We are deep into Phase Three of potty training at our house. Potty Camp 2013 has officially begun. I’ve been chronicling the steps that we use in our house to potty train, so if you’re interested in Step One or Step Two, be sure to go back and read them. This week we started Step Three – Potty Camp 2013!
Potty Camp is what I call the official, traditional, tied-to-a-potty-for-several-days potty training period. Once Gracie first showed interested in going potty, we transitioned into practicing on the potty in Step Two. Now that I have a full week off for Spring Break, we are using this long period of time at home for Potty Camp. During this step, Gracie has started to wear panties instead of a diaper, has started using the potty regularly throughout the day, and is learning to tell me when she has to go before it happens.
Here are the key parts for our family:
1. We get up in the morning and change Gracie out of her diaper and into panties. She immediately goes to sit on the potty.
2. I set our kitchen timer for 15 minutes. Then, every time the timer goes off, we run to the potty to sit for a while. After we’re through, I reset the timer for another 15 minutes. If Gracie doesn’t go potty after 30-40 minutes of this routine, then I narrow the timer to 12 minutes, and finally down to 10. What I’m trying to do is catch her on the potty when she has to go. So, if I know it’s coming soon, we make more frequent visits to the potty to wait.
3. I hung a big piece of butcher paper on the wall by the kids potty. That’s our sticker chart. They make actual charts, but neither of my kids could ever get the stickers in the right place on a chart, so I just use a big sheet of paper now. She can put the sticker wherever she wants on the chart when she goes potty. She also gets one Skittle or M&M. If she doesn’t actually use the bathroom, she doesn’t get a sticker or a candy, but I try to make it sound positive when she asks and I have to tell her no. I say something like, “Oh, I know you wanted a sticker, but we didn’t go pee pee in the potty yet. Maybe next time we will pee pee and then we can get a sticker and a treat!”
4. To keep Gracie sitting on the potty for as long as possible (to ensure that she has the largest window of opportunity for going pee pee in the potty), we use all kinds of tricks and games. We sing songs, read books, play with mommy’s iPhone, play with baby dolls, play with bath toys, and watch movies on the iPad. It also helps having Bean in the room because she’ll sit longer when he’s there, too.
5. Throughout the day, I ask Gracie if she needs to go potty. At this point (Day Two), she says yes every time, whether she needs to go or not. But that’s okay. She’s learning that if she tells me she has to go potty, we will go right to the potty. Even if that is for false alarms right now, at least she is leaning how we get to the potty in the first place. (“I tell Mommy, and she takes me.”)
6. I stop potty training around 4:00 or 5:00 every day. Usually, by this point, Gracie is tired of the ordeal and I don’t want to push her. Also, I’ve noticed that she tends to have more accidents later in the day, and I think it’s just because she is over it. So, I stop around 4:00 or 5:00 and put her back in a diaper for the evening and nighttime. Then, we end on a positive note and can begin the next day on a positive note, too, because I haven’t pushed her too far. As the week stretches on, I’ll probably lengthen that window and we’ll try making it to bath time and then bedtime without a diaper.
There are several goals of Potty Camp. First, that Gracie learns that she has to tell me when she needs to go potty. Second, that when she gets into the bathroom, she learns how to pull her panties up and down by herself. Third, that she learns to wait on the potty until she actually goes to the bathroom. Fourth, that Gracie learns what it feels like when she has to go potty. And finally (and towards the end of the week), she learns to tell me BEFORE she goes potty that she needs to go. It will take her probably all week to get to those last two steps.
A few things I have to remind myself throughout the week:
- She is going to have accidents, and that is a good thing. Having an accident is what often prompts kids to start wanting to go potty. That’s the reason I prefer not to use trainer diapers or pull-ups. I want her to feel the difference between going potty in her diaper and going potty in her panties.
- After accidents, I never, ever scold her. Ever. Potty training should be fun and exciting. I want Gracie to WANT to go sit on the potty. So, if she has an accident, I say in my very best, over the top voice, “OH, NO! Uh oh! We had an accident. That’s okay! Let’s go to the potty and try again!” And then we head immediately to the bathroom and sit on the potty again. Just so she knows that when we have to use the bathroom, we sit on the potty.
- We won’t be fully dressed for a couple of days. Gracie has been running around in a t-shirt and panties this week. Sometimes, I put leggings on her if she’s getting chilly, but mostly it’s just shirts and panties. I thought maybe a little dress would be okay, but it was actually kind of hard for her to manage when she sat on the potty, so we left the dresses in the closet this week and are sticking to t-shirts.
- It’s not a great idea to let a potty-training toddler sit on your unprotected furniture. I took this picture all while thinking, “I should make her get down or else she’s going to pee on my couch.” And 10 seconds later, she did. Oops.
- I try to be consistent during Potty Camp, and on the days or for the few hours when we aren’t consistent, I put Gracie back in a diaper. I want her to be successful this week, not challenge her in new situations. So, when we run to the grocery store or spent the day at my mom’s house, I put her back in a diaper. I still took her on potty breaks, but she kept the diaper on so that if she had an accident it wasn’t such a big deal. It will be a little time before I start taking her out of the house in only panties. She’s got to master that concept first, and then we’ll try exploring.
The best advice I can give a potty-training parent is to be patient and consistent, consistent, consistent. Sometimes, Gracie doesn’t want to go sit on the potty when the timer dings. It’s fun for the first part of the day, but by middle of the afternoon, she’s sort of over it. But I still take her and gently encourage her to sit on the potty, even if it’s just for a minute or two. The more consistent I am, the better chances of success she has. And I want her to be successful, so she can be really proud of herself.
So, that’s about all there is to report from the trenches right now. Gracie is averaging about two accidents a day, and still thinks this is all super fun. I’m hoping that tomorrow and Friday I can really get her to start being more aware of telling me when she needs to go, instead of me instigating it every time. But you know what they say… plan to be surprised! That is never more true than when potty training!