What's your potty personality? If you like to be well equipped, you've got plenty of gear to choose among. There are on-the-floor potty seats, convertible potty seats, step stools that once were potties, potty seats with handles, cushioned potties, seats that attach to an adult-size toilet, attachable seats that pull up to allow adults to use the same toilet, decorated and cushioned seats, and water-filled seats with tiny ducks floating inside. Not to mention a tuneful potty that plays a melody when flushed. And for the toddler who wants complete participation, there are flushable wipes and training pants that look a lot like underwear but are more absorbent.
When it comes right down to it, the only piece of potty training equipment you need to start is one you already have: a toilet. These days, though, many pediatricians and parents recommend bypassing the toilet, which can be intimidating, and starting the process with a potty that your youngster can claim for his own. Some parents also have found that if a toddler helps pick out his own potty, he's more likely to use it.
An on-the-floor potty has some built-in advantages for a toddler. It's pint-size, just like him. It's also easily accessible so he can get used to sitting on it without help, and it doesn't need to be flushed (though what's good for toddlers is sometimes more work for Mom). The just-right height of an on-the-floor potty means your child can plant his feet firmly on the floor, which is important for pushing during bowel movements. Look for one with a wide-enough base to prevent tipping when he leans to the side to check his progress.
If your child is intrigued by the big toilet and wants to go potty just like Mommy and Daddy, you can choose a clip-on potty seat that attaches to the toilet. Be sure the seat attaches securely and doesn't wobble; if it's not steady, your child may feel uneasy about using it. Some pediatricians recommend this type of seat because it makes the transition to the adult-size toilet easier.
If you do opt for an adapter seat for your toilet, make sure you also invest in a step stool to place below it. This will allow your child to stabilize herself when pushing during bowel movements. She'll also need less help getting up and down. A step stool can pull double duty in the bathroom: After using one at the toilet, your child can then pull it over to the sink to wash her hands.
Some child-size potties offer the best of both worlds, with seats that lift out to attach to the big toilet when your child is ready. Others fold down to serve as a step stool. Whether you opt for a simple potty chair or a model that does double duty, look for one that's sturdy—it should be light enough for your child to maneuver, but solid enough to take her full weight. Stand-alone potty chairs and attachable models should have a seat that's padded or shaped for little bottoms.
Stand-alone potty chairs and clip-on seats cost anywhere from $10 to $30.
Using the bathroom when you're away from home can pose a challenge when you first start potty training. Many parents swear by portable potty seats, which fold up easily for tucking into a diaper bag or purse. You should be able to find a quality portable seat for around $10.
Training Pants, Wipes, and More
Some moms use disposable training pants that look more like underwear to help their toddlers get the knack of pulling their pants on and off. Less cumbersome than diapers, they're also less work for Mom when accidents happen (as they always do), and a toddler can help by disposing of them herself. Exchanging diapers for disposable pants can be a big event for a toddler on her way to underpants but with extra protection. Some moms also use this kind of training pants at night instead of diapers when their toddlers have mastered daytime dryness but still have accidents overnight.
You've also been teaching your toddler about cleanliness, helping him wipe himself and showing him how to wash his hands each time he uses the potty. Premoistened wipes can make that job a little simpler for a toddler: They're easier for little hands to manipulate during wiping and they can help him get cleaner than dry tissue alone. Look for wipes designed for potty use that are flushable.
Many potties have a raised splash guard on the front of the seat, which is useful for boys. Splash guards are usually small enough so that little girls will still find the seat comfortable, though many seats come with a removable guard. Most potty seats have bowls that lift easily from the top of the chair (or slide out the back) for easy cleaning.
Cleaning up accidents is part of potty training, but you can eliminate some spills by giving your little boy something to aim at. There are biodegradable, fish-shaped targets available commercially though some parents swear by for the same purpose.
While you can't rush the process, you can help your child make the transition by offering the right equipment, your support and encouragement, and lots of praise and positive reinforcement.