Experts will tell you that potty readiness will happen on its own, in time. To some degree this is true. But as I discussed in my last post, nature and nurture are a paradox; one gives rise to the other. I’m a firm believer that if you help your child become familiar with the ins and outs of pees, poops, and potties before you ditch the diapers, he or she will have an easier transition once he becomes physically and cognitively capable.
This list contains ideas for ways to help familiarize your child with bathroom practices. Some are meant to make potty use fun, and some are meant to demystify the process. When used correctly, they may help him reach a ready stage when he is developmentally able instead of being put off by psychological obstacles. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive how-to, but a list of suggestions to put toward a fun and individualized training method. You should select only the items on this list that you have reason to believe your child will be receptive to. It is important to use a gentle and casual approach, and be prepared to abandon any activity that your child resists.
1. Invest in a potty training Doll. Potty Scotty, Emma, Fisher Price Ready for Potty Dora, or any other sort of Drink-and-wet doll is an ideal teaching aid for the child who already loves dolls. Be sure to give a demonstration and “reward” the doll with invisible treats.
2. Build a Lego potty. Attach a small brown piece to a Lego man’s bottom. Explain to your child that it’s a poop that needs to go into the potty because it’s not part of his body.
3. Allow her to rip small pieces of toilet paper up and place the pieces in the toilet bowl. Flush and watch how they go down.
4. For the child who likes sports, play a game of Potty Toss. Fill yellow or brown socks with rice to make bean bags, and have your child toss them into a clean, dry potty bowl. Tell her the socks are like poops and pees and they need to get right in the bowl.
5. If your child is interested in buildings or factories, make a stop outside of your local waste processing plant. Explain to your child that this is where the toilet pipes lead, and inside the building the poop and pee gets cleaned up.
6. Visit a farm, pet store, or zoo and ask an employee to show you the creatures who “go” in a special place. Read “Everyone Poops” by Taro Gomi and talk about how people and animals each have their own special place, and the boy’s (or girl’s) special place is the potty or toilet.
7. Fill squirt bottles with yellow water and allow your child to squirt them into the toilet.
8. Be accepting of potty humor. Humor is what happens when a person gains such mastery of a subject he or she begins to play around with it. Potty humor is a sign of understanding, and laughter can take the scariness out of the experience. You can always teach your child later on where and when the use of potty humor is appropriate.
9. Use a dry erase board to draw pictures of pees and poops in a toilet. Use the eraser to “flush” them away.
10. Use brown Play Dough to teach about poops. Have a doll or puppet “deposit” them in a dough potty and praise the toy for doing a good job.
|good job! (but gross)|
11. Put some fun books on the back of the toilet or in a magazine rack. Add a small stool, and allow your child to sit on the toilet as a reading area, even if fully clothed.
12. Play “Pin the Pee Pee in the Potty” with a picture of a toilet bowl and some brown and yellow dot stickers.
13. Use a stool and step ladder and allow your child to play with water and soap in the bathroom sink. Hand washing can be an effective reward in itself for using the potty.
14. Purchase some potty training books that appeal to your child’s interests. Look for gender appropriateness, books with your child’s favourite television characters, and teaching principles that are similar to the ones you will be using.
15. With your child in your lap, watch You Tube videos about potty training and talk about them, or learn the potty songs together and sing them.
16. Take some time to teach your child self-help skills like unbuttoning and removing pants. Praise her for her autonomy.
17. Let him see his same-gendered adult family members using the toilet. Have those people provide a commentary.
18. Purposefully teach your child the words your family uses for the toilet, bodily functions, and body parts. Be consistent in using the terms you have chosen.
19. Teach your child how to sign “pee” “poop” and “potty.” You can use American Sign Language or you can make up your own family sign.
20. For the kinesthetic learner, teach your child a simple potty dance. It can be a victory dance for potty success, or a dance to indicate that it’s time to go.
21. Allow your child spend time with potty trained children. Talk about how big kids use the potty, but don’t make comparisons or invite a contest.
22. Obtain a toy potty and pretend your child’s favourite toys are using it.
23. Fill a train or dump truck with brown pompoms, and have your child transport and deposit the poopies to the “potty depot.” When your child eventually uses the toilet, you can “vroom” the potty toward the big toilet and make train or truck sound effects as you empty it. For extra effect, add truck stickers to the side of the potty.
24. Play a game where participants try to walk with a ball wedged between their knees or thighs and drop it into a toy potty.
25. Show your child a diagram or a model of the human body and talk about how food passes through the body.
26. Let your child have plenty of choices each day and trust him with fun responsibilities (not related to potty training.) A child who feels he has some degree of control over his life will be less likely to over-exercise control over his bladder and bowels.
27. If your child has a dollhouse with a bathroom, play dolls with her and occasionally have your doll drop whatever she is doing and zoom up the stairs to the bathroom to go pee pee.
28. Don’t forget the boys! If he doesn’t play with a dollhouse, give Superman a can for his fortress of solitude.
29. Make a snow potty for a snowman. Put snowballs in it, or colour the snow with a squeeze bottle containing yellow water.
30. When changing your child’s diaper, talk about how soon she will be able to use the potty and she won’t have to be stuck on the boring old change table anymore.
31. Allow your child to see you unload some poop from the diaper into the toilet. Cheer, “that’s where poopy goes. Hooray!”
32. Use a hand puppet with a hole in its mouth to demonstrate how something that gets eaten comes out the hole in the bottom.
33. Watch DVD’s about potty training with your child. Often they are available from the public library.
34. Print out a digital photo of your toilet bowl and have your child “add” to it with yellow and brown markers, paints, or stickers. Talk about getting poops and pees in the right place.
35. Decorate the potty together with stickers of your child’s favourite things.
36. Play pretend or dress up with your child and incorporate a clean potty chair. Pretend it is a princess throne or a robot charger. This will help your child become comfortable sitting on it.
37. If you are creative, make up a simple song about going to the potty and sing it every time YOU use the potty. A perceptive child will link bathroom use with singing and it will become a positive association.
38. Before you make a potty reward chart for your child, make one for yourself. Praise yourself out loud whenever you go to the potty and put a sticker on the chart. Your child might want to get in on the game without being prompted.
39. Build a ball run out of plumbing supplies. Show your child the pipes in your house if they are visible and tell her that the toilet works the same way.
40. Visit the bathroom section of a hardware store and let your child explore the display toilets, (being careful that he doesn’t try to use them!) Children are inherently more interested in things when they appear in multiples, toilets included.
41. Teach your child to wipe up spills, and once in a while have her use toilet paper. This will teach the general concept of wiping.
42. Teach your child about his own anatomy and how it works. You can use proper terms like “urethra” and “anus”, or you can simply say bum bum and pee pee or whatever you are comfortable using. Either way, it will help your child communicate any difficulties he may encounter.
43. Give your child baby dolls with removable diapers. Talk about how little babies like to go in their diapers because they are too little for the potty.
44. Decorate the bathroom together with removable wall decals or other crafts. This will make the bathroom into a fun, familiar place where your child feels welcome.
45. If your child suffers from chronic diarrhea or constipation, keep a journal of her food intake and make an appointment with a health professional. Potty training is much easier when children are having regular bowel movements.
46. Just for fun, have your child put a sticker on a chart when your cat uses the litter box. Have a picture of a litter box on the cat’s chart and a picture of a potty on your child’s chart. Talk about how everyone gets a treat when they learn to go pee and poop in their own correct place.
47. Use paint on a plastic doll or action figure to demonstrate wiping. Let your child practice wiping them clean. Show him how to look for the piece of toilet paper that comes up white and signals the end of the wiping process.
48. If approve of such things, try a potty training video game or an app for your mobile device.
49. Play a game with your child that involves racing to the bathroom. You can pretend to hop, fly or swim. Or you can tape paper footprints to the floor that your child needs to step on. Have a sort of drill where you holler “pee pee!” and the race is on.
50. Make up a personalized bedtime story about a little boy or girl who goes on an adventure to potty land.