I wish I could say it was a piece of cake to potty train. Let me just say … puppies are much easier than toddlers.
My mom made it sound easy. She had my sister and I potty trained shortly after we could walk. I’m told girls are easier than boys. I have no idea if that is true.
This is our potty training journey: what worked, what didn’t, and ideas for your own success.
First step: Pull-Ups .
Huggies Pull-Ups (in my opinion) are much better for older kids than the Pampers alternative. If you’ve read my post about Pampers vs Huggies, then you know that for infants, I prefer Pampers by a landslide. However, Pull-Ups are where Huggies shines. They have a great elastic hip, awesome, colorful designs in toddler favorite characters, and they actually look like underwear. They have a distinctly different “feel” from diapers. The Pampers brand is softer textured, more like diapers and have a muted, light-colored design. We bought one small pack of the Pampers and didn’t even finish using them before we went back to Pull-Ups. Everything about them just seemed more “diaper-ish.”
Pull-Ups also makes a variety that gets cool when wet, which is supposed to help kids notice when they urinate. They are called Pull-Ups Cool & Learn. We didn’t really notice a difference between the cooling type and regular Huggies.
Second Step: Buy an expensive, super-cute potty. (Which didn’t work out)
It wasn’t ridiculously expensive, but was one with all of the bells and whistles. The Fisher-Price Learn-to-Flush Potty is pretty amazing. If you tinkle in the potty, it plays music. It flushes like a real potty and sings and so much more! It’s a celebration! How cool, right? All for only about $25. I think at the time we paid closer to $35, but it’s cheaper now.
The potty has 3 parts – the base, the tray that holds the excrement, and the seat. The positives are that it creates interest in the potty. I wholeheartedly believe that this potty is great for many kids who are learning.
Our toddler found it to be an amazing thing to stand next to and flush….and flush…and flush. Lights flash, a little voice sings and cheers, and gears whirl. It’s splendid. But, since the potty is not designed to be flushed while you sit on it, he had no interest in sitting on the potty. I also think he was reluctant to pee on it because he thought it was a toy.
So, on to phase two.
We had gone to Florida to stay at a VRBO and forgotten the potty at home. So, we picked up a less fancy potty up at Target. To be specific, we bought the Fisher-Price Penguin Potty. It was about $10.
This actually seemed to do the trick to some degree, because it was more a bit more serious. No frills here – just sit down and do your business. It seemed less like a toy, but the gentle face also made it non-intimidating.
At that point, we were trying to get him to go at least once so that he would get the idea of what he was supposed to be doing there. We tried running water in the sink, looking at books, showing him how to use the potty – you know, all the tricks that everyone says to use … he just wasn’t getting it. We even tried gently pouring water over his genitals as he sat on the potty (fail Pinterest tip).
To be fair, Bug has never been a kid who peed frequently. Even as a tiny baby he would always tend to hold it and then pee a lot, all at once. Silly me had thought that would make potty training easier.
Finally, I prayed about it because I was worried. My family and friends subtly were questioning why he was still in diapers at 2 years old. I didn’t feel like he was behind and neither did his doctor. But, my peers came from a time when potty training was fast and early. Of course, I felt like I was doing badly.
Then, as many things do when I pray, an idea came. My aunt had given me her old iPad. We stripped it down to just educational games like Baby Einstein, Sago Mini World, and ABC tracing games and put it in an iPad Butterfly Case to keep it safe. Being a complete novelty, it gave him something to distract him until he relaxed and went. Hooray!
Every time he used the potty we had a “potty dance celebration” with music. Everyone in the room cheered and danced and we had a “flushing ceremony,” then proceeded to parade to the living room while happily singing about how he’d used the potty and there he received a small piece of chocolate, which he chose from a special dish. Things were going really well, though we did have to remind him to go and accidents were still pretty common. If I got busy and forgot to remind him frequently, he’d wet his diaper.
Then, family tragedy derailed us. For a few months, potty training stopped. When we were able to get things together again, we’d backslid. He’d use the potty sometimes, but not voluntarily and most of the time would just flat-out refuse.
It was time to change the game. I bought Daniel Tiger’s Potty Time Toy, but it didn’t really help much. He enjoyed playing with Daniel, but it didn’t really help reinforce the idea. Mostly, he liked to open and close the lid of the potty and take off Daniel’s jacket and ask me to put it back on again. I think, to some degree, it did help him to be more comfortable with a normal toilet and it definitely reinforced the “wash your hands” step of using the restroom, but that was all.
We had stopped letting him use the tablet on the potty at this point because he wasn’t seeming to connect what he was there for. Instead, he would often sit until his little butt was red and just play the games. It turned out that, while it was great for helping him relax initially, it was too much stimulation for him to keep using it as a potty training tool.
Instead, the tablet was moved to education time where we could use it together and talk about it as he played one of the games.
Next, we found a great flash-type potty game at PBS kids for free called Abby and Elmo’s Potty Plan. That definitely caught his attention and it’s free! It often sent him running to sit on the potty.
His fascination gained from the game was more with the big potty. So, I bought him the Sesame Street Padded Potty Seat to see if that might make everything click.
Between the potty seat and the game, he was starting to develop an interest in potty training again.
We also experimented with peeing outside, a concept which sort of fascinated him. He’d previously peed in the shower, so it was a natural follow up that I thought might create some progress.
Next, I found some great books, Go, Pea, Go! and Potty by Leslie Patricelli. We tried reading on the potty again and this time it seemed to help. He even asked to read on the potty as he went. He would love to cheer responses as we read. For example, in “Potty” where the baby asks “Should I go in my diaper?” we all shout “NO!”
A lot of the things I read recommended letting him run around with a bare butt. We tried it. Nothing happened.
We tried regular toddler underwear – thinking that he would notice the difference when wearing them and if he started to pee then would definitely feel a difference. Unfortunately, all it did was make him upset that he made a puddle on the floor, but didn’t actually help make anything click. After a couple of accidents, he didn’t really want to wear them anymore.
After a bit of searching, I found a set of Disney Training Pants which are basically padded underwear that are cotton and soft like real underwear, but have padding at the crotch and back for absorbency just in case. These were a big hit with Bug. I have no idea why these felt different to him, but he loved them. The great part about these is that they come in a ton of different styles including Minnie Mouse, Disney Princess, Sesame Street, Pixar (with Toy Story), Paw Patrol, and several other favorites.
Even though there was a definite improvement, we still weren’t getting much consistency. I realized that lifting him onto the potty seat might be derailing us a bit. It was hard on my back and interrupted the natural flow of going to the bathroom. Our toilet sits pretty high off the ground, so just a plain stool wasn’t going to work.
That’s when I found the Potty Training Seat with Ladder. It fits nearly all toilets, even our ridiculously tall one. He loved that he was empowered to climb up all by himself. It was easy to put together and fairly easy to store when not in use. I loved that the seat was padded, too. It didn’t hurt that it was my favorite colors and matched my bathroom either!
Another item was suggested at checkout when I bought that potty seat – Dino Potty Training Chart for Toddlers. We bought that too and started using it when we started using the new seat.
We immediately went on a 2 1/2 week “no accident not even at night” streak! I think he liked using the stickers even more than he liked the chocolate. The larger stickers that you see on the chart below came with the potty seat and I think they were supposed to be used for decorating the steps, but we used them for when he went “number 2.”
There were times we forgot to get a sticker to the chart because of some other excitement going on (like going for a walk). Overall, though, he really enjoyed it.
Every kid is different and potty training happens at different times for different kids. Some of the things that didn’t work for us likely work great for other kids. I just wanted to share our experience in hopes of helping you with yours! I’d love to hear about stuff that worked (or didn’t) for you!