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How to interest your toddler in potty training

Updated on April 30, 2014
Pick a Start date
Pick a Start date

Your ready but your child is not

Your child may be around the age of 24 - 36 months old. Most girls by this age have shown growing interest in toilet (potty) training, yet some boys are barely interested. If you have a boy around this age with little interest in the workings of toilet activities do not worry. Children focus on mastering different task as they grow. At this age some children are focused on language skills while others are focused on gross motor skills. As a parent we hear that boys take longer to toilet train, but the truth is parents have been giving their boys slack. Boys are children and should not be treated differently from a female child. If you can understand that each child needs to be encouraged and persuaded according to their development then you are off to a great start.

Prep Work

Toilet training is not a sprint but a marathon. Meaning that you have to train and work towards your ultimate goal of complete toilet training. The best thing to do is introduce your child to the idea of potty training.First thing to do is pick a start date. Then at least a month before starting the training, introduce your child to toilet training through books, and videos. Start off slow reading books about potty training through out the day.

A list of books/videos i found useful were:

  • Even firefighters go to the potty - Wendy Wax
  • Go potty Go! (Video)
  • I can go potty ! (video)
  • Big Boys go potty- Marianne Richmond ( they have big girls go potty)

My son liked watching videos about potty training.

Next step is choosing a potty chair for your child. I picked out my sons first potty but he did not like it so we purchased a more comfortable chair after two weeks. The goal to a potty chair is your child's interest level. If the potty is uncomfortable, does not make noise or makes too much noise, it may deter your child. Pick your first chair wisely. Also another incentive to encourage your child to use his/her potty is letting them use stickers to decorate the potty chair.

The next step is to decide with your child where the potty will be located. Most parents decide on the bathroom, but in the beginning a child may not notify you ahead of time. My son and I decided to place the potty in the living room because that is the location of his toys. After you decide on the location then you show your child how to sit on the potty. Sounds easy, right? Depending on the child this task may be boring to him/her. The goal is to get your child used to sitting on the potty chair.

Pull ups Vs. Undies

Finally you must decided between purchasing pull-ups or underwear. If you choose underwear allow your child to pick out a set of underwear that he or she may find appealing. Buy at least 10-14 pair of underwear, to cut down on daily laundry. In the beginning your child will forget to use to potty or not know the feeling until it is too late, so accidents will occur.

I have heard many different opinions on using Underwear over Pull-ups and vice versa. A few pediatricians I spoke with on the subject said " the use of pull ups prolongs the toilet training process." The logic behind their reasoning is that pull-ups feel like pampers and the child may not care to go to the bathroom. Some parents say that their child was toilet trained using pull-ups and did fine when switched to underwear.

From my personal experience my son treated his pull-ups as a diaper and used it whenever he felt he did not want to stop playing. With that being said, each parent has to analyze his/her child and their preference before choosing. I still use a pull-up when we go to the park or on long trips.

Reward systems

You have chosen the potty, read the books or watched the videos and your child is ready to start. Wait, have you thought of what type of reward system you will offer your child. I know some are reading this thinking, i do not want to offer a reward. Think about it as an adult when a task is accomplished we expect some recognition, so why not do the same for our child.

Types of rewards

  • Potty chart- design a personalized chart with your child's name and something that interest them. For my son it was Jake from Disney Jake and the Neverland pirates.
  • Stickers- Choose stickers that interest your child flowers, stars, princess', pirates, cars etc.. You want your child to feel special when they receive their reward because it is personalized.
  • Candy- This option should only be used out of desperation. Having your child eat candy as a reward can potentially backfire and create more problems.
  • Toys- I would choose an inexpensive toy or offer the toy after x number of successful toilet trips.

Which ever route you choose the number one thing to remember is be consistent. A child will notice that each time s/he uses the toilet they are rewarded and will soon inform you when they need to use the bathroom.

Final words

Last but not least......remember that this journey is new and scary. Try to approach toilet training with humor and patience. If you yell at your child or constantly become upset it may cause a big set back. Understand that is journey is difficult for your child, you are asking for him/her to try something outside of his/her comfort zone. Give your child a non-judgmental environment and s/he will thrive.

Good luck!!!


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