You’ve decided that your child is developmentally ready to potty / toilet train and you want to pave the way for starting soon; or, you have a younger sibling who wants to understand what all the fuss is about and be involved (me too!)
Here are some things that you can do to help get them thinking about their body and the potty:
Read books about potty training. Often there are lots of picture books at the library so read a few until you find ones that work for you. Miss 2 is quite fond of Pirate Potty, (the same author also does Princess Potty) and Dinosaur Doo.
Talk to them about their body; Storybots have a great video for toddlers about how the human body works including how food gets turned into energy (and waste products!). If they have particular ‘tells’ that they are about to do something in their diaper (like squatting, grunting, pulling a face, going to find a quiet place) then call their attention to their body’s signals and the ‘feeling’ that they need to wee or poo. Encourage them to tell you as soon as they have wet or dirtied a nappy so that you can change it straight away.
Get into the habit of talking to them about your own toileting habits; i.e. “I need to stop washing the dishes and go do a wee on the toilet.” It might feel a bit ridiculous at first but no more (hopefully) than pretending to be a monkey, or having your umpteenth imaginary cup of tea, or answering ‘What’ and ‘Why’ over and over and over again. The lesson that your modelling is that your listening to your body, stopping what you are doing, and going to the toilet.
Have an open door policy at home (if you can) and let them come to the toilet with you; let’s face it, most toddlers want to anyway! Talk about needing to go to the toilet and verbalize the steps (like flushing, washing hands etc.).
Get a potty and have it available. For a long time, I had it in the bathroom because I wanted that association of needing to go a particular room to do wee / poo. I’ve learned that it’s far more effective to have it on a plastic mat in the lounge, where she can see it all the time and it’s easy to reach, now that we’re actively potty training.
Ask them each day if they’d like to sit on the potty. Sometimes they might want to just sit on it, fully clothed + a nappy, and roleplay wiping their bum with toilet paper. This is fine! Just keep an eye on the toilet paper because they will happily unwind an entire roll.
Encourage them to roleplay with a doll/teddy. Help them to undress their toy, sit it on the potty, wipe its bottom with a cloth, and praise the toy .
Provide easy access clothes (i.e. no more overalls!). They need to be wearing pants they can pull down easily or a skirt that they can lift. Play games to see who can pull their pants down the fastest when getting changed into pyjamas at the end of the day or encourage them to pull their pants down themselves before each nappy change.
Ask them each day if they’d like a nappy/diaper or undies/knickers. One day they may surprise you and say ‘Undies!’.
Sometimes they will ask for undies before they’re ready to use a potty (because their friends are wearing them). That’s fine! Let them wear underwear over their diapers and get used to the idea. Encourage them to practice putting them on and off themselves. Let them help you choose ones that they like (i.e. they think are pretty / cool / exciting / awesome).