. Someone once said to me, “you can start potty training at two years old, or at three years old, and both finish by three years old.” So I am saving the embarrassing episodes (for everyone), wet beds and frustration and am keeping my cool until he’s is ready.
Tracy – mum to Jack, Angelica and Rafferty
The best advice I ever gave myself, as I watched so many of my lovely-but-smug mummy mates undertaking potty training super early (and failing), was to wait. Just that.
I knew that the kids would eventually not want to soil themselves and would not be trotting off to primary school with spare nappies in their bags. I took the lead entirely from them – and in all three cases this proved to be around the three-year mark. The kids managed to get themselves clean (day and night) within one week of ditching the diapers (yep, now I am the smug one). It was totally led by them and I can’t take credit beyond giving them the scope to decide for themselves.
Ilona – mum to baby Zygi
Our baby is only nine months old, so we’re not actively potty training yet, but we’ve bought two potties: one we have in the play area and the other in the bathroom. Children can get a bit of a shock if the potty is suddenly dropped into their lives, a bit like a UFO. We were advised to get the baby used to the potty as an object so when the time comes he’ll be familiar with it.
My baby sometimes follows me to the bathroom (the joys of motherhood) and I tell him I’m “sitting on the toilet” – that way, when the time comes, he’ll associate the words (he already understands that we “sit to eat”) with the act of sitting on his ‘toilet’.
Selina – mum to Maxton and Grayson
I attempted potty training with my eldest when he was two – it was a pain in the butt for both of us and in hindsight he just wasn’t ready. He also has speech delay, so it was a challenge for us to understand when he needed to use the potty. He was three and a half when we tried again, and it took two weeks.
What helped? We found a fun book called Pirate Pete Goes to the Potty, which was a huge hit. (Pirate Pete goes out with his mum to choose his pirate undies, so we did that too). He has a little brother who still uses nappies, so the whole ‘I’m a big boy now’ concept also helped spurred my son along.
For me, waiting until they’re ready and understanding the process is the key to avoiding a mutual meltdown. If your child needs some extra time, they need the extra time! Like most aspects of parenting, comparing yourselves to others is never helpful.
Georgina – mum to Minnie, Willa, Ted and Gilbert
I toilet trained my girls at age two. But it was some time ago, so, warning: I’m probably looking at the whole situation through rose-coloured glasses. It didn’t seem as big of a deal as I thought it’d be.
The BEST advice I ever received was from the creche, who told me not to use pull-up nappies or training pants. As hard as it may be (especially for taxi rides in Singapore) just go cold turkey. Underpants or no pants (if home). Why? Because the child has to feel the sensation of wee dripping down their legs to really grasp the concept of potty training. We also timed it with a preschool break when I knew we could spend at least a few days in a row at home.
Same goes for night-time nappies. The moment your child wakes up from a sleep with a dry nappy, they are capable of doing so. If you leave it longer, they get into a habit of soiling their nappy when they wake up. Whip it off and move on. That feeling of having no nappies in the house is so liberating! Until the next baby of course…
So now you know! Happy potty training, folks!