Is your child ready to make the jump out of diapers? Congrats! Now it's time for the big purchase: the potty. We've broken down the important decisions and key features to consider when you look for the perfect potty for your child and your bathroom. If she's interested, take your toddler along on the shopping trip. If not, take your tot's measurements before you head to the store. Here are some things to keep in mind.
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There are two main types of potties: a stand-alone potty and a seat reducer. When looking for a stand-alone potty, consider three important features: safety, size, and simplicity. "The potty chair must be stable, your toddler's bottom must fit comfortably on the seat, and the potty should be simple to use and easy to clean," says Teri Crane, the "Potty Pro" and author of Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day. A stand-alone potty has a number of benefits for your tot. It's kid-size, so your child can get on and off by himself, and during extended periods of trying to go, particularly for number two, your toddler won't be monopolizing the toilet (this is especially important to consider for one-bathroom households). Plus, keeping the regular toilet free will let you or an older sibling demonstrate bathroom skills at the same time the younger child is potty training.
Seat reducers, which go on a traditional toilet seat and reduce the ring to a comfortable, kid-friendly size, also have specific benefits. They're less expensive than a stand-alone potty and take up less floor space. Your child gets used to the regular potty, which prevents another transition from stand-alone potty to adult potty, and there is even less mess (if anything) to clean after use. Plus, seat reducers can be a good fit for kids who like to copy. "[They] can be a great motivator for kids who like to mimic their older siblings, cousins, or friends," says Heather Wittenberg, Psy.D, a Parents advisor and author of Let's Get This Potty Started! The BabyShrink's Guide to Potty Training. But keep in mind that if you choose a seat reducer, you may need to invest in a stool; it will help your child get up on the potty and provide adequate foot support when a child is expelling pee or poop.
Most stand-alone potties and seat reducers also come with handles, which can help your child feel more secure. They give kids something to hold on to, which helps them push. With seat reducers, handles provide an easy way to pick up the seat and put it away or hang it for storage. If you're still not sure what your child will prefer, choose a multitasking potty that can perform various roles and save space. Many stand-alone potties have removable seats that can be used as a seat reducer and closed lids that can double as stools.
Potties come in a variety of heights and rim sizes, so it's important to choose one with a good fit. "Size matters. If your toddler's bottom is draping over the seat or barely covering the inside rim, she'll probably feel uncomfortable, anxious, or both," Crane says. The right size seat will let your child's bottom rest comfortably and solidly on the seat, with her feet firmly on the floor or stool.
If you're potty training a boy, you can cut down on post-potty cleanup by selecting a seat with a splash guard. Choose one that is high enough to help keep the pee in the potty but isn't so tall that it will be tricky for your tot to sit down on the potty by himself.
Potties are available with a variety of themes, lights, songs, and sound effects, but are they worth it? For some, this may increase your child's interest, especially if your child was the one to pick out the race car flushing noise or the magical wand reward song potty. But it's certainly not a necessity, says David Hill, M.D., author of Dad to Dad: Parenting Like a Pro. "More than any light show, sticker, or piece of candy, the thing that delights your child the most is your praise. So be prepared to clap your hands, give a big hug, or do a special dance to celebrate your child's success, and skip the electronics."
If you choose a stand-alone potty, you'll have more dirty work to do. Check the box's exterior or online product reviews to see how many steps are required to empty and clean the pot. Some are a simple one- or two-step process; others require that you disassemble half the potty -- every single time.