Potty training is happening in my home once again. Layah has been working on how to use the potty for a month, now. I should probably mention for all the new readers out there that Layah is just shy of 16 months old.
Do you think I’m crazy/silly/delusional for potty training such a young toddler? It’s cool. You wouldn’t be the first!
But the fact of the matter is this: our first child was 100% potty trained by 20 months using the same method that we are using now, and so far, so good with the second one. So for those of you out there who are interested in potty training tips, especially for younger toddlers, I’d love to share with you what we do!
How to Potty Train
Let me preface by saying this: every child is different. I am not claiming to have a method that will work for every child. But I don’t think my children are exceptionally gifted or exceptionally rare when it comes to potty training abilities. I think that early potty training is a possibility for many children if they are given the opportunity to try it out! I also think that parents need to read up on different approaches and develop a strategy BEFORE their child is ready to potty train. You want to be prepared so that if your child starts to show readiness for using the potty, even before you thought they might, that you are ready to get started!
I would call our approach “laid-back” early potty training. This is not the method for anyone who wants to be all done in 3 days or 24 hours or anything like that. We worked on potty training with our first starting at 13 months and while she was all done by 20 months, you can see now that the process of potty training took 7 months. But it also came without any tears and with remarkably few accidents. Here’s what it did take: LOTS AND LOTS of time in the bathroom, sitting on the potty. Reading books. Waiting.
What you need:
1. an infant potty seat. We have a two-story house, so we actually have two! Our current favorite is one Prince Lionheart recently sent our way, the pottyPOD Basix. It is very important for a child to have a seat that they can hop on and off that is at their level. It gives them more of a sense of control, and also rapidly increases their comfort level with potty training. We had the potty seat out for a few weeks before we even talked about it with Layah, giving her time to get used to seeing it and to develop her curiosity about it, without feeling stressed.
2. sign language. Communication is a key part of potty training, no matter the age. Your child needs to be able to tell you when s/he needs to use the bathroom, or when s/he just used the bathroom (either in a diaper or in the potty). We started teaching baby sign language potty training terms to Layah at the same time that we introduced the potty seat. Since she already uses sign language, she was very quick to pick up on the sign for “potty” and within a month, was using the sign gleefully any time she sat on the potty. She also started telling us when she just went potty in her diaper. That’s a HUGE step forward for potty training, as a child has to be aware of her bodily functions before she can exercise control over them.
3. a potty schedule. Currently we are in the phase of potty training where we put her on the potty as soon as she wakes up in the morning, as well as right before bed. We have a pile of books in the bathroom to read to her while she sits. The longer we can get her to sit there, the more likely she will go potty. But we don’t force it. If she is adamant about being all done with her potty time, we tell her that we are going to put a diaper on her now, and then we go on about our day. Currently, she is using the potty about 25% of the time that we put her on it, which isn’t too bad!
After your child gets very used to morning and evening potty sessions, begin to incorporate potty time 10 minutes after every meal that you are together. I am just about to get started with this phase, and it will involve setting the timer so that I don’t forget! You will notice your potty success rate go up dramatically when you add this step in, and along with that success, please do heap on the praise for your child for using the potty. This will build their confidence and their own joy about using the potty instead of their diaper.
4. a plan for wrapping things up. We knew that our first was ready to totally finish her potty training once she started going to a corner and hiding when she pooped. So at that point, I told her all about big girl underwear and how she was ready to start wearing it because she knew when she needed to potty, she knew how to tell us, and she even knew how to sit on her potty seat. Over a 2 day period, we gave Darah lots of water and juice and put her on the potty every 2o minutes on day one, and every 30 minutes on day 2. She wore big girl underwear all day. And she had 2 accidents on the first day. She actually told me about them, believe it or not! She was accident-free the second day.
Overnight Potty Training Tips
After she was fully potty trained during the day, we immediately began potty training for night-time. She has been receiving a bottle before bed, so over a 4 day period, we reduced the amount of milk she got in her bottle. And I’m going to tell you the truth, folks. She was cool with it for the first 2 days, but by day 3 she was NOT happy with how little milk she was getting. This was the only time in the whole potty training experience that crying happened, and it wasn’t because of having to use the potty, but rather, because of giving up her bottle. BUT…the drama was over fairly quickly, and because she was no longer drinking 6 ounces of fluids right before bed, she pretty much stopped using the bathroom at night! I do brag about the fact that we never purchased a single package of Pull-Ups. Our checking account was SO thankful! I will say that at 20 months, Darah did sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and ask to go potty (we could hear her thanks to the monitor). So be prepared for possible middle of the night potty breaks.
So that’s how we potty trained our first by 20 months, and it is the path we are currently on for our second. It definitely takes a lot of time, but it is a powerful example of just what little ones can accomplish if you give them the chance!
Edit: For those of you out there who have tried the techniques I have suggested above, and are feeling discouraged by your child’s total lack of interest, please see my update about potty training with our second child dated from when she was 2 years and 4 months old. Turns out, you really can’t make them potty train before they are ready, so don’t beat yourself up about it! I think the tips above will serve you very well IF your child has interest.