10 toddler toilet learning essentials

Many parents feel daunted by the prospect of teaching their child to use the potty or toilet. Life is already chaotic with a toddler, so it can seem like one more thing to squeeze into the day, and perhaps something else to have power struggles over. It also means adding a lot more laundry to the basket that you can’t even remember if you’ve ever seen the bottom of since becoming a parent. The mess, the accidents, the battles, the public toilet visits when you go out (where little kids seem to want to touch every surface!)…it’s all too much, right?

It doesn’t have to be so overwhelming and frustrating if you’re prepared for every situation, and if you follow the child-led approach, otherwise known as toilet learning. Read our post Toilet learning: a practical guide to learn about the benefits, recognise how to tell if your child is ready, and how to go about it.

10 toddler toilet learning essentials

Now, we’ll look at the must-haves for toilet learning in order to support and set your toddler up for success, and to make life a whole lot easier for you. You’ll notice that there are no rewards or bribes. Toilet learning, as opposed to adult-led toilet training, is a natural process that is individual to each child, and with the right support, will happen when a child is developmentally ready.

1. Toilet learning books

Before you even get started, you can introduce the idea through stories. This allows your toddler to find out what the toilet is for, bringing some familiarity to the whole process. Head to your nearest library or bookshop for some toileting books that you think will appeal to your individual child.

2. Cloth/disposable training pants

Once you’ve started the conversation about using the potty or toilet, and your child shows signs of readiness, it’s fine to use cloth or disposable nappy pants for awhile. This will also help you to relax when you’re out and about or in the car. To begin with, they will need to practice pulling them up and down, which is an important step to accomplish. Compared with disposable, cloth has the added benefit of your child immediately experiencing the sensation of being wet.

3. Underwear

Go underwear shopping with your little one, and let them choose the design (even if you don’t like their choice!). You want it to be a fun and positive experience, as well as something in which your child feels a sense of contol over. Stock up on several packets so you never run short. When you’re just at home, you could leave your child in underwear and pants that are easy to pull down, but if they still prefer training pants for now, that’s okay too. The key is to keep calm and not put any pressure on them.

4. Potty

Your child might feel more comfortable starting off with a potty rather than the toilet. It’s a great idea just to let them play with it at first. Potty play could be as simple as letting your toddler sit on it with their clothes on or off, or sitting teddies or dolls on it (fun sound effects and laughter is recommended), pretend to wipe their bottom with toilet paper afterwards, and to wash their hands. Have a potty in each bathroom if possible, with a bath mat under them to keep them from slipping and to soak up any messes.

5. Toilet seat with or without steps

To help your toddler feel secure and gain more confidence in using the toilet, you could use a combined toilet seat and step stool. These are great because they’re fun to climb, the child-sized seat can help with any anxiety about falling in, and your child can practice going on their own. You know toddlers love being able to achieve something independently! Otherwise, if your child can get onto the toilet easily, you could provide them with a comfortable padded toilet seat without steps.

6. Waterproof sheet protector

Nighttime toilet learning can take longer than daytime, so relax about nights for now. However, if your child is asking to wear underwear to bed, and you have the patience to potentially change your child’s pyjamas in the middle of the night, give it a go. Just make sure that you use a waterproof sheet protector, and have a couple spare while the others are in the wash. Sheet protectors are excellent because they go over the sheet, meaning you won’t have to strip the bottom sheet, and the mattress is protected.

7. Step stool

Your toddler may already be in the habit of washing their hands, but if not, you’ll need something that your toddler can stand on to reach the basin. Make handwashing part of the routine, and keep it fun. You might like to sing a hand-washing song with them, and they could have their own ‘special’ soap and towel.

8. Portable potty with liners

Particularly in the early stages, or if your little one prefers the potty, you won’t want to leave home without a portable potty with disposable liners. These are perfect to keep in the car, so you can pull over for an emergency roadside stop, or use it in the playground when there are no nearby toilets. Get yourself the portable potty that also converts to a toilet seat to cover both bases.

9. Portable toilet seat

Once your toddler feels comfortable using an adult toilet, pack a portable toilet seat into a washable carry bag when you head out. They’re padded so they’re more comfortable for little bottoms, and much more hygienic than sitting your little one directly onto a public toilet seat.

10. Wet/dry bag

Your nappy bag is going to look a little different now that you’re on the toilet learning path. Pack a bag filled with plenty of dry outfits, and even a change of shoes or two. Then, ensure you have a zip-up waterproof bag for the soiled clothing. Don’t forget the baby wipes, hand sanitiser, some waterproof pads for the car seat or pram, and your portable potty or toilet seat.


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