Goodbye Diapers, Hello Underwear: Ideas for Successful Toilet Learning

Preschool boy smiling

Toilet learning doesn't have to be a struggle. Bright Horizons early childhood development experts share tips for how parents can prepare and guide children towards toilet learning success.

If your child is ready to learn how to use the toilet, you also want to determine if you are ready to take on this sometimes daunting task.

Here are some pledges you can commit to yourself before getting started:

  • I am prepared with paper towels and cleaning products when my child, house, furniture, and clothes need to be cleaned after an accident.
  • I will set aside a couple of days to start the process. A weekend is a good time to start for working parents. Don’t forget to talk to your child’s caregiver about your plan to start toilet learning with your child.
  • I will be patient.
  • I understand that my child will be toilet learned and that “when” is not a direct correlation to her future success in life.
  • I am willing to wash unlimited amounts of laundry.

What Do You Need to Get Started?

As with everything we do with our childrenfeeding, sleeping, and toilet learningthere are lots of products designed to help make it easier. You can decide which of these products you would like to use. You might want to consider a potty chair that sits on the floor. Children seem to have a greater sense of security without the giant steps up and flushing water below. We already give children little spoons, little beds, little cups, and little books. Little potties just make sense.

How Do You Encourage and Praise My Child?

Nurturing, positive, and patient parents foster learning success in any learning situation and this is especially true with toilet learning. Accidents will happen. And often it feels like they happen and happen and happen. Some children have lots of accidents and others only a few, which is not developmentally significant. Try considering each accident a near-success.

Shopping for Underwear

When your child is ready to start toilet learning, make a special date with your child to go shopping for underwear. Let your child pick the type of underwear and then treat her to ice cream. It’s her special potty day.

Personalized Potty Chair

Put your child’s name on his potty chair. Children love personalized things and a chair of his own will really make him feel special. Put a clean, disinfected potty chair in the playroom and let your child experiment and play with it just like any other toy. At first he’ll find that it’s a great place to collect Legos and eventually all the stuffed animals will be lined up "to go."

Musical Potty Chair

Place a clean potty chair in your child’s play space and turn on the music. Tell your child to sit on the potty every time the music stops. Your child will love this game and it’s a great activity for children who are just getting used to the potty chair.

Books and Reading

Keep a basket of books in the bathroom. Your child will have so much fun reading she might forget she’s sitting on the potty.

Potty Picture Book

Make a Potty Picture Book of photographs you cut from old magazines. You and your child can pick pictures of potty chairs, pull-ups, toilet paper, wipes, underwear, and diapers. Parenting magazines are great to use. Then read it with your child and name the pictures and talk about what is happening.

Potty Talk

Potty talk and bathroom humor is not something you outgrow, but just learn to control. If your child likes to make others laugh by using potty talk, help him make up some silly words or phrases to use instead.

Potty Time

Create a toileting routine. Make “potty time” part of your everyday schedule, just like brushing teeth or getting ready for a nap. When you find that your child’s diaper is dry after a nap, start the routine of heading to the potty as soon as your child wakes up. Your child will have a better chance of success because he probably needs to go.

Sticker Fun

Giving a child a reward for going to the potty works well for some children. Try keeping a sticker chart. Let your child add a sticker every time she goes to the potty. When the stickers add up, treat your child to some special time with you.

Written by: Bright Horizons Education Team

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