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How Will I Know When To Start Potty Training?

boy girl parenting potty training preschool toddler

One of the first questions parents ask about potty training is “How will I know when my little one is ready?” The responses are often  “When she stays dry for 2 hours,” or “When she asks you to change her diaper,” and the least helpful, “When she shows interest in the potty.” By that guideline, alone, I would have handed my son the car keys when he was 2 due to his obsession with cars. Being ready to potty train depends on  much more than a child's interest in the potty. Here are some questions to ask that touch on your child's physical, cognitive and emotional development. Answering these questions will help you better determine when it's time to start potty training.

1. Can my child locate and get to the bathroom on their own?

Assuming no physical limitaions, your child should be able to locate and travel to the bathroom on their own. If your child cannot locate the bathroom in your home and get there without your assistance then this is a skill you may want to work on.  If your bathroom is in a hard to reach area of the home, or you have only one bathroom on an upper floor, think about placing a portable potty in a more accessible place (a hallway, a play room) in order to set your child up for success.

2. Can my child dress and undress themselves with ease?

Potty training involves many skills and it is best if you are not teaching them all at once. Before you start to potty train, teach your child to pull their pants and underwear down, AND up independently.  And while potty training, avoid clothing with snaps, buckles and other fussy fasteners. Even dresses and skirts can be complicated for some little ones.  Opt instead for sweatpants, shorts or leggings.  

3. Can my child follow multi-step directions?

Using a potty or toilet involves several steps that must be followed in the correct order to achieve success. If your child has trouble sequencing these steps they may become frustrated and refuse to continue. Test your child’s ability to follow multi-step directions by asking them to perform tasks around the house i.e., “take this book and put it on the shelf,” or “get your shoes and place them in the blue basket then bring me your bunny.” Make it a game and play for a few weeks leading up to the start of potty training to get your little ones mind ready for this important milestone.

 4.Can my child transition easily from one activity to another?

One of the toughest parts of potty training is getting your child to stop what they are doing and go to the bathroom. If they generally cannot transition easily fromtask to task, especially from a highly desired task (the playground, watching a movie) to a non-desired task (going home, taking a nap), you may face lots of resistance during potty training. If your child struggles in this area, work with her to make transitions smoother. Set timers, or do countdowns. Make a picture or word schedule and review it with your child before the day begins so they know when transitions are going to occur. And whenever possible, offer your child options and choices in areas that have little importance(do you want the blue truck or the red truck; do you want your denim jacket  or unicorn sweatshirt?) so that potty training does not become an area where your child feels the need to assert control

5. Does my child respond to praise or other rewards?

We often hear parents say: “My little one just does not care about his wet diaper.” While this may be true, if they care about a high five from you, or a reward for using the potty, that happy feeling and sense of pride will motivate them to use the toilet more than the feeling of a wet diaper.

If your answer to many of the above questions is no, then start working on these skills, before you attempt to have your child eliminate on the potty. The more prepared your child is the smoother the process will be.  And remember that as the parent\caregiver, you also have to be ready to commit to the process.   Set aside a 3-day weekend to start potty training, and be patient with your little one. Potty training can take up to 12 weeks for a child to master.   Thankfully the pee-kaboo reusable potty training sticker will make it easy and fun!

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