Just over a month ago Little Miss embarked on tackling her latest toddler milestone. It was the one I had been dreading most. Potty training. I’d filled my head with all kinds of chaotic and, frankly, quite disgusting images over how this one might go!
My own mother didn’t really help matters by telling me how awkward I’d been when I was little. Apparently my preference had been to hold on and hold on until I physically couldn’t hold any longer. I would stubbornly refuse to go for most of the day, so I’m told, before unleashing a torrent onto whichever floor I happened to be standing on. And that was just the ‘number ones’… I’ll stop there.
So, yes, I had been pretty apprehensive about toilet training Little Miss.
But I’ve been stunned at how well it went. Gobsmacked! And if you’re mainly
desperate to know interested in what worked for us then you can scroll straight down to the ‘our top 10 potty training essentials’ section. I don’t claim to be any kind of expert but it might help.
Otherwise, here’s a bit of pre-amble…
We put off the much feared potty training over the summer as Little Miss just didn’t seem interested or ready and there were so many other things going on in our lives, most of them, so the parenting experts say, being completely incompatible with successful potty training.
There had been the arrival of Not-so-Little Mister in July. Then, just when she’d got used to having a baby brother (or as used to him as she could be in a couple of months), in September she moved from her cot into a bed. That one went better than expected so surely our luck was going to run out once we put her in knickers and asked her to ‘please use the potty now like a big girl’?!
We did start laying the groundwork for toilet training way back at the start of the year when we bought all the kit – potty, toilet seat and step – to get her used to it being around. We also got her the Princess Polly’s Potty book to read.
We’d been encouraging her to try and use the potty before her bath each night, and way back in May we had a few early potty triumphs. Then we hit a wall of refusal. So, with me being hugely pregnant by then, we left it.
But, she was two-and-a-half at the end of September and she really was starting to feel too old for nappies (and once you go back to changing newborn nappies again, a toddler just feels so huge!), so we decided to give it a proper go. I kept my expectations rock bottom and braced myself for a literal sh*t storm!
And I’m stunned, amazed, proud and most of all relieved to say that, so far *nervously crosses fingers* it never came!
I think a huge dollop of good luck has played a part in our potty training success but, in the interest of helping others, here are a few observations as to what seemed to work well for us.
Our top 10 potty training essentials…
1. Clear your calendar
We blanked out a good three or four days to devote entirely to getting her using the pot. Thankfully the first two days coincided with solid rain anyway. On days three and four we ventured out to a very nearby park but otherwise we stayed home and focused on the job in hand.
2. Enlist support
My husband has been very keen to be fully involved in this (thank goodness!) and worked from home for the first two days. Working as a team is a huge help, especially with a second little one to look after at the same time. I would definitely recommend enlisting an extra pair of hands for the early days, even if it means taking holiday time off work.
3. Time it right
As you can probably tell, we’ve taken a relaxed approach to this. Some might say I even avoided it a bit! I certainly haven’t let myself feel compelled to force Little Miss into any kind of schedule dictated by anyone else. We waited until we felt we were all ready to have the best chance of success. My mum said she always felt pressurised by her mother-in-law when I was little and believes she started potty training too soon with me and it all became a battle of wills.
4. Go cold turkey on the nappies
I know some people start off with pull-ups but, much as I loathed the idea of clearing up my toddler’s various bodily fluids, I do believe that going straight into her pretty pink knickers made her realise what she needed to do much quicker than having the extra reassurance of what still looks and feels a bit like a nappy.
Sure enough, we had one very early wet accident on the first day but once she realised what had happened the rest of that day passed incident free. We prompted her to use the potty every half hour or so and, with the lure of stickers, she soon got the hang of it.
Of course, we still have the odd wet pair of knickers to deal with. She is still learning after all. But generally accidents only happen when everyone loses concentration – either she or us become completely engrossed in an activity and forget to check whether or not she needs a wee.
Otherwise the huge pile of wet pants I’d been expecting hasn’t materialised. Yet at least.
A final word on pull-ups. We do use them for nap time as her soaking wet nappies after she’s slept are a tell-tale sign that she’s nowhere near ready to stay dry in bed yet. Pull-ups still feel more grown up than a nappy so are very useful for this. And for longer car journeys as I don’t much fancy having to clean a pee-soaked seat!
5. Pretty pink knickers!
Or whatever other colour/design is going to get your little one excited. We’ve got a huge pile of Peppa Pig ones as well. Little Miss loves choosing her knickers each day. She has a much nicer pants collection than me!
6. Lots of stickers
We printed off this free ballerina potty training chart (I love a good Google search! This site has various reward chart options) and customised it ourselves, sticking a favourite pretty picture of Little Miss onto it. We then bought loads of different types of stickers – she loves stickers – and awarded these accordingly for each job well done on the pot (it’s up to you but we gave one for a wee, two for a poo and also saved the best ones for number twos as these seem to take the most, ahem, effort on her part!).
7. Drink up!
During the first few days we made sure Little Miss was drinking plenty, probably more than normal. The idea being that she’d be much more likely to definitely need the loo when she sat on the potty and her success would positively reinforce the idea of going to the toilet. After all, sitting on a potty is going to be pretty boring for everyone if nothing happens.
8. Have no great expectations
As the song goes ‘a pessimist is never disappointed’. But hopefully, like us, you may also be pleasantly surprised. If, after a few days, it is clear it isn’t working then all the good advice I’d read was to stop and try again another time. I’d been fully prepared to admit defeat if I’d had to and just a few weeks breathing space can make a difference.
9. A word about poo…
Most of the little people I know find the prospect of pooing on a potty somewhat daunting. True to form, Little Miss refused to do so on day one and managed to hold it. We didn’t force the issue. Just braced ourselves!
The husband scored major brownie points (no pun intended. Well maybe it was intended!) when he managed to coax Little Miss into finally having a poo on day two. Time, patience and gentle reassurance did the trick. Plus the promise of a special present, a new dolly outfit I had stashed away. Bribery? Perhaps. I like to think of it as positive reinforcement. Either way, it gave the added incentive needed and helped her overcome the fear of The First Potty Poo. Lots of praise, not further gifts, helped encourage repeat performances.
10. Out and about with the Potette Plus
Our main potty is a plain white Tippitoes one. Cheap (£5.99), cheerful and comfy and suitable for a boy or a girl as we were expecting our second when we bought it. But where we did splash out a bit more was on a Potette Plus travel potty (approx £15). I love it so much I’ll be posting a full review soon but it can be used as either an on-the-go potty, with disposable bags, or a toddler toiler set and has really has made getting out and about so much easier. It’s so compact and fits easily under the buggy with plenty of room left for all our other bits and bobs.
One month on…
After a week of being in knickers at home, I packed Little Miss off to nursery with her potty, about ten pairs of knickers and at least five pairs of leggings and socks. And I was stunned when she returned home wearing the exact same outfit she’d left in that morning! That was five weeks ago and she’s still yet to have an accident at nursery. She no longer takes her potty either as she prefers to use their toddler-size toilet.
With very little persuasion she has quickly progressed to generally using big toilets (with a toddler seat) almost all of the time. Early on my husband got her doing this for the, erm, messier numbers. For this I truly adore that man!
Of course we’ve had the odd accident. My favourite being when she announced she’d had a wee ‘in the Daddy bed’! As it turned out she had managed to get out of the bed before she’d wet herself which kind of ruins the story a bit.
So overall our first potty training experience has been far more positive than I dared imagine. But ever the pessimist, I’m now wondering if we’ve used up our loo good luck with The Girl. Surely her brother, affectionately known as The Boy, will be more difficult!