There are lots of situations that can be difficult and trying as a parent. My least favorite part of being a parent so far? Teaching our little ones to use the toilet, aka potty training. It is a relentless task requiring endless patience and perseverance. My days are planned around when I think my child will need to use the toilet, when they have already used the toilet, and most definitely around the time that they will do more than just pee. Constant vigilance is required, along with use of iPhone timers (most handy because it is portable and it’s not as easy to forget your phone when leaving the house) and a portable toilet that travels with you whenever you leave your house. And part of the frustration is, you never know how long it will be before your child decides that using the toilet, instead of a pull-up or underwear or the floor, is a better option after all! We are now on working with child number 3 on toilet training. And with summer looming on the horizon with travels a-plenty, I need this one to have reached some vital steps in her independent toilet use.
- She must want to use the toilet instead of a pull-up.
- She must be able to hold it until she actually is sitting on the toilet.
- She needs to be able to communicate to me when she needs to go, with enough time to find a toilet! That is definitely key.
- She cannot be afraid of using a variety of public bathrooms.
- She needs to be comfortable using a big toilet, instead of her little training toilet.
I’m totally fine with helping her pull her underwear up and down, especially if it needs to be done in a hurry. I’m totally fine with helping her wipe and wash hands. I am not okay with leaving a trail of little puddles as we travel, a sort of “we were here” sign. Believe me, I’ve experienced it before and don’t really want a repeat. The funny thing about toilet training is that even if you have done it before, it feels like the first time. Every child responds differently to a reward/punishment system. You have to figure out what will motivate your child to want to use the toilet. Our first daughter earned points for accomplishing different toileting tasks, along with points for staying clean and dry for a certain amount of time. Our second daughter hated cleaning up her messes. She was the easiest to train. She also much preferred the feeling of underwear to diapers, and was especially sensitive to feeling wet and dirty. Our third? Right now what seems to work is a verbal cue that “princesses always use the toilet”, with the additional bonus of a chocolate coin when she uses the toilet appropriately. She wants to be a princess, and something about the chocolate coins really works with her. We tried marshmallows and mini oreos, but they didn’t have the same effect. Right now, I need to be brave and plan mini outings with her only in underwear, so she can be ready when we are traveling about. With a baby in tow, I feel a bit chicken about taking this step. The more children you have with you, the more difficult it can be to respond quickly to a toilet emergency. However, if I don’t and she is not ready when we start our travels, she most likely will regress back to using pull-ups all the time, and then not caring about using the toilet at all. Coming back from a major regression can be more difficult than the initial training phase. With all that said, I like to think of toilet training as a multi-step process. Everyone has their own way of going about it. And there are lots of resources to help when you decide to take the plunge. This is what I personally have found to be helpful.
- Preparation. Before you even begin to set your child upon a toilet for the first time, it is helpful to give them an idea of what it is all about. Let them view you or older siblings using the toilet, with a verbal explanation of what is happening, before you ask them to do anything. I do like to say something like, “You are getting so big! Soon you will learn to use the toilet, too, just like so-and-so.” I incorporate stories about using the toilet into our reading time. The two books I use are “The Potty Book for Girls” and “My Big Girl Potty”. I find them useful to reference when actually beginning the training. I also like to set out little toilets in the bathrooms so that they are not such a surprise and mystery when it is time to actually use them.
- There are many different methods for the actual “potty training” process. My advice is to research different methods, and then pick one and stick with. Make your expectations clear from the beginning. Try to remain calm. Positive reinforcement is much more helpful to the process than negative repercussions. Breathe. Remember it is difficult for the little ones, and expect it to take much longer than you expect. I have heard tales of children who go from untrained to no accidents in a single day. They are like mythical stories about unicorns. I hope to see one someday. I hope you see one someday, too.
- Stay vigilant and keep going. Never assume that they are “done” needing your help, especially when traveling. We have a rule while traveling that everyone has to try the toilet when anyone needs to use it. It cuts down on the number of bathroom trips, and the number of emergency bathroom trips.
When we are actually traveling with a recently toilet trained child, I’ve discovered that having several items with you makes it less of a hassle. Preparation, if just for your sanity’s sake, is essential to enjoying your trip.
- Always have at least a change of underwear and a plastic bag.
- Use pull-ups at night, even if your child is a potty star. Especially when there is a major time difference, little bodies don’t adjust quickly to an opposite schedule.
- Be aware that if you are traveling to a different climate, this will affect the frequency of when they need to go. For example, if traveling from a cool and humid temperate climate to a hot, dry desert, they will need the toilet less frequently.
- My new go to piece of traveling equipment, waterproof underwear. Even when my child is doing a great job of using the toilet when they need to, the waterproof underwear lessens my stress level. Sure, they might have an accident and have wet underwear, but they won’t be leaving a puddle behind at the Natural History Museum.
What tips do you have for traveling with a toilet training toddler? Good luck everyone (including me)! Happy summer traveling!