When starting potty training it’s a good idea to think about how you’ll keep your toddler motivated. Some toddlers will simply want to be ‘just like my big brother/sister’; others will respond to lots of praise; others need something tangible to work towards and that’s where reward charts can be useful.
Potty Training! It’s something that we all experience as parents as we help our children transition out of nappies. I’ve posted previously on:
- When is my child ready to start potty training?
- How can I help prepare my child for potty training?
- What methods can I use for potty training my toddler?
Sometimes toddlers need a little extra positive reinforcement to start (or stick with) potty training. Reward charts can be a great way of helping them to see progress, learn about delayed gratification, and learn about working towards achievable goals at a young age.
There are lots of great ideas online for printing out your own reward chart that you can stick on the fridge (like these free to print charts). The important thing is to choose a theme that will tie in with your toddlers interests. I liked this magnetic one from Kmart because I knew Little Miss would like moving the magnets around.
Tip: If you have multiple children, it’s a good idea to instigate reward charts for siblings as well to prevent tantrums, jealousy, and rivalry! If your 2 year old is toilet training, maybe your 5 year old can have a reward chart for homework or chores.
These need to be relevant to your child’s interests, realistic for your budget, and appropriate in scale. A trip to the park, a book, a small toy, are more realistic then promising a trip to Disneyland! Also, keep in mind that a reward comes after the action has been successfully taken (and a bribe comes before).
Sit down with your child and be really clear:
- what they will receive points for (i.e. stickers on their reward chart),
- what rewards they are working for, and,
- how many points they need to obtain those rewards.
Encourage your child to brainstorm with you what those rewards are going to be. Possible rewards include:
- Items (toys / books)
- Activities (trips to the park, library, the zoo)
- Food (jellybeans, McDonalds, restaurant)
You may want to start off with reward stickers for:
- each wee / poo in the potty (or toilet), and then move towards
- stickers for staying dry at home that day, then,
- staying dry at kindy, then,
- staying dry overnight.
The important thing is to scaffold your expectations and help your child towards success at a pace that’s realistic to them. Remember that every child is different.
Toys or books can be easily tailored to your child’s interests. It’s a good idea to have a mix of rewards that they can work towards (with larger or more expensive items requiring more points). If you take them to a store to choose rewards, it’s a good idea to guide their choices by offering them a few options and letting them select one.
It’s also a good idea to guide them towards choosing toys that you were thinking about getting them anyway and which you can afford. Consider items that will encourage open-ended imaginative play and remember that you don’t need to buy ‘branded’ items for your kid to have fun.
Again, these can be easily tailored to your child’s interests. You may want to have activities close to home, or that are free, cost fewer reward points and then have costly activities be something they have to save more points to earn. Not all activities have to be away from home either!
- At home: build a tent out of sheets & chairs; make a collage; parent play with cars / dolls / animals / trains for 20 mins without distractions; have a tea party with toys; invite a friend over for the afternoon.
- Free: go to a park; feed ducks; favourite playground; go to a beach; bike ride; art gallery; museum.
- Paid: go to an indoor attraction (like a playground or trampoline park); go to zoo; go to observatory to see stars; movie.
Food can be a controversial choice because it risks weighting food choices to show that some foods are inherently more desirable than others. In saying that, plenty of parents have chosen to use a jellybean or other small treat as a reward.
For more creative options, why not choose food related activities instead. Reward points could be saved towards things like:
- doing baking together,
- helping to make dinner (or choosing from a list of dinner options),
- buying and planting vegetable seedlings, or micro-greens for the windowsill,
- going to a cafe for a fluffy or scone,
- going to a restaurant for lunch / dinner.