How we potty-trained our 2 year old

February 9, 2015

With each new stage in your baby’s development, there’s usually a little excitement. When should we put them into their own room? When should we start weaning? When should they go into a proper bed? etc. But potty training… not so exciting. At least not for me; it just sounded like a right hassle. I was eager not to change nappies any more, but I thought it would be nice if one day they could just decide to start using the toilet, you know?

How we potty-trained our 2 year old

Somehow, we got there and we actually managed it quite early. George was pretty much out of nappies by the time he was two. I’m not bragging – ours was not a simple or easy process, and the ‘training’, as it were, continues. But still, I wanted to share our experience as it’s probably a little different to most and I always find other people’s actual experiences much more useful than any baby books. (Just to be clear, we did NOT do elimination communication. That’s a whole other ball game…)

My tips for flying with a toddler

Anyway, here’s what we did and what I’ve learned:

Start early

We bought a potty when George was about 14 months old. We didn’t have any high hopes and planned to take things slowly. We decided to introduce it in the morning just after breakfast, as that was when he normally did a number two (ahem). Now, persuading a one-year-old to sit on a potty can be quite the challenge – we read him lots of books and gave him lots of praise to keep him on there, and after a couple of tries – success! A poo in the potty! Cue lots more clapping and praise.

Nappy-free time

We continued with the after-breakfast potty break for a while (using nappies as normal the rest of the time). To be honest, we could have been a bit more consistent, as when we were busy in the morning, we often didn’t bother. We also did nappy-free time a lot – I really think this helped George make the connection between needing to go and actually sitting on the potty. If he was wearing a nappy, he just did wees and poos as normal in it. When nappy-free, we always reminded him the potty was there if he needed it and asked regularly if he wanted to sit on it. Soon, he obviously recognised the feeling of needing a poo and would actually sit on the potty to do it himself (hurray!). Like I say, this was not a quick process, but it felt very relaxed – we just tried to give him nappy-free time when we remembered. 

A little bribery

It’s worth saying that we weren’t above a little bribery to persuade him to sit on the potty – first with raisins and then, when that wore off, chocolate buttons. 

Follow his lead

There were a disastrous few days when George was about 18 months old and we decided to try some hardcore potty training. It involved a lot of wee everywhere and a lot of washing. We quickly realised that at that point George wasn’t ready – he had no idea when he was doing a wee (he literally carried on playing as it ran down his leg). So we decided to ease off and wait until he was ready.  Eventually, he got a bit better and finally started to sit on the potty and even tell us when he needed a wee.

Goodbye nappies

Once George started letting us know when he needed to use the potty, we decided to ditch the nappies for good. We talked to him about it a lot and reminded him that he wasn’t wearing a nappy and that he should tell us he when he needed to use the toilet – and we went all out on the praise whenever he successfully used the potty. Parents of boys: always make sure their willy is pointing inside the potty! I had to do so much extra laundry because wee had sprayed up over the top of the potty onto his clothes. I find making sure their legs are quite wide apart helps (those chubby thighs get in the way 🙂 )

Out and about

At first, when we were out and about, we just took a potty with us everywhere. My mum was mortified, but we put it in a big bag and really, by the time your kid is two, you’re basically totally desensitised to their bodily functions, right? I did buy one of those Potette travel potties, but George never really liked it and as such would refuse to sit on it – plus I found them a bit too small and we often had issues with wee spraying over the top. Now we usually take one of those toddler toilet seats out with us.

As I said, the ‘training’ continues. I’m gradually trying to phase out the potty so that George just sits on the toilet seat, and I could write a whole other post about night-time toilet trials. But all in all, he’s done really well. I now try to keep a close eye on him when we’re out, as he has a tendency to keep playing until he wets himself – which he did in spectacular fashion in the middle of Oscar’s first birthday party.

What was your experience of potty-training your toddler? Did you manage it in three days or three years?

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    Reply Eline @ Pasta & Patchwork February 12, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    It’s so interesting to read about how you approached potty-training, especially as it’s quite similar to what we’ve done. I think my son was about 16 months when we bought a potty and started doing lots of nappy-free time. It’s been a very bumpy (okay wet) ride, but at almost 25 months he doesn’t wear nappies during the day anymore. I think the key is being relaxed about it: it’s a process that takes time to learn, and they do eventually get it. I saw no reason to wait until he was 2.5 or even 3 as he started showing awareness of when he was peeing much earlier than that. Getting him to go obviously was another matter, and yes, let’s not talk about night time!

    • Reply Rachel February 15, 2015 at 10:23 am

      Yes, sounds we did the same thing! It certainly wasn’t easy and yes, I cleaned up a lot of pee, but it’s so nice not to have to change toddler nappies anymore!

    Reply Emma February 16, 2015 at 10:03 pm

    This is really interesting … we did all the things you suggest above with Joni when she was around the same age and she just out right refused. There was no way she was going to do it until she was ready … so we waited, and waited, and waited … and she was 3 years and 4 months … the good thing is that she has had probably 2 accidents … but the changing nappies of a massive toddler was hideous! My son, Wilbur, will have to ‘trained’ a lot more intensely, which I plan to do over the summer … there’s something about cleaning up endless puddles that seems better in the summer …

    • Reply Rachel February 18, 2015 at 10:44 am

      Exactly! There’s so much to be said for waiting until they’re ready and in the grand scheme of things, who cares if you waited a couple more months, especially as it was much easier in the end.

      The summer is also great because he can wander around in no pants too, also lots more opportunities to wee outside 😉

    Reply Wander Mum April 10, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    Hi Rachel, really interesting to hear other parents experiences. We’re potty training our two and a half year old daughter at the moment. It was going pretty well and though we were on the verge of cracking it but she’s been a bit poorly and has suddenly developed an aversion to the potty and is asking to wear nappies. Am preserving, she is totally ready but yesterday there were five accidents in one day…

    • Reply Rachel April 20, 2015 at 1:33 pm

      Yes, I’m always eager to hear other people’s experiences. I think (as with most parenting) patience and consistency are key. It’s ok if there are five accidents in a day, just take a deep breath and start again tomorrow. It’s just when you think they’ll NEVER get something that they do.

    Reply Eden May 14, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    Potty training my then 3 1/2 year old was awful! I had been trying since he was 2, and it seemed like nothing worked – stickers, candy, my tears…. Then one day, I bought him some Superhero underwear (I think there were 7 in a pack), and showed it to him. Of course, he wanted them, and thought they were awesome. I set the unopened pack right up on our fireplace mantle, and told him that everytime he used the toilet, he’d get a new pair of underwear. (In this case, it was just for pooping, because he had already been going pee with the potty, just refused to poop on it). The next day, he did it, and earned all of his new underwear in a week. He’s doing a great job now, and always uses the toilet, except he does still require a pullup at bedtime.

    • Reply Nicky May 23, 2016 at 8:13 pm

      Ha I LOVE that idea for an incentive! We have almost potty trained Oscar now (he’s nearly two and a half) and I took it deliberately slowly – we’ve been chipping away at it for months. It’s gone quite smoothly overall, but I was always quite wary of bribing him with food, and he couldn’t care less about stickers, so I resorted to all sorts to get him to sit on the loo: stories; songs; the lure of Peppa episodes; and even playing with an imaginary ball (mental I know, but it worked!). Thanks for commenting x

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