Using an ipad to keep your child seated on the potty for long periods of time seems like a great idea. Your child is parked on the potty and delightfully engaged until they start to go. Success right? Well, not really.
Toileting is an active process that your child should be fully and consciously engaged in. In fact at a conference I attended at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, one of the presenters stated that potty training is work. By distracting your child, with screens, you aren't engaging them in the work of potty training. Sure pee and poop will happen eventually, but your child won't be a true participant in the process. So potty training mastery may take a bit longer.
That's one of the main reasons we discourage potty training via extended sitting with an ipad. Potty training is less about catching the contents of elimination before they land on your white carpet, and more about teaching your child to tune in to their bodies and recognize sensations associated with the urge to use the bathroom. It is about getting them to stop what they are doing and get to the potty. Ipads used to seat your child for long periods of time on the potty keep your child tuned-in to their programs and disengaged from their bodies. We want potty training to be the main event, not a sideshow to "Bob the Builder" or "Paw Patrol."
Another reason we don't love ipads in the bathroom during potty training is because they can lead to pointless sitting on the potty. Potty sitting should last no more than 5-7 minutes, not the full length of a program. If nothing is happening, then there is no need to remain in the bathroom. Little ones need to learn that bathrooms are for toileting, bathing and brushing teeth, not for binge-watching versions of "Baby Shark." After all, in our increasingly connected world shouldn't there be at least one screen-free zone in the home?
When potty training, you want to take your kids to the potty when there is a high likelihood of potty success. For boys, you can watch for engorgement as a sign for the need to urinate. For girls you can use a window of 30-40 min after consuming 8-12 oz of liquid as a good time to give the potty a try. And when it comes to bowel movements, many kids have some sort of "poopy dance." Some retreat to a corner as a clear sign that elimination is beginning. If we focus on getting our kids to the bathroom when they actually need to go vs. when we would like them to go, the process will be that much smoother. We all know how hard it is to provide a urine sample at the doctor's office when we aren't ready. Let's not put that pressure on our toilet learners.
Speaking of readiness, be sure to read our blog post on true signs of potty training readiness to see if your child is developmentally ready to learn this important life skill!