The Costs of Potty Training

I’m proud to say that our youngest child is potty trained. He occasionally has an accident in the night time, but he hasn’t had a daytime accident in a long time. We’ve taken three children through this process and I felt it was worthwhile to share some thoughts on what products were actually necessary for potty training and which ones weren’t.

If you’re a parent of a young child, this article will be really useful for getting your kid through the toilet training process effectively and at a low price. If you don’t have a young child… this is probably one you can skip.

Here’s what we learned.

The first rule is the most important: every child is different. Some start earlier than others – our oldest child was actually the earliest to be potty trained because he’s always been strongly self-motivated, even as a one year old. When you put a challenge before him, he is insistent on conquering it. Our other children started later than him.

For us, we found that the right time to start was when they expressed interest on what was happening in the bathroom. We’d follow that with a bit of very simple talk about being able to tell when you needed to use the bathroom. We also went to the library and checked out a few children’s books on the topic, using them as bedtime reading. At this point, our children were really excited about using the bathroom.

If you find that they’re not interested or the process is really difficult, wait. Let your child mature for another month or two, then try again.

When you start, train your children on the toilet and don’t buy a special small potty. We purchased one of these for our oldest child, one that converted easily into a footstool. After the first month or two, he was primarily using it as a footstool. Our daughter barely used it. Our youngest son never did use it, as far as I can remember.

Each one of them did just fine learning how to use the toilet. A “special potty” isn’t really an effective use of money.

Of course, if you do this, they may have trouble reaching the toilet (depending on your child’s size). If that’s the case, a small stepping stool is a good choice. You may already have something that will work perfectly in your own home.

For us, the goal of potty training is to ensure that, over time, using the toilet is the “normal” way to do things and that the feeling of having an accident is not “normal” and in fact feels quite icky. Lots of little techniques help with this transition without the need for lots of bells and whistles.

One good tactic is to use a timer. For the first few weeks, we made an effort to have our child use the toilet every hour on the hour. They had to simply go through the motions and try. The goal here is to make the routine seem normal to them.

If you have a boy, put a bowl of Cheerios (or the generic equivalent) on the back of the toilet. Whenever a boy needs to use the potty, toss three or four Cheerios in there and ask him to aim at them. This turns the experience into a fun game that also teaches proper toilet usage.

We also used a sticker chart method. We printed off a simple game board with a lot of spaces and posted it on the bathroom wall. We also bought a cheap pack of stickers.

Whenever the child going through potty training used the bathroom successfully, that child got to put a sticker on one of the spaces on the game board. When the game board was filled, they got a special prize (usually an inexpensive toy in line with their interests). By the time we filled a board like this three times or so, the routine of going to the bathroom seemed normal to the child.

During potty training, I recommend using plain white underwear. Save the special character ones as a reward for after potty training is complete. Why? You can bleach the white ones without completely destroying the color (and the characters that the children like) – plus, they’re usually cheaper to buy in the first place.

What about pull-ups? We used cloth pull-ups (sometimes called training pants), which were basically underwear with extra padding on them, at first before we transitioned to regular underwear. Paper pull-ups are simply expensive – you’ll get a lot more value out of a few cloth pull-ups than out of boxes of paper ones.

These tactics worked with all of our children. We didn’t need a special potty. We didn’t need boxes of paper pull-ups. We didn’t need special “toilet targets.” We just needed time and attention and some tactics that worked well together.

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