Thursday, 18 July 2013

The Potty Diaries

First, a health warning ... this post is only really intended for parents out there who might be thinking about potty training. If you have no interest in the minutiae of sticker charts, tiny underpants and messy accidents, stop reading now. 

Secondly, another health warning ... for any one out there who is actually interested in all this stuff, I have written up what we tried over the last three weeks in case it is of any use (a few friends were asking what we did so I thought it was easier to type it all out). I am not some kind of nutty potty training professor. This is just what we tried with our one child and how it worked out. If it's helpful, that's great. If not, please ignore.

Before we went cold turkey:     

 Potty Stories: We bought B his potty and placed it in the bathroom, then every night before his bath we read him a story of his choice whilst he sat on the potty. We did this for a couple of months prior to starting potty training. He never did anything in his potty whilst we did this, but it got him used to sitting on it as a positive thing, and also helped him learn how to wiggle himself backwards onto it.

Pirate Pete: We bought Pirate Pete’s Potty Book and read this numerous times in the week leading up to potty training, explaining that soon B would be Pirate B and learn to use the potty like Pete.

Big Boy Pants: I took B on a special shopping trip to let him choose new big boy pants, and made a really big deal of this.

A Return to Reusables: Having used reusable nappies for the first 13 months of B's life, we gave up on them when teething was leading to too much red raw nappy rash. But they came out of storage for the last month or so before potty training to get B used to the feeling of being wet.

What we bought/prepped for Potty Training:
  • A potty – we got the Ikea Lockig which was a bargain (£6) and has a good high back and a removable inner. This now lives in the upstairs bathroom.
  • A toilet training seat – which we introduced to B after the first week of potty training. This now lives in the downstairs loo and also comes out and about with us so that B can use public toilets without the fear of falling in!
  •  Chocolate Buttons
  • Stickers – Thomas the Tank, Cars, dinosaurs, spacemen.
  • Sticker chart – my sister created a train themed one which could be stuck to the wall in multiples of 5 blocks (we started with 5, then moved up to 10, 15 then 20).
  •  Little rewards for completing sections of the chart. I wrapped up things like pots of bubbles, lots of books I’d bought and saved from charity shops, a new DVD to watch together as a treat, and a couple of little Brio railway things I’d got on the cheap at TK Maxx.
  • A lap top with Cbeebies and the Sesame Street channel (check out the video below of Elmo and his Dad singing about using the potty).
  • A bucket of soapy water plus sponge – we had this on hand for the first three days to dump soiled clothes in and to clean up any accidents.
  • Big boy underpants – we bought two packs of these in the end so have about 12 pairs which feels a good number to cover accidents and have spares in different places.
  • Pull up nappies for during the night time.

When to start?
We planned ahead and found a chunk in our diary where we knew that neither of us were away or had too many other commitments. For us, with freelancing, this was a week long spot where we were both just working from home all day every day, so therefore taking it in turns to look after B whilst the other one worked. The first two or three days are really intense so we’d recommend doing it as a joint effort – starting off doing it alone would be really full on and hard work, and I think B loved having such a lot of attention that it helped with his success rate.

We were also really lucky with the weather turning so lovely on day 4, although there was something quite nice about the focus of just all sitting in the living room on the first couple of days too.

The Potty Diaries
Day 1
When B awoke, we took his nappy off and explained that he would need to use the potty all day and he’d only now be wearing nappies at night. We showed him his sticker chart and stickers, and explained that every time he did something in his potty he would get a sticker and some chocolate buttons. We left his bottom half naked all day. The three of us then pretty much locked ourselves in the living room. We set our phone alarms to go off every 15mins or so, and when the alarm went off we shouted “Quick, quick on potty” and then put Sesame Street on or read B a book so that he sat there for a minute or two. He resisted this a little to begin with but got into the rhythm of it by mid morning. To our amazement, when he finally did do a wee about three hours after this all started, he just went and sat on the potty of his own accord which blew our socks off.

On day one, he had a couple of accidents around dinner time whilst distracted in the garden but managed about 6 successes.

Day 2
More of the same, but he’d got bored of the alarm going off so we just said he needed to tell us when he wanted to get onto the potty, which he did.

In the late afternoon/evening, we put his underpants on for the first time and this resulted in an accident or two before he started to get that they were different to wearing a nappy.

Day 3
More of the same, this time with underpants and trousers on. A couple more accidents occurred as a result of confusion with layers around his bottom. Also, this was the first day any poo appeared during the day – the first two times were accidents, but by the third time he was happily going on his potty.

Day 4
By now, we felt pretty on top of things inside the house so it was now time to head out. For our first trip, we went to a local park and played near to the public loos. I was on tenterhooks for the entire two hour outing and B did nothing, waiting until he got home!

Day 5
Visited a friend’s house to play, and after a couple of reminders, B used his friend’s potty. This was the first day we didn’t pop a nappy on for his nap – he had an accident just as he woke up, but this seemed to be a useful accident as he hasn’t had one during a daytime nap since.

Day 6
By now there were barely any accidents so we decided to bring out the toilet training seat and get B used to sitting on the toilet.

Weeks 2 & 3
In weeks two and three, B only had one accident in the whole lot, and also managed to stay accident free in two 300mile drives. He lost interest in the chocolate buttons after a couple of days, and lost interest in the sticker chart by the end of the third week.

Week 4
Suddenly in week four, seemingly when he had got bored with the potty game and we had stopped giving him so much praise and attention, we suddenly had a major regression. For five or six days it was accidents a-go-go. More than he'd ever had before, sometimes five in a day, and lots of little dribbles in his pants before making it to the loo. We also found ourselves picking up poo from the floors of shops where the offending articles had rolled out of the bottom of shorts! After such a great start, it felt very frustrating but we tried our best not to communicate this frustration with him. By the end of the week, we felt we'd worked out what we could change to get things back on track.

  • We stopped him wearing nappies even in the night time so there was no confusion for him. This was a decision led by him (he refused us putting a nappy on him at bedtime and that was that) and really reinforced for him how much we trusted him as a grown up boy.
  • Having been using the training seat for a couple of weeks, we went back to using the potty for the majority of occasions and having this follow him around the house again. He seems to currently prefer the potty to the toilet, I think because he feels more secure and in control on it.
  • We had a few sessions of no clothes on his bottom half again, like we had done in the early days. This gave him the autonomy toddlers love to be able to take responsibility and go by himself.
Week 5 and Beyond
As with all tricky stages, we repeated the mantra 'this too shall pass' and indeed it did (although I'm sure we'll face more moments of regression in the future). B's back to being a potty trained hero and we now need to practice getting him to push down and pull up his pants by himself.

If you are planning to potty train your little one soon, best of luck. I had thought it was going to be a nightmare and it turned out much better than I'd hoped. So fingers crossed it's the same for you x