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Potty Learning

July 20, 2011

I have been meaning to write this post as part of our Toddler Nooks series but I’ll just come out with the truth.  I’m finding it impossible to photograph O’s “potty learning station” in a way that would make me happy to display it to the world.  I mean, the set up is cute enough but let’s face it, it’s a potty.  I’ll give you a description of the station and a photo of his potty book instead:

B and I have approached potty learning much the same way we approach most everything else for O when it comes to growth and independence. We do our best to adapt his environment (within reason) to meet his developmental needs and enable him to do things himself. This way his self-esteem is given a boost, he feels capable, and he’s more confident to give things a try.

In regards to potty learning, we have set up a “potty learning station”. This station is a small rug in our main living area with a potty on it and a basket of books and wipes beside the potty. I rotate the books out once a week or so to keep interest but the Sears’ You Can Go to the Potty book always stays. There is a mirror behind this whole set up so he can see himself. My intention for the mirror is to help him with his clothes but mostly he just makes faces at himself in it. The books are useful because they help him relax (with less focus on just going) and they encourage him to sit there a little longer as well.  Keeping everything in our main living area offers O constant access to his potty and therefore more opportunity to learn.

Once we noticed some signs that O might be ready, we started the potty learning process by simply inviting him to use the potty whenever we would typically do a diaper change. I believe cloth diapering helps the process because he can feel more easily when he is wet. Whenever he uses his little potty we cheer a bit and then he goes with us to flush it down the big potty and wash his hands. (He’s pretty sure this is the coolest thing ever!)  We’ve avoided using a reward system as we don’t feel it’s appropriate and from watching others it really only seems to work for a short time anyway.

It also helps that we’ve approached potty learning with a very laid back attitude. It seems that many families measure potty learning success by how quickly the ultimate goal is accomplished.  At this point, O is not entirely potty efficient.  Yet, B and I still consider the whole process to be going very well because it has been going so smoothly.  After watching our loved ones and other families we know stress endlessly over something that always happened in its own time, B and I decided to try to remain as relaxed as possible about the whole thing. It’s not like he’ll take diapers to college, right? ;)

Some notes on potty learning “stuff”:

  • O’s potty is the Bjorn Little Potty. Small, inexpensive, and perfect for our needs.
  • We’ve experimented with a couple of different options for underpants.  We really like Imse Vimse organic training pants. They’re kind of a step between a cloth diaper and actual underpants. They’re pricey, but they work quite well. We also like to use regular cotton underpants with Little Beetles organic wool underwear over top. I like to think of it as a prefold with a wool cover but for potty learners.  (Stay tuned for a Little Beetles review coming soon!)
  • The book in the photo above is the Sears’ You Can Go to the Potty book.  Ours was given to us by O’s Aunt N.

Other Thoughts & Comments:

  • ETA:  A comment below from Marie got me thinking that I should mention we practice our own variation of elimination communication part-time.  What I mean is, when we’re home and it’s just us, O runs around diaper-free.  He makes it to the potty every time!  (Which is another good reason to keep the potty in the main living area.)
  • On “Potty Learning”:  I sometimes get funny looks when folks hear me use the phrase “potty learning” rather than “potty training”.  Here’s the thing, I feel the language we use is important.  The words we choose mean something.  It is my preference to describe our experience from O’s perspective of learning as opposed to the more traditional notion of training.  That is all.
  • Erin of Tiny Twist Creative wrote an interesting post on potty learning just the other day, here.
  • In case you’re wondering, I have no incentive for linking to Jillian’s Drawers.  I like to shop there myself and I’m trying to be helpful.
7 Comments leave one →
  1. Marie permalink
    July 20, 2011 9:44 am

    Thanks so much for your post! We have been casually “ECing” with our daughter Wren. We’ve been putting her on her little bjorn potty at every diaper change since she was two months old. And she has been using it pretty consistently since then. She does also use her diapers, but this way we do save ourselves a bit on laundry and we feel like we’re setting up a good association for her for later.

    I really appreciate your thoughts and have printed out a copy of your post to save in my file for later when Wren starts walking and is ready and using fewer cloth diapers. I’m so glad to read parents talking about working with and learning with their children instead of “training” and “enforcing”. I love the way you speak of your babe and your gentle and connected approach to parenting.


    • July 20, 2011 10:43 am

      Hi Marie,
      Thanks so much for your kind words!
      I didn’t mention in the post but probably should have, when we’re home and it’s just us, O runs around diaper-free. He makes it to the potty every time! (Another good reason to keep the “potty learning station” in the main living area!) I agree, much less laundry to be done this way ;)

  2. July 21, 2011 2:08 pm

    I agree with word choice. I prefer the term potty learning too. I have 2 imse vimse, but find them thicker than I like. It is so hard to find the right trainer with the market taken over by pull-ups.

    Oh, have you invested in a potty seat for the toilet? I recommend a travel one to start like the potette or primo so it can be used in publicrestrooms. We find travel potties essential for out of home potty breaks.

    • July 21, 2011 6:56 pm

      We’re thinking of getting a seat for the big toilet soon. I think as far as travel, we’ll likely start with a little travel potty that folds… The potette you mentioned looks something like what I’m thinking of.

  3. July 23, 2011 5:44 pm

    We are approaching the process in much the same way. It is going very well at home but when we are out he lets me know he has to go, but we haven’t had any luck “making it.” One thing at a time I guess. I am definitely enjoying the lighter laundry load!

  4. July 25, 2011 2:47 am

    Maybe I should get that book for my sweet little Noah. We’ve not had any luck with keeping the undies off when he’s home. Its been a good reminder to me that all kids are not alike, so Noah may not grasp the same way Cami did. Sounds like you all are doing great, I love your laid back approach! :-)


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