How to Potty Train and Maintain Your Routine

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When you start potty training, you might wonder how to still have your toddler take naps and play independently. This post outlines how. 

Girl sitting on the potty

As many parents begin the potty training process, they come to realize that certain things in the daily routine are quite difficult while potty training.

I think the biggest concern is over independent playtime (room time). The second biggest concern would be nap time.

This post outlines several options for making this potty training process easier on everyone while being able to maintain your routine. This post is in no way exhaustive. By that, I mean that this post has some ideas for you, but there are surely other ideas out there.

These ideas may or may not work for you. Take these ideas and modify them for your family and your situation. These ideas can get your imagination rolling and help you think of a great solution for your child.

USE DIAPERS FOR SLEEPING

Potty training can really mess up sleep. Your cute little toddler might ask to go potty over and over (and over) again during nap time and end up not sleeping at all. She might ask to go potty 20 times after you put her to bed. This can get exhausting for everyone.

A great way to preserve naps or night sleep for your child while potty training is to simply use diapers during nap or bedtime. I did this with my kids when first potty training. You can put your child in diapers or pull-ups for sleeping.


Read: Potty Training Using the “Oh Crap!” Method


A child can be daytime trained before nighttime/sleeping trained. Remember to think of potty training as a learning process, not a learning event–just like learning to walk. It doesn’t all have to happen at once.

As you get your child up and find the diaper clean and dry, you can switch him over to underwear. Brayden moved to underwear during naps within a week of starting potty training (age three), while Kaitlyn took a little over a month. I find the older the child is when potty training, the faster they tend to move out of diapers for sleep.

Kaitlyn sometimes woke from naps clean and dry, sometimes not. She never was consistent and I eventually just decided to give it a go. We had a few days with accidents and then no more accidents!

Another option is to use underwear or training pants in conjunction with the plastic cover like often used in cloth diapering.


Read: How to Stop Your Toddler from Pooping at Nap Time


TAKE A FEW DAYS OFF FROM ACTIVITIES

When you are first potty training, you can take some time off of certain activities in your routine to make things easier.

I did this with Kaitlyn. Our first day of official potty training, we didn’t do independent playtime. We just spent the day together with her by my side (except for sleeping).

At first, I expected her to be able to hold it as long as Brayden. I didn’t consciously have that thought; I just realized after a couple of accidents that I was doing that. So I had her use the potty every thirty minutes. After a couple of days, she was able to hold it longer as she got used to not wearing a diaper.

We did spend the day together again for the next couple of days. After that, she was able to hold it longer and I was more aware of her individual potty needs and the times of day she really needed to use the potty to avoid accidents. We then went back to our normal routine.

How to potty train and maintain a routine

KEEP POTTY BY CHILD

I like to use a small potty chair when potty training although we will also sit on a big potty randomly. I like the small potty chair because:

  1. We can take it with us on road trips/vacations (like camping).
  2. We can haul it around the house with us so the potty is never far away.
  3. The child can get off and on by themselves.

While my child is first learning to use the potty, I like to carry the potty chair with us around the house. I put it on a towel so drips and spills land on that and not the floor (this is a necessity with a boy and a nicety with a girl).

A lot of times when they are first learning, when they realize they need to use the potty, they need it immediately. That is why it is nice to have it close by at all times.

With Brayden, I put the potty chair in independent playtime with him. He would use the potty, then come tell me and we would clean it out. We did this during the initial learning phase, then we graduated to just having him come out to use the potty when needed. This is a great way to maintain independent playtime in your daily schedule while first potty training if your child can handle having the potty in there.


Read: Potty Training and Accidents


USE POTTY AT REGULAR TIMES

I have my children use the potty at regular times of day whether they “need” to or not.

When the child is young and first potty training, I have her go to the potty at regular times. As they get better about recognizing when to go, I cut back on required times. Here are some sample required times.

  1. In the morning (I will note that for us, in the morning is before bath. It is a good idea to have your child go potty before bath no matter what time of day it is at)
  2. After bath
  3. Before independent playtime
  4. After each meal (eating fires up the digestive tract, so it is a normal time to need to use the bathroom)
  5. Before nap (after lunch and before nap is the same time)
  6. After nap
  7. Before bed
  8. Any time we leave the house

As the child gets older, she can recognize the urge to go potty and won’t need to be required to go so often. Even once the child can regulate themselves well, I still have four times of day he must use the potty:

  1. In the morning when first getting up
  2. Before independent playtime
  3. Before rest time or nap time
  4. Before bed

Kids will use the potty at other times of day as needed. I like to have set times so they can avoid emergencies (and avoid accidents) and also to avoid having the child come out of the activity asking to go potty.

You can see that as they get older, I hand more control over to the child. I will ask the child if he needs to use the bathroom before we go somewhere.

We never have had issues with our kids needing to go in the car or in stores. If they were that way, I would require they use the bathroom before we left rather than simply asking. Sometimes they go, sometimes they don’t.


Read: 5 Things To Do Before You Start Potty Training


LEAVE DOOR OPEN DURING INDEPENDENT PLAYTIME

For Kaitlyn, rather than leaving the potty in the room with her, I left the door open during independent playtime. We had recently moved, so the bathroom was right next to the room where we did independent playtime. In our old house, it was down the hall and around the corner. Since the bathroom was right there, I preferred to leave the potty in the bathroom.

I tried having her come out and tell me when she needed to go while leaving the door closed, but for some reason, with the door closed, she wouldn’t come out (even though she is able to open it just fine). With the door open, she came out, used the bathroom, then told me she had used it.

She was good about staying in the room with the door open, so be sure you have that level of obedience before trying this.

Another option is to use diapers during independent playtime.

What to do about naps when you are potty training pinnable image

EXPECT TESTING OF BOUNDARIES

Potty training hands a measure of control over to your child. If you want your child to wear underwear during independent playtime, then you have to allow your child the freedom to come out and use the bathroom if needed.

Many children will test the boundaries of this new freedom. Don’t get angry and don’t stress out that all of the previous obedience training in your child’s life to this point is now being washed away. It is totally normal for children to test boundaries. Just patiently help your child learn appropriate use of this new freedom. You will eventually get there.

When Brayden first started wearing underwear for naps, I just expected that he would come out of nap time to use the bathroom if needed. One day I went to wake him up and found he had an accident. He was asleep when I went in and I felt terrible that he had slept in his accident! I talked to him and told him if he needed to use the bathroom during nap, he could come out and use the potty. His eyes literally got big.

He spent several days trying this new privilege out. There were a couple of days he literally came out every 15 minutes to “use the potty.” We worked through it and he was soon using the privilege responsibly.

The level of boundary testing will depend on your child. Brayden was by nature much more of a boundary tester than Kaitlyn, so he really tested it, while Kaitlyn never did.

CONCLUSION

Potty training has a tendency to stress parents out. Try to just relax and take things as they come. I was much more relaxed about it as I had more kids. Remember your goals and tailor the process to your family’s needs.

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