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As many parents begin the potty training process, they come to realize that certain things in the daily routine are difficult while potty training. I think the biggest concern is over independent playtime (room time). Second would be nap time. This post outlines several options for making this process easier on everyone. This post is in no way exhaustive. By that, I mean that this post has some ideas for you. They 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.
USE DIAPERS FOR SLEEPING
I did this with both Brayden and Kaitlyn when first potty training. You can put your child in diapers or pull-ups for sleeping. 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.
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 is over a month in for official potty training and still wears diapers during naps and sleeping. She sometimes wakes from naps clean and dry, sometimes not. She isn’t consistent enough to be ready to move away from diapers yet (at least for me).
Another option is to use underwear or training pants in conjunction with the plastic cover like often used in cloth diapering.
TAKE A FEW DAYS OFF
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.
KEEP POTTY BY CHILD
I like to use a small potty chair (although we will also sit on a big potty randomly). I like the small potty chair because:
- We can take it with us on road trips/vacations (like camping).
- We can haul it around the house with us so the potty is never far away.
- 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.
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.
USE POTTY AT REGULAR TIMES
I have my children use the potty at regular times of day whether they “need” to or not. Brayden (4.5) is old enough to regulate himself well, but I still have three times of day he must use the potty:
- In the morning
- Before rest time (previously known as nap time 😉 )
- Before bed
He will use the potty at other times of day, but he does it as needed. I have him go before sleeping so he doesn’t need to get up during the sleep time.
Kaitlyn also has regular times, but I have her go more often than Brayden. As she has gotten better about recognizing when to go, I have cut back on required times. Here are her current required times at 2.5:
- 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)
- After bath
- Before independent playtime
- After each meal (eating fires up the digestive tract, so it is a normal time to need to use the bathroom)
- Before nap (after lunch and before nap is the same time)
- After nap
- Before bed
- Any time we leave the house
You can see that as they get older, I hand more control over to the child. I will ask Brayden if he needs to use the bathroom before we go somewhere. We never have had issues with him about needing to go in the car or in stores. If he was that way, I would require he use the bathroom before we left rather than simply asking. Sometimes he goes, sometimes he doesn’t.
LEAVE DOOR OPEN DURING INDEPENDENT PLAYTIME
For Kaitlyn, rather than leaving the potty in the room with her, I leave the door open. We recently moved, so now the bathroom is right next to the room where we do independent playtime. In our old house, it was down the hall and around the corner. Since the bathroom is right there, I prefer 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 comes out, uses the bathroom, then comes and tells me. She is 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.
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 is by nature much more of a boundary tester than Kaitlyn, so he really tested it, while Kaitlyn has yet to (though I am sure now that I typed that she will start next week 😉 ).
Potty training has a tendency to stress parents out. Try to just relax and take things as they come. I am much more relaxed with Kaitlyn than I was Brayden, and potty training is no longer something I dread. Remember your goals and tailor the process to your family’s needs.
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