If you've decided to start potty training, there is one item that is important to success: "Patience!" says Parents advisor David Hill, M.D., a pediatrician in Wilmington, North Carolina, and author of Dad to Dad: Parenting Like a Pro. Once you've stocked up on that, we have the rest of your basics for successful potty training.
"One of the secrets to potty training success is making sure you have all the essential equipment and supplies before you begin," advises "Potty Pro" Teri Crane, author of Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day. Start with these necessities to prepare for and build your child's interest in potty training.
Potty Chair: Stand-alone potties are the perfect size for little learners and are available in a variety of colors and familiar cartoon characters. A kid-size potty will be easier for your tot to use and less intimidating than a traditional toilet, and it can be moved around the house if needed.
Seat Reducer: Smaller and less expensive than a potty chair, a seat reducer (or potty seat) sits on top of a traditional toilet seat and reduces it to a child-friendly size. Most have colorful designs and a padded cushion for added comfort. Using a seat reducer for potty training will occupy one of your toilets, a potential problem if you want to leave it there and you're a one-toilet household, but most seat reducers have handles for easy removal and storage.
Stool: A small plastic or wooden stool will help your child get up onto a seat reducer and sit on the toilet. It will also give your child a sense of safety and stability, and can help get her in the right position for using the bathroom. A stool is also handy for boosting kids up to the sink and faucet level to wash their hands. Some potty chairs convert into or can be used as a stool to cut down on clutter in the bathroom.
Toilet Paper/Flushable Wipes: Toilet paper is already standard in your loo, but pick up a pack or two of flushable wipes, which are similar to baby wipes but disintegrate more easily and are safer for plumbing. These wet wipes are softer than toilet tissue and more familiar to your child, and they make cleanup faster. Just be sure they are compatible with your plumbing.
Kid-Friendly Hand Soap: Potty training involves teaching good hygiene, so choose (or have your child help pick out) a hand soap that will encourage post-potty hand washing. Instead of regular bar or liquid soap, consider stocking up on foaming soap. "Toddlers love the bubbles, and there are easy, inexpensive recipes online to make your own once you have the pump dispenser," says Heather Wittenberg, Psy.D, a Parents advisor and author of Let's Get This Potty Started! The BabyShrink's Guide to Potty Training.
Choosing a potty is certainly important, but so is outfitting your little potty trainer for the task. From motivational undies to easily removable pants, here are the items you need for your potty training tot.
Awesome Undies: Cool potty training pants and big-kid underwear can be a key motivator in helping your child move beyond diapers; being excited is an key component to successful potty training. Consider taking your potty trainer to the store with you to pick out his first pack featuring different colors, patterns, characters, and themes.
Easy On-and-Off Pants: During those first few days, weeks, and months of potty training, ditch the rompers, overalls, and button-up pants for easy on-off pants and shorts with elastic waists. Avoid pants with drawstrings or zippers because they will need to be untied and unzipped. Your child will still be learning the sensation of needing to go, so you don't want to waste any time with tricky clothes; you'll want to be able to get the pants off in the shortest time possible, by either you or your child. The goal is to train your child to be self-sufficient enough to take off her pants to use the bathroom, so choose a style that ill be simple enough for her to manage.
Training Underpants: Potty training pants come in both disposable and reusable/washable styles and are designed to let your child feel wetness (unlike a diaper). This way, he knows when he's gone potty but the wetness is contained so it doesn't soak through clothes. For some families, training pants are a necessary middle step in the potty training process; for others, they can be a crutch that prolongs the transition from diapers to underwear.
Progress Chart: Using the potty is a whole new habit for your child, and it can help if she can see, record, and be reminded of her progress. There are plenty of attractive potty training charts you can buy on Etsy.com or print for free on Pinterest, but a simple hand-drawn grid decorated by your child will work. The goal is to help her—and you—note all the successes being made.
"Nighttime potty training is a completely different animal than daytime training," Dr. Wittenberg says. "You might get 100 percent day training and zero percent night training -- for years. This has everything to do with anatomy and very little to do with parenting (or your child's efforts). It's physical and developmental." Here's what you'll need to make it through those long (and likely wet) nights.
Nighttime Potty Training Underpants: Regular training pants are often not absorbent enough to handle an 8- to-10-hour overnight stretch. Nighttime training underpants are more absorbent than their daytime counterparts and are available in both disposable and reusable/washable styles. They're a useful transition item as your child works on mastering daytime potty training because they can substitute for diapers.
Protective Mattress Cover: Sheets can be washed and accidents taken care of, but a soiled mattress is no easy cleanup task. Prevent this problem by purchasing a waterproof mattress cover; some are vinyl and some have a soft cotton top and a waterproof bottom layer. Mattress covers can fit securely over the corners like a fitted sheet or wrap around the center of the mattress like a saddle. Consider investing in at least two covers to have on hand for quickly dealing with nighttime accidents.
Extra Sheets: Stock up on two to three fitted sheets. Take a tip from experienced parents and make the bed with at least two layers of sheets and waterproof mattress protectors. This way, if there's an accident in the middle of the night, you can simply strip off the soiled sheet and protector top layer and tuck your tot back into bed with the dry bottom layer. Accidents happen, but you'll save yourself from middle-of-the-night bed remaking.
If you've got the basics down, check off this list of other items.
Cleaning Supplies: Prepare for accidents by making sure you have a well-stocked supply of paper towels or rags and disinfecting spray for the inevitable cleanups.
Potty Training Rewards: New habits may be helped along by giving a reward for accomplishments. There's no need to break the bank, though. Start small with stickers, kid-safe candy or all-natural fruit snacks, or another small treat for making potty progress. Brand-new potty trainers may need an incentive with every small victory (we're talking multiple times a day), but once your child has mastered the basics, set long-term goals (five days with no accidents, peeing in the potty 25 times, etc.) to reward with a prize.
Special Potty-Only Activities: If your child is having trouble understanding the basic idea of going potty, is afraid of the potty, is or struggling to spend adequate time on the toilet, there is a wide variety of potty training books, movies, and toys to help the potty process seem more normal and less scary. Set aside one or two books or toys your kid will love, or consider motivational books (that feature beloved characters potty training) and dolls (that go potty or sing silly songs about going number two). If you decide to hand over your smartphone or tablet to your toilet trainer (which is not recommended as a regular practice), be sure to have a kid-proof case and waterproof screen protector like the new iPotty, a stand-alone potty with a built-in iPad holder and screen protector. Be sure to follow media guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends no screen time for kids under 2 and limiting screen time to two hours a day for older kids.
Potty Watch/Timer: At the onset of potty training, you'll need to give your child frequent potty breaks, both to provide lots of practice opportunities and to prevent accidents. A potty watch or timer set at 20-minute intervals can deliver easy reminders to go to the toilet.
Toilet Targets: Many parents choose to start boys off in the sitting position, but if you decide to teach your son to urinate while standing, a specialty toilet target can be a handy tool. These go inside the potty to make sure a little boy aims for the toilet bowl and not the walls. You can also opt for a cheaper solution. "A simple scrap of toilet paper can provide an entertaining target when laid in the bottom of the potty for boys who may need some incentive to aim," Dr. Hill suggests.