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9 Ways to Prep Your Toddler for Potty Training

Before you run out and buy a potty chair for your toddler, know that there’s a bit of lead-up to the transition from diapers to undies. How can you prepare your toddler for potty training, even before they’re officially ready to start? Here are some ideas for potty training prep.

1. Make sure everyone uses the same terminology.

How many different words are there for using the potty? A lot! You call it “Pee-Pee.” Grandma says, “Tinkle.” Daddy probably has another term! Your toddler’s still learning vocabulary and different words for the same thing may be confusing. Get everyone on the same page by sticking with consistent terminology by everyone who cares for your toddler.

2. Chat casually about diaper changes.

As you change Baby’s diaper, talk to him about what’s in his diaper. This is a chance to discuss the terminology you’ll use during training. Things to say could be, “You went pee in your diaper and can you feel that it’s wet?” Or, “It’s nice to feel clean and dry, isn’t it?”

Tell him how someday he’ll want to try using the potty instead of diapers. Using phrases like, “When you’re ready” keeps the pressure off.

3. Find books, stories, and shows about potty training.

There are so many books and shows about potty training that are geared towards toddlers. My daughter has been watching a DVD about using the potty that her brothers before her also watched. At 19 months, I’m not pushing the potty issue (I haven’t even purchased a potty chair yet). But I’m familiarizing her with what using the potty will be like. And she enjoys the characters and songs about using the potty, so it’s a positive association for her.

If you can’t find a book or show that you like, make up your own story about potty training that you can tell your toddler (with her as the leading character, of course!) I’ve been telling my daughter a story about the little princess who had to pee. Silly, yes — but toddlers love that!

4. Show the potty routine.

It’s a rare opportunity for me to be able to use the bathroom alone — my toddler always follows me in! Take the time in the bathroom to show your toddler the potty routine.

Talk out loud about how you’re using the toilet, how you wipe with a little bit of paper, how you flush the toilet and then, how you wash your hands with soap and water afterwards. Even if you think your toddler isn’t really focused on the steps, they’re absorbing the patterns little by little. 

5. Pick up on subtle cues.

If you happen to see your toddler going in their diaper, call that out to them. Use your terminology to put their actions into words.

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When I see my toddler get into a squat, I’ll ask her if she’s trying to poop. Sometimes she’ll allow me to put her on the toilet, where she’s able to finish. Other times she’ll run away from me for privacy! Lots of toddlers will start to hide when they poop — this is normal.

5. Make it a BIG deal.

When you notice that your toddler’s diaper is dry, mention it to them. Congratulate them on staying dry and make a big deal about it! “Look at you sweetie, your diaper is DRY! You didn’t go pee-pee in your diaper!”

If your toddler has shown some interest in the potty routine, ask them at this time if they’d like to sit on the potty. My daughter usually says yes and will sit on the toilet for a few seconds, “trying” to go. Remember, no pressure! If she says no, drop the subject.

6. Buy a potty chair.

Potty chairs have some fun features, including flushing sounds and celebratory sound effects! Some potties have a seat that removes to place on the toilet.

A seat with a built-in pee shield is particularly helpful! If you’re able, choose the two potties that have the features you prefer and let your toddler pick from between them.

7. Let your little one move the potty chair around.

The potty chair will almost be considered like a new toy to your toddler. It’s fun and different! Before you actually ever plan on using the potty chair, let your child move it from room to room. At 18 months old, my eldest liked to bring his potty into the living room to read books while sitting on it, fully clothed.

Toddlers often eliminate in the same location (my daughter has a “poop corner” in the living room where she often hides to go!). Put the potty chair there so your toddler will associate the chair with pooping.

There’s no issue with letting your child actually use the potty chair outside of the bathroom at this age. If my boys were playing outside, I’d take the potty with us so they could use it quickly if they needed it.

8. If there’s no interest yet, back off the potty talk.

Your toddler couldn’t care less about his new potty? Or worse, he’s resistant to talking about it or even just sitting on it? That can be really hard, especially if you have a deadline in mind. Maybe your child has to be trained for preschool. Or perhaps you want your child completely potty trained before age 3.

You’ve heard the phrase, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” Same here. You can encourage potty use but you can’t make your toddler pee! That’s only going to happen when both his body and mind are ready.

Back off on the potty talk for a week before bringing it up again. Every child goes at her own pace. Toddlers can be very stubborn and clever. If you’re pushing the potty issue, they may push back and resist, just because!

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