Do you think your toddler is ready for the potty? Honestly, you'll never really know until you try!
Our daughter didn't have hardly any of the "signs" of readiness -- she never woke up with a dry diaper, she never indicated when she was going to the bathroom, she wasn't able to pull up or down her pants (we had to help her for the first couple months of using the potty), and she could care less about whether or not her diaper was wet or dirty. But we noticed that she was interested in the potty, and frankly, we were sick of changing diapers and dealing with diaper rash, so we just tried out potty-training to see if it would work.... And luckily, our daughter has been a fan of using the potty ever since!
From our potty to yours, here are our top 10 tips to help you with toilet-training success:
(1) Talk it out. When you need to go, say to your child, "Hmm, I think my tummy feels like I need to go pee-pee. I'm going to sit on the potty and see if I need to go." This helps them understand the thought process behind using the toilet, which hopefully they will start to adopt for themselves, since toddlers often try to emulate Mommy and Daddy. If they show certain signs while they're going to the bathroom in their diaper, you can always comment on them, like "Oh, it looks like you're going poo-poo right now," or "Look how big your diaper is! You must've gone pee-pee."
(2) Read about it. You might want to buy a couple books that address the subject, like A Potty For Me or Leslie Patricelli's Potty book, so you can extend the discussion to reading time.
(3) Introduce the potty. The small, stand-alone potty chairs like the one by Baby Bjorn are best to start with since they don't require climbing up stepstools to use (though you will definitely prefer the latter once your child is comfortable with them -- it's great to just flush away the poop instead of having to clean it out of a little bowl!). Some people take their toddler to the store to pick out a special potty, though we didn't do this. We just bought one and then introduced it to our daughter, emphasizing how she had a potty just like us now (since she's always wanting to be just like mommy and daddy). We also mentioned that "big girls" use the potty, since "big girls" at the park are her heroes.
(4) If you'd like to start small, you might want to slowly try out the potty during naked time before the bath. Your child is naked anyway -- let them run around for a little while without clothes on, and encourage them to try sitting on the potty to see if anything happens.
(5) When you're ready to really get the ball rolling, have a few naked days! This will help your toddler to start connecting the feeling of needing to pee with the pee that actually comes out -- most diapers are so absorbent nowadays that kids can't even really tell when they've peed. We had our daughter walk around pants-less for 3 days, and it worked like a charm. (Luckily, we have hardwood floors which are very easy to clean. Those who have carpeted floors might want to wait for summer and try this in the backyard -- unless you want to put down tarps everywhere!)
(6) Set a timer. At first, we would check in with the potty every 30 minutes. I would say, "Hey, it's been a while, how about we sit on the potty and see if we have to go?" In addition to reducing accidents, this also helps build toddlers' confidence since they start to think, "Wow, I get this whole potty-training thing! Using the potty's not so hard!" As my daughter was able to hold it for longer and longer, I stretched out this time period. Now that she's been potty-trained for a while, I just check in with her every 2 hours if she hasn't gone yet, but she normally lets me know (or just walks over to the potty and uses it herself, big-girl style). We didn't try one of those Potty Watches, but apparently some kids love them.
(7) Make it a no-stress, no-pressure thing! And if it doesn't work, try again a couple weeks or months later. Cleaning human excrement off the floor is nobody's idea of a good time, but if you get angry or visibly frustrated, it will backfire. When accidents happen, keep it really casual: "Oh well, we had an accident! That's no big deal. We'll clean you up, and then next time we'll make sure the pee-pee goes in the potty." Try to keep it easygoing and lighthearted, like it's just a fun game you're trying. Some experts say to not make a big deal out of using the potty, even when the child is successful. You can say, "Look, you got your pee-pee in the potty," but if you gush, then your child might start to feel pressured and then get nervous about using the potty...which would totally defeat the purpose!
(8) Don't waste money on pull-ups. These feel way too much like diapers, so a lot of kids just pee in them. Honestly our daughter would sometimes even get confused by thick training pants -- but when we stick to thin underwear, she completely "gets it" that she's not wearing diapers and that she needs to sit on the potty when nature calls.
(9) Try not to confuse them by switching back and forth too much between diapers and underwear. At first I would still put diapers on our daughter when we left the house -- and we didn't have a choice if there was a long drive ahead of us or if we were going somewhere I would be MORTIFIED if she peed on the floor -- but it really helped with potty-training once she was wearing underwear 100% of her waking hours. (She only wore diapers in her crib while sleeping during naptime and nighttime.) She knew that, while awake and out of her crib, she was always supposed to go in the potty; she never got confused about whether or not she was wearing diapers and could just go in her pants.
(10) Now is not the time to dress them in skinny jeans! Skirts, dresses, and loose, easy to pull up/down pants are ideal. If you're not right there to help out and they are struggling to get their pants down, an accident might happen before you're able to intervene.
And as a parting note, be aware that while some kids potty-train as early as 18 months, plenty of kids are simply not interested until 3 or even 4. Often kids who refuse the potty at home embrace it once they start preschool or daycare because they see the other kids doing it. As hard as it may be, try to be patient. Your little one will not be going to college in Pampers, we promise!