Toilet training! A time when your head is in your hands and your patience wears thin? No! It doesn’t have to be like that. Toilet training can actually be fun! O.K, I lied, it’s not really ever going to be fun, but my tips, based on 23 years experience, can help it be stress and mess free, making that transition from nappy to pants go smoothly.
Top tips for happy toilet tots!
With the little ones in my care, and my own two children, I’ve always trained direct to toilet. Why? Well, if your potty training, you then have to train all over again to the toilet and sometimes this can be a big issue.
Toilet’s are big, toilets are very different from potties, and toilets are a new thing all over again! I’ve had so many parents come to me with little ones who are totally dry, but refuse to use the toilet. This can be a real issue when out and about, starting nursery or school, or visiting friends and family.
Instead, use a toilet training seat for the toilet (you can lift them on, just like you help them onto the potty.) Once they have mastered getting to the bathroom on time, investing in a little footstool to help them onto the toilet can really help.
This is just my experience and if you really would prefer to use a potty, then that’s fine. An idea to make transition from potty to toilet when the times comes, is to let them sit on the toilet sometimes too, and to always have the potty in the bathroom rather than the front room.
Even if your little one doesn’t quite make it to the toilet, and doesn’t quite do anything on it, the trying is the key. To get them as far as the toilet is an achievement in itself so make a big deal of any effort!
Have a fabulous reward chart by the toilet, or use a reward jar like this one.
Pop stickers on their T-shirt everytime they try or go to the toilet. By making it a fun thing – they’ll want to make the effort to try.
Remember the key is trying to go and not doing. It may become a bit of a game, wanting to sit on the toilet lot’s, but don’t discourage this – it’s all good practice and a step closer to ditching the nappies forever!
3. The less stress – the less mess! Let’s face it, poo’s and wee’s in pants are no fun to change, and no fun to feel if your small, so don’t make it into a big deal if accidents happen. They will happen, some days more often than others, so keep your cool and don’t stress.
A general guide is if they have more than 4 accidents a day, they probably are just not quite ready yet. Leave it a few weeks, go back to nappies, and then try again. Sometimes going back to the beginning and starting again can make it all work really well.
4. It’s not a competition! So many parents worry when they see other children the same age or younger than their child already toilet trained. Remember all children develop at different rates. Like all stages of development, it’s not a competition. Don’t panic if your child is still in nappies when others are not, especially if they are still very young.
In my experience toilet training starts anywhere between 2-4 years old. That’s a big age difference in ages, so stop worrying or comparing, and go by your own little one.
5. Target practice! For little boys training to wee standing up (this comes a little later – once toilet training is established) try using a colourful target in the toilet. This can make weeing great fun! A cork or plastic top bottle is great for aiming at!
6. Don’t use nappy pants. Yes of course they are easy if theres an accident, but they really give false security and really are just nappies shaped like pants! They are also very expensive!
Nappy pants do have their uses though – perfect for long car journeys, day’s out where toilets may be few and far between, and night-time training.
7. Buy fabulous pants! Investing in pants that have favourite TV characters on them or their favourite colours, can often discourage accidents. Talk about the pants, say something like ‘let’s remember not to wee on Snow white – I think she’d be upset!’ Make it funny and make it fun!
It’s important to help little ones to learn to wipe properly and keep those pants clean and this is a good habit to get into from the start, although they’ll need lots of help in the beginning, so don’t worry if there are a few marks or stains in the early weeks.
It can take quite some practice for bottom wiping and so you’ll need to do this for your little one for a good while. Remember, it’s never an age thing – it’s a child thing, so go by your own child. Some are quite capable of wiping at 3, while others are still struggling at 5 or 6! For more ‘keeping clean’ tips, I’ve written a separate post here.
8. Remind and reward: When your little your first priority is fun! going to the toilet pauses that fun, so often accidents happen. An easy reminder is to set a little timer every half an hour to gently nudge your little one in to thinking about needing the toilet and trying.
Always reward the attempts or triumphs with stickers or stars on their reward charts. It’s a nice idea to aim for a bigger treat at the end of the week to make reward systems ongoing and fun. Perhaps a magazine or trip to the park for trying really hard.
9. Poo is special! Poo. Oh how children love talking about poo! If you are toilet training poo is a big part of your life right now hey?
Poo is special because it’s usually the hardest toilet training target to achieve!
When your child manages to poo on the toilet, make a huge deal about it. Cheer, clap and find a special treat to reward that very special achievement!
Sometimes poo can be a real problem when toilet training. Some children are dry quickly, but the poo can cause worries about going to the toilet. This is totally normal, so don’t worry.
If pooing on the toilet becomes a serious worry for you, try my poop fear tips here.
If you’re at home (which is easiest for the first week of toilet training,) pop your little one in loose lower clothing or preferably no lower clothing at all. Jogging bottoms are ideal.
This will give your little one more awareness of needing the toilet. Pants and tight trousers can feel like the security of nappies in the first few days, so free running is ideal! Dresses or long baggy t-shirts make toilet training a lot easier if you don’t mind seeing little bottoms running around all day!
Toilet training can be hard work, but my tips should make it a little easier. If things are really going wrong, if they are having accident after accident, are very stressed and it’s a miserable situation then stop. Go back to nappies for a week or two then try again.