Potty training without going potty? 12 tips to save your sanity

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how to potty train - mexican kid on laptop

All parents look forward to the time that their child is potty trained but very few (if any) look forward to the actual potty training itself.

If only there was a magic switch that meant your child could go from nappies to being toilet trained in an instant. It would save parents from weeks of mopping up little accidents, washing endless pairs of soiled pants and from heart lurching dashes to find a toilet when their child starts wriggling before it’s too late.

To save your sanity as you embark on your journey from nappies to pants, we’ve put together some top tips to help.

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potty training - two toddlers on the potty
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Don’t compare

Like any part of parenting, potty training is not a competition. Comparison is the thief of parental sanity.

You’ll no doubt hear tales about other toddlers being completely toilet trained at 18 months and mastering the potty in just two days. It might seem like every other tot in town is sashaying about in Paw Paw Patrol pants and yours is the only nappy-clad toddler left.

Try to remember that all children reach milestones in their own time and at their own pace. So rule number one is to stop comparing.

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potty training - toddler walking
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Wait until your child is ready

It’s not a hard and fast rule but most toddlers are not ready to start potty training until they are at least 2 years old.

Signs that they are ready to move out of nappies include:

  • telling you when they have done a wee or poo
  • showing an interest in their parents or siblings using the toilet
  • being able to follow simple 1 or 2 step instructions

They might also start to feel uncomfortable in their nappies when they have done a wee or poo and ask to be changed.

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potty training - dont compare - mother and toddler relaxed
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Wait until YOU are ready

Much as we may want it to, potty training doesn’t happen overnight. You’re going to have to put in a bit of time and effort to get things off to a good start.

To make things easier pick a time to start when you can clear the decks a little and focus on the task in hand.

That time won’t be after a big life changing event like moving house, or bringing home a new baby sibling or starting a new playgroup. Nor will it be a week before Christmas when you’ve a trillion other things to do or a week when you’ve got a busy deadline at work.

Pick a week when there’s not much on and you can spend more time at home (preferably in the garden). That way you’ll have lots of time to encourage your child to use the potty and you’ll be able to go overboard with enthusiasm when they do.

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potty training - toys next to potty
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Put in the prep for a positive potty experience

Make the prospect of using the potty the most exciting thing it can be for your child.

You don’t need to buy an all-singing, all-dancing potty that costs the earth but if you stick a few Paw Paw Patrol stickers on a plain potty it can make it much more appealing.

Help them choose some big girl/boy pants with exciting designs or characters. Buy more than you think you’ll actually need because, believe us, they’ll go through a LOT.

Read books about using the potty. Buy loads of star stickers for a little reward chart. Oh and buy lots of floor cleaner and carpet shampoo too!

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potty training - mother telling daughter off
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Fake that patience ‘til you make it…

Potty training takes next level patience. As the days and weeks go by, it’s harder to stay Mary-Poppins-patient when you find yourself mopping up the seventh puddle of the day off the lounge carpet and find your child hiding behind the curtains to do a giant poo in their pants.

The best way to deal with accidents is to stay calm and to be matter of fact. Whenever you feel yourself losing your rag try and plaster on a serene smile and channel every ounce of inner calm you can muster.

By all means mutter darkly under your breath behind closed doors and have a good old rant on the phone to a good friend (or a fellow parent online) but try to curb any annoyance or impatience in front of your toddler.

Top Tip

Potty training tip

If your child is reluctant to poo on the potty or the toilet then give them a bottle of bubbles to blow. Blowing bubbles not only helps them relax but also uses the same muscles they need to push the poo down.

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potty training - mother praising toddler
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Go overboard on praise

Especially at the beginning heap on the praise for every wee or poo your child does on the potty.

Clap loudly, do a ‘potty dance’ round the living room, phone Grandma and Grandad so your child can tell them all about the big poo they did on the potty like a big girl/boy.

Using a reward chart with shiny stickers can work too.

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complete beginners guide to car seats - car seat safety and how to choose the right car seat
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Cover up the car seat

Have you ever tried putting a car seat cover back in place after it has been removed and washed? If not, trust us when we say that you won’t want to.

It’s worthy of a challenge on The Crystal Maze. So to save yourself a lot of hassle, cover the car seat when you start training.

You can buy Piddle Pads, which are specially designed to fit car seats or piddle proof disposable mats or just chuck an old towel or disposable changing mat down on the seat before you set off.

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potty training - wc sign 1
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Hone your toilet locating radar

It’s one thing potty training at home where you can plonk a potty in the middle of living room and can easily whisk away any accidents, but there comes a point where you have to be brave and actually leave the safety of your own four walls and head out with your newly nappy-free child.

Always encourage your child to use the potty before you head out and once you arrive immediately check where the nearest toilet is. If there are none, look for the best place to head to if your child is desperate for the loo.

You can buy travel potties (the Potette is great as it folds up flat so you can easily fit it in a bag and doubles up as a toilet training seat for public loos) but look for good places where you can set one up.

Obviously you might get a few disgruntled tuts if you whip out the potty right in the middle of the play park so look around when you arrive to identify a discreet place to go if nature calls.

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potty training - correct clothes
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Pick potty friendly clothes

When you start training you sometimes have mere seconds to make a dive for your toddler and whip them onto the potty.

It won’t help if you have to grapple with fiddly tights or dungarees with stiff buttons. Dress your child in clothes that are easy to pull down (and back up again). And, whenever you can, just let them run around with pants or a bare bottom.

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potty training - father talking to son about toilet
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Be prepared for a lot of potty talk

You might have thought you talked about poop a lot when your baby was a newborn. Once you start potty training it ramps up to a whole new level.

Be prepared to spend all day talking about your own toilet triumphs ‘Look, Mummy did a nice big wee and now we’ll flush it down the loo’ and talking in excruciating detail about bowel movements: ‘Oooh you’re doing it, the poo is coming!

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potty training - mother giving up
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If at first you don’t succeed – give up

Yes, really. If you have put your all into potty training but feel that you’re getting nowhere and you’re at your wits end then just stop.

Give it a break and come back to it when you’re ready to try again. It may well be a different story next time.

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potty training - child wets his pants
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Remember that no one walks down the aisle in nappies

If it feels like you’ll never get there and that your child will never master the potty remember that no one walks down the aisle in nappies. They get there in the end.

If you have lots of failed attempts then know that your child will get there eventually. Whether it’s next week or next year, it will happen. So, don’t despair and keep on keeping on.

Remember too that every parent goes through the trials and tribulations of potty training. You are not alone. Ask any questions or share any frustrations or funny stories about your potty training experiences on our Facebook page.

For tips on how to get toddlers and young children to brush their teeth, check out our 11 fun ways to get kids to brush their teeth.