toilet training tips

Happy New Year! It’s been over a year since I’ve touched base here but I had a little window of time this afternoon and thought I would post about our toilet training journey. When I mentioned last week that I was starting to toilet train Harper, so many of you shared your tips and mentioned you’d be interested in knowing what worked for us.

I started training Harper last Monday, and would say that she was fully day trained**, four days later. I have outlined below what worked for us - but every child is different so take whatever parts you like and adapt it to a method that works for you.

Supplies - we purchased a potty for our living area and a separate stool and padded kids toilet seat for the bathroom. I found it great having two set ups - this way we could move the potty between inside and outside and we always had the backup of the permanent second seat in our downstairs bathroom if one was drying/being cleaned. Toddlers love choice and if your little one is a bit upset/scared, giving them a choice of where they want to “go bathroom” can be a good distraction. Our potty is the Minnie Mouse one from Big W and Harper loves pushing the little button on the side that says “hip hip hooray”. Our Sesame Street stool and padded seat were from Baby Bunting and I also got a foldable toilet seat which I keep in my baby bag. Along with these we purchased a big supply of paper towels, floor disinfectant and antibacterial wipes to clean messes. And of course lots of knickers in your child’s favourite designs.  Also think about whether you want to buy some fun drinks for your toddler to help keep them interested in regularly consuming liquids. I got some Peppa Pig juice boxes as a treat and also made her lots of babycino’s. We used lollies as an incentive to use the potty (she got a lolly once she had used the potty) and it worked great for us but I know everyone has their own opinion on this. Kmart also has lots of little toys or you could use stickers/craft activities if your little ones are into this.

Preparation (house) - I prepared the house by removing our area rug and putting down a few washable play mats in the living area so my girls still had somewhere to play. I put towels down on our leather couches and lined her car seat and pram seat with disposable change mats (you can buy a pack of these from Kmart or the supermarket). I closed off access to Harper’s bedroom and playroom while we were toilet training as both these rooms are carpeted and I just didn’t want to have to worry about cleaning up accidents on the carpet. We basically stayed put in our living room and outdoor alfresco for two days straight and then on the third day (once I was a bit more confident in her abilities) we left the house. I’ve also heard other people use drop sheets over carpeted areas and wipeable tablecloths over fabric lounges if this is applicable to you.  Set up a cleaning caddy where you will be toilet training so you have your supplies ready to go for accidents. This makes it a lot more stress free for everyone.

Preparation (child) - we introduced the potty when Harper was around 18 months and on days where we stayed at home I would often get it out and let Harper sit on it / play with it. We had a few test runs where I took her nappy off for an hour or so and put on a movie while she was sitting on the potty. We made up a silly “yay yay yay dance” when she did her first wee on the potty and continued this throughout the training process. I think preparing Harper and getting her used to the potty really helped in the toilet training process. She wasn't scared of the potty from the start and understood what it should be used for.

Day one - I woke up and explained to Harper that we would be saying goodbye to her nappy and using the potty from now on. The first two days Harper did not wear any underwear or clothes while toilet training. I’d heard that sometimes they can confuse underwear for nappies and have more accidents so I just thought I’d make it as easy for her as possible. The method I chose to use was similar to the "two day toilet training method" - I gave Harper as many fluids as possible throughout the day and then put her on the potty every 30-60 minutes. The aim is to get your child to drink so much that they need to use the potty regularly (so their body can get used to the feeling of using the potty and learn how to hold it when they get the urge).  Obviously Harper didn’t go every hour and refused to drink at certain parts of the day but I kept persisting with it. There were lots of accidents on day one but because she knew what the potty was for, she did bring herself to it after she’d had an accident and knew it was wrong. Every time she had an accident I just told her that the next time she needed to listen to her body and use the potty, not the floor. When she was sitting on the potty trying , I would always tell her to “ask your body to help you do a wee,” just so she could start thinking about the connection between her mind and body. I put a pull up on her for her nap and at night and just explained to her that they were only used for sleeping (as I didn't want to confuse her and make her think it was ok to start wearing nappies again during the day).

Day two - was much the same as day one with lots of accidents and me trying to get her to use the potty as regularly as possible. We just stayed home both days, playing with toys and doing craft activities to pass the time. We are usually out every day so it was strange being home for so long but nice to spend lots of quality time with Harper. On day two Harper started taking herself to the potty in the middle of starting to wee. I felt like this was great progress as she knew she was meant to use the potty and finished on there. Obviously in an ideal world, I would have taken her to the potty before she started, but it wasn’t always possible for me as I was also looking after Lila (and my husband was working away)!  I will say that it was very hard toilet training a toddler while looking after a baby, especially since Lila cut her second tooth the day that we started training! If you have a second bub I would recommend starting on a weekend or a day your partner/family/friend can be there to help.

Day three - real progress was made on day three. I could finally see results and Harper only had one accident. A few times she told me she needed to use the potty, and another few times I took her to the potty and made her sit there until she had used it. I felt confident enough to leave the house mid-morning and even though she had an accident while we were out, it was good for all of us to get some fresh air! It was also a great opportunity for me to explain to her that she needed to use the potty even when we were out, and it wasn't nice to go in her underwear.  We started using underwear on day three as I felt like Harper had enough control. I made a big deal of telling her to make sure she kept her underwear clean and didn't have any accidents in it, to further reinforce that it was not the same as wearing a nappy.

Day four - Harper didn't have any accidents on day four, even when we left the house! I continued asking Harper every 30-60 minutes whether she needed to use the potty, but to be honest she took herself there when she needed to go and didn't need me to interfere as much.

Day five and beyond - since then, Harper has only had a few accidents here and there - mainly if we have left the house and not checked with her whether she needed to go / if she is very engrossed in playing. When she has an accident I just firmly tell her that it is not nice to wee on the floor and that wee's are only to be done on the potty. Although you don't want to upset them so early on in the toilet training process as you don't want to scare them off, I think it's also important to be firm and establish boundaries from the beginning. They need to know that it is not OK to have accidents and if they do have an accident, they should be told that it is wrong and to not let it happen again (gently and positively). I am still rewarding Harper every time she uses the potty but will start phasing this out towards the end of the week.

A few of my top tips would be:

  • Realise that the first two days are going to be tough! Make it as easy on yourself as possible by preparing dinner's in advance, getting most of your housework done before you start and giving yourself some grace to relax during your toddler's naps as this will be your only time out of the day! I saved all my housework until Harper had gone to bed
  • Wait until you think your child is ready and can communicate with you properly (don't worry about age - I have some friends who toilet trained successfully at 18 months because their child was ready and others who waited until 3)
  • Let your child be involved in picking out a potty/underwear
  • Introduce your child to the potty before you start training
  • Stay home for the first two days and put them on the potty as regularly as possible
  • Use a rewards system for when they do use the potty correctly (you can phase this out slowly after a week or so)
  • Only wear nappies/pull ups while they are sleeping - do not put them on during the day, even when you go out (it can confuse kids when you put nappies on them when you leave the house but expect them to always use the potty when you are home)
  • Don't give up quickly - it can take time for the concept to click and I promise that it does get easier after day two or three
Good luck and feel free to comment below with any other tips you have!

xx G

**I knew Harper wasn’t ready to be night trained straight away as she has always had a very full nappy in the morning. I will probably start reducing her water intake at night over the next month and see how she goes from there.

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