Potty Training under 2 years old
I guess I really dislike changing diapers. . .
A quick note about potty training at age 2, and then I’ll described potty training before age 2.
Our son started potty training when he was 2 years old. A month before his second birthday we switched from regular Luvs diapers into cloth diapers so he would “feel” wet. I wanted him to learn awareness of his body. (And all my friends were using cute cloth diapers, and I succumbed to the peer pressure of cuteness.) The cloth diapers did help him recognize what his body was doing, and when he started using the toilet, it was easy to unsnap him out of the cloth and re-snap him if he was dry.
Simon figured out potty training rather quickly, mostly because he wanted the M&M that was his “potty treat.” As long as we made a mental note to take him to the bathroom on a regular schedule, we had few accidents. It took a few months for him to be able to tell us when he needed to use the bathroom. (An awesome moment!) And it took close to a year for him to finally “take himself” to the bathroom, without having to inform us first. (That was a great day)! Overall, the process was steady, we saved a lot of diapers, and Simon had lots of success by starting early.
Simon never liked using the typical plastic kid’s potty chair. He preferred to sit on the actual porcelain throne, which I loved. No cleaning out a plastic potty bowl! The car designed potty chair that Grandma had bought for him became the step stool for the toilet.
Now onto potty training before the age of 2. . .
Over the last year, Grace has watched Simon go through potty training. She saw us clap for him every time he used the toilet, and she learned to clap for him as well. More importantly, she saw him get an M&M every time he used the toilet.
I think she realized that potty training was super cool, because she wanted to use the potty at 18 months old. Although we hadn’t “officially” started potty training with her, we usually could catch her making poop faces, and if we took her to the toilet in time, she’d poop in the potty. She loved getting an M&M, just like her big brother.
Last month I decided to try our luck again at early potty training. Grace was only 20 months old, but she was showing excitement and interest in using the potty (or maybe it was simply to get a piece of candy). I was in my third trimester of pregnancy with baby #3, so I was hoping I could have her out of diapers before the baby came. I really hoped, but somewhat doubted, that potty training would be successful at her young age.
Luckily she was successful! It took about one week for her to get the process down, and although we still have occasional accidents, she goes everywhere in cute little princess panties.
Here’s what I did to potty train her at 20 months old:
There was a 4 day stretch where we would be home most of the time – no babysitters – just me or Dad.
I went to the store and let her pick out a box of candy. (She picked M&Ms). I also bought a gallon of apple juice. Our kids usually drink water; we rarely buy juice, so this was a treat too!
When we came home I filled up her sippy cup with apple juice, and I let her run around naked all day long. When she drank all her juice, I filled up the cup again. Every ten minutes or so I took her to sit on the toilet. (Since Simon never used the potty chair, I trained Grace on the big toilet too. She was already comfortable sitting on the big toilet anyways.) We used apple juice because Grace was excited to drink it, and the vast quantities she consumed meant she would have to pee over and over, thereby getting lots of practice peeing on the potty.
Eventually some pee came out of that apple juice filled girl, and I clapped and cheered and gave her a piece of candy. We continued that process all day long. Juice and naked time. She really liked the positive attention and candy she received every time she used the toilet. I made a point of explaining to her what her body was doing as well. When she peed, I would say “Yea, you went pee in the potty!!” And vice-versa for poop. I also asked her to repeat back to me, “I pee in the potty Mommy.” I wanted her to have the words in her mind, so she could continue to associate the feeling of using the toilet with the words “pee” and “poop.”
I kept a stack of books nearby as well, so I could keep her sitting there until she did her business. This helped potty training be a bonding time, instead of just a struggle. If you find yourself stressing out too much, check out some tips for reducing stress here. I also keep a bottle of disinfectant wipes near the toilet. They make for easy cleaning when kids miss the bowl and pee everywhere else – and yes, even girls can miss the bowl. Teach little girls to sit so they pee down, not out, or else pee goes all over the seat and floor.
Over the next few days, she had some accidents and even pooped on the carpet a couple times (gross), but she was becoming even more excited about using the toilet for pee and poop. I ignored the accidents and focused on praising her when she did use the toilet. (She’s too young to recognize consequences for not using the toilet, and I didn’t want her to become afraid of her bodily functions.)
At the end of the week, I let her pick out underwear at the store. She was excited because she knew that older brother wore underwear. Once we got home, we practiced pulling her panties up and down, so I knew she was capable of that important step of potty training. Grace loved wearing her underwear, although she suddenly had a few more accidents. I realized she was used to be naked and free at home, so it took a couple days for her to get used to wearing panties.
After another week she was mostly potty trained!
After she got used to her underwear, Grace only wore diapers for nap time and bedtime. As soon as she would wake up, she would use the toilet and request her underwear again. I was surprised at how often she woke up from a nap still dry, although she’ll continue to sleep in diapers for awhile longer.
After one month, Grace is still doing great!
When it’s time to go, she uses the toilet very quickly, gets her treat, and returns to playing. Luckily, she does tell us when she needs to use the toilet, but it’s not consistent. She tells us about twice a day, and we rush her to the bathroom. The rest of the day, we make a point to take her every hour and especially after she has had a drink. Overall she’s doing so well that we can go to the grocery store and friends’ houses without lugging around a diaper bag! She still has accidents occasionally, but it’s when we forget to take her after she’s had a drink. Another bonus: Grace has never pooped in her underwear. What a blessing!!!
I changed up one thing during potty training with Grace – I get a new type of candy every week. I think this has helped her stay excited about the potty candy, rather than getting bored with the same treat.
She only gets one piece of whatever candy we have. So far, we’ve used M&Ms, candy corn, Reese’s pieces, and Twizzlers bites.
As a recap:
1. Lots of juice!
2. Leave them naked and take them potty every ten minutes the first few days
3. Potty treats!! Lots of praise!!
4. Help them recognize what the words “pee” and “poop” mean
5. Ignore accidents
6. Keep their favorite books by the toilet to pass the time
7. Let them pick out new underwear
8. Change up the potty treat to keep it exciting
9. Be patient – your toddler is just a young kid.
Be consistent, and give it a few weeks before you stop trying to train them. Don’t expect them to move right into underwear after the first day, they are still little!! As for potty training at such a young age, if they are showing awareness of their bodily functions, and they have the vocabulary for bodily functions, then they might be old enough to potty train. Keep the process exciting and fun. Kids this young shouldn’t be shamed for accidents.
Update: keep a travel-sized pouch of wipes in the diaper bag for using the toilet in public places, like the grocery store or clothing store. Wipe the seat down first! Their little hands will be holding on the rim, so keep those germs away. And beware of automatic flushing toilets. The loud flushing is scary to little kids! Grace refused to pee in the potty after we tried to use an automatic flushing toilet at the Boy Scout Center. Amazingly she held it for four hours until we got home, but it did make her wary of public toilets for a few days. If you have no other choice, cover up the automatic sensor with your hand until your child has finished with the toilet, and then tell them the potty will flush when you move your hand. (Still prepare yourself for tears of terror!)