A potty training checklist for the science-minded parent
Potty training is easier when parents plan ahead.
Here’s a potty training checklist of things to do before you begin.
• Consider your child's age
There is no one right age for potty training. But different ages require different approaches. For help, see this article on the advantages and disadvantages associated with each
potty training age
It will help you set realistic expectations for what you and your child can achieve.
Worried that your child is too young? See this review of what
scientific studies say about the timing of toilet training.
• Help your child prepare for potty training
If you haven't already, review these
guidelines for preparing your child.
• Decide which technique(s) are right for your child
These may vary depending on the age and temperament of your child. For help, see this
guide to the most popular potty training techniques.
You might also want to look at these
guidelines for determining if your child is ready for potty training.
Once you've decided on your basic approach, consider these other items on the potty training checklist.
• Buy easy-to-remove clothing
Training will be easier if your child has clothing she can pull down herself. When your child is ready for underpants, make sure they are loose enough for your child to handle on her own.
• Decide which adult(s) will be involved
If multiple adults will participate in training, make sure everybody uses the same methods and reviews your potty training checklist.
Also, be sure to communicate about your child's successes or failures during the day. With multiple trainers, it can be easy to lose track of your child’s habits. For instance, you might miss the fact that your child hasn’t had a bowel movement for a long time.
• Play it safe
Make the training process safer and easier by following this
potty training checklist for preventing problems.
• Shop for one or more potty chair(s)
As I note in my health and safety tips, children need stability and leverage when they sit. If their feet are left dangling, kids have more trouble controlling their voiding muscles (Christophersen 1991--see health and safety tips for full citation). For this reason, it's best to start training with a kid-size potty chair (rather than having kids sit on the toilet).
When selecting a potty chair, look for one that is easy to move and easy to clean. In my experience, the simplest designs (cast from a single piece of plastic--no moving parts) work the best. Avoid splash guards (boys can hurt themselves on splash guards when they attempt to sit down).
• Find good locations for your potty chair(s)
The bathroom is an obvious place. But it can be helpful to keep the potty in the same place where your child plays. Ideally, you want to keep the potty within view (and easy access) at all times. Unless you live in a small space, consider getting more than one potty.
• Plan for trips away from home
What will happen during car trips? Shopping? Visits with friends or family? A portable potty chair can make traveling easier.
• Find potty-time activities
Kids can get bored sitting on potty chairs, so be ready to supply entertainment. Play games, read books, and provide toys within reach of the potty.
• Consider incentives
It's important to praise your child for cooperating in the training process. But when progress gets stalled, some parents find it helpful to introduce a formal reward system-—like awarding a sticker for each successful voiding in the potty.
• Be prepared for setbacks
Try to keep a sense of humor, and don't expect fast results. Whether you take a gradual, child-oriented approach to potty training, or opt for Azrin and Foxx's "Potty training in less than a day"
(techniques reviewed here),
it takes time for kids to achieve full toileting independence.
If you found this potty training checklist helpful, check out
for more information.
Last modified 5/2008