Andrea Williams says that toilet training Evan, at 2½, was actually fun. “A few months beforehand, we’d got the potty, which he’d sit on while he looked at books. And we went shopping for big-boy underwear — that was a big deal.”
“We’d talked about using the toilet a lot,” recalls Williams. “When the time came, I had a plan. We set a timer every 15 minutes, and I let the dishes pile up in the sink.”
Toilet training tends to go fairly smoothly when kids are developmentally ready, says Elizabeth Pantley, who is the author of several parenting books, including The No-Cry Potty Training Solution. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting from diapers to dry:
A child is probably ready to begin toilet training when she:
• has periods of dryness (a dry diaper after a nap is a good sign).
• can do some things on her own, including getting her clothes on and off, and follow simple instructions like “Put your book on the shelf.”
• has shown some interest in the potty, and is able to sit comfortably on it for a few minutes.
• anticipates the need to go.
Most kids are ready to begin toilet training between 18 and 32 months. (The Canadian Paediatric Society says any time up to four years is within the range of normal.) But parents can introduce the idea of using the toilet well before training begins, which often helps the process go more smoothly, says Pantley. Here’s how to prepare your child, beginning at about one year of age:
• Talk about diaper changes and explain words, such as dry, wet, wipe, wash. Use the same words for pee and poo consistently.
• Put a potty in plain view and let him play with it.
• Let him observe you emptying a diaper into the toilet and using the toilet. Explain what you’re doing and let him flush if he wants to.
• Teach your child to follow simple instructions (“Put your cup in the sink”), do things himself (take off boots, for example) and sit still for a few minutes. Pantley recommends “a daily sit-and-read-together time.”
Some children are eager to leave diapers behind. Others may have no interest or may feel reticent about using the potty. Here’s how to pique your child’s interest:
• Let her choose her own underwear.
• Read books about learning to use the toilet.
• If she is in daycare, talk with her care providers so that you can coordinate your efforts.
Toilet training usually involves trial and error. “Proceed gently, with love, take it step by step, and encourage your child along the way,” advises Pantley. When you think he’s ready:
• Dress him in training pants or pull-up diapers.
• Follow a routine. Have him sit on the potty when he first wakes up, after meals, before getting in the car and before bed.
• Tell, don’t ask! If he looks like he needs to go, say, “Let’s go to the potty.”
• He must be relaxed to move his bowels, says Pantley. Read, sing or chat while he’s on the potty.
• Praise his successes and clean up accidents calmly, without scolding.
• Make handwashing easy and fun for him with a stepstool and some amusing soap shapes.
• Consider using disposables with a feel-wet liner for naps, bedtime and car rides at first, suggests Pantley.
Finally, says Pantley, “be patient; most children take three to 12 months to be independent in this complicated process.”
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