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In almost every class I teach, I have one parent who asks me whether they can just teach their child to use the big toilet, and not use a floor potty. The reason behind the question varies; some parents fear that their child will become dependent on the little potty and not want to use the toilet, others are reluctant to have to clean-up the little potty and would rather everything go straight into the toilet bowl, some are minimalists who just want to reduce the number of "things" and might not see the point of this particular potty training accessory.
First I want to ask you...
IF having a little potty that sits on the floor, in the middle of your
living space (for a short time) were the determining factor in your
success or failure with potty training, would you get one?
The cost is minimal, $10 (second hand) to around $40. You can even just borrow one from a friend for free. I am not at all overreaching here... despite a little "extra" clean-up of the little potty after use, it will save you time, effort, and very likely money on diapers since potty training will go more smoothly be more likely to stick if you have a little potty. Let's break down the reasons why:
1) The little potty goes where you go. If you are starting potty training the way I teach it, you would start with a day of naked teaching. On this day, your child is naked from the waist down and you are waiting and watching for him or her to pee. Once they start to pee, you airlift your little one onto the nearest potty aiming to catch at least 1 drop of pee in the potty each time. This is the quickest way to teach your toddler how it feels to need to pee, what happens when you do, where pee goes, and how to get there. This method encourages independence too, as your child is learning from day 1 how to recognize when they need to pee, and not relying on a caregiver or a timer to tell them its time to go. So, using this approach, you need to have a potty close at hand at all times since you don't want to have to run down the hall or up the stairs to the bathroom with a peeing child in your arms! Playing in the living room? Bring the potty. Eating lunch in the kitchen? Bring the potty. Spending time in the back yard on a sunny day? Bring the potty.
2) Your child is easily able to mount the floor potty without assistance. Speaking of encouraging independence, a floor potty allows your child to get up onto it easily without assistance, unlike a toilet that requires a caregiver to lift the child up, a toilet seat reducer so that their little bum won't fall in, and/or a stool or steps that your child needs to climb up on. Any extra steps in the potty process (asking for help, putting the reducer on the toilet seat, or climbing precariously up onto the toilet for example) can make it less likely that a child will bother using the potty. Or, best case, they try to get there in time, but these extra barriers make it more likely that the pee accidentally lands in their pants or on the floor.
3) Let's talk about ergonomics... A floor potty is more comfortable for your child to sit on than the toilet. They are designed to fit a child's tiny bum and short stature. If you have heard of the Squatty Potty, a toilet stool designed to get you body into a better alignment for bowel movements, you may know that a deep squat position puts our colons into the best position to poop in, and that modern-day toilets actually make pooping more difficult.
When your toddler or preschooler is sitting on the big toilet, with their legs dangling, it makes elimination much more difficult on them. It might mean that they are straining more, or not fully emptying and these can create more accidents, and even reluctance to use the potty/or toilet for bowel movements. At the beginning of potty training you want everything to run as smoothly as possible (no pun intended), and the floor potty ensures a better, more ergonomic fit for your child, especially for pooping. You can also fit the potty to your child, so if you child is smaller, choose a potty that is smaller too! Colour, shape and fancy gizmo's are far less important than simply choosing the most comfortable option for your child. Once they are accustomed to pooping in the potty, by all means use the toilet too. But make sure to have, in addition to a comfortable toilet seat reducer, a nice high stool for your child to rest their feet on and to keep their knees elevated above hip level.
4) Pottying on-the-go, playgrounds, car trips and more... the title kind of says it all, sometimes you don't have a toilet to go on! So, rather than worry that your child will not want to use the toilet, I would worry that my child would never want to use the potty! Floor potties are designed to be portable, you don't have to get one that looks like a real toilet and is 3 feet high. There are plenty of small, portable potties that can be stashed under your stroller, strapped to the back of your bike or semi-permanently stored in the trunk of your car to make potty use convenient at any time and place.
5) Potties can serve multiple functions. This fact is alluded to above, but I'll take it a step further here. What if you could buy just 1 potty that would serve all the functions? It had to be the main floor potty at home, the toilet seat reducer, the travel potty and the car potty. Would you be surprised if I told you that such a thing exists! They are these incredible, sturdy travel potties that are multifunctional and in that way actually grow with your child. There are two different versions out there, the Potette Plus Travel Potty and the OXO Tot 2-in1 Go Potty. Some day I will dedicate a post just to comparing these two brands, but for now I will say that the main advantage of the Potette Plus is that it is possible to purchase a silicone liner for it so that you can use it as a floor potty indoors. The main disadvantage of the Potette is the "pee guard" is not very high. Both potties can be use with disposable liners or any container inserted underneath. The OXO seems to be a better fit on most toilets.
6) Keeping a floor potty in your child's room helps with night-time potty use too! Now, you're probably not quite ready to think about night-training, and that is perfectly fine. However, some day you will want your child to stop wetting their diapers at nighttime. At that time, you can take your floor potty out of storage, and make a little potty station in the bedroom. Place a folded towel or foam mat on the floor with the potty on it. If your child is still in a crib, it makes taking them to pee during the night a breeze! And, when your child graduates to a big-kid bed, it encourages them to get up in the night if they need to and use the potty without waking you up in the night. The Night Potty board book read each night before bed also helps to reinforce the notion of waking up to pee in the night.
7) Dumping the potty contents into the toilet is a perk! I don't recommend using bribes and rewards in potty training, things like candy, stickers and toys actually take away from the focus of potty learning (getting pees and poops in the potty, whooo hoo!!!) and can derail the process in many cases by creating a power struggle over the treats. However, there are plenty of internal motivators in potty training that act as natural rewards. Things like pride after getting to the potty in time, keeping undies and pants dry, getting to choose undies to wear, and flushing the toilet. Kids LOVE these things. They are rewards that keep on giving and never need to be taken away. Dumping pees and poops in the potty is another fun motivator for kids. The best potties for dumping are the ones with the bowl insert that can be removed, since pee is less splashy when coming out of the bowl compared to the rounded 1-piece potties. Also, if you have a child that is having accidents because he or she refuses to leave their play to use the potty, having a potty in the main space can be a good reminder and allows them to feel like they are part of the action rather than being sent to another room each time they need to eliminate. Being taken away from activities, even for a good reason, can feel like a punishment.
Still worried about cleaning your potty? It's so simple and takes only a minute or less. After your child eliminates into the potty, pick up the bowl insert (assuming you have a 2-piece potty) or the whole potty and dump the contents into the toilet. Rinse the potty with water and dump that into the toilet. Spray the potty with some non-toxic cleaner, wipe it dry with a cloth for this purpose, or toilet paper. Flush the paper along with the other contents of the toilet, and put the potty bowl back into the potty. Now its ready to go for next time! A 50%-50% vinegar to water solution will work for this purpose, I prefer to add some D-limonene cleaner to this solution for mega cleaning power and a nice orange scent.
So... I think I've covered it. 7 excellent reasons for you to make a very small investment in a small plastic potty that will encourage potty learning and independence, make clean-up easier, allow you flexibility to use the potty wherever you are and help your child to stay dry at night. Its win-win-win! The following visual list contains convenient links to some of my favourite potties. Let me know in the comments if you have a favourite that I have not included and why you love it!
Hi! I'm Danielle, your friendly neighbourhood potty specialist.