Inside: How to set up for success on outings with your diaper-free child in the early days of potty training.
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It starts off with small pushes in the bucket swings. Your baby, big enough to sit up, flashes a toothless grin of absolute glee to fly back and forth in the playground’s swing.
Next comes your toddler’s first slide. Maybe first with you. Then all by herself.
The playground becomes the backdrop for seeing your child morph into a bigger kid. Where each playground first shows off your child’s growing skills. It’s also the space where you meet friends.
Share snacks around a picnic table.
Hear about the new music class from a neighbor.
Where wiggles are welcome. And newborn siblings happily nap in carriers or strollers.
It’s a safe space outside your home where it feels pressure-free to be with your child.
And the playground is one of the best outings to do with your potty training toddler when getting back out of the house. Taking small outings as the next learning block in Oh Crap Potty Training.
Because if you stay home too long when you start potty training, the pressure vibe intensifies. Cabin fever!
But poops and pees also don’t belong in the sandbox.
So what's the best way to head out to your playground with your potty training toddler? Here are the important reminders to know..
The most helpful thing you can buy for potty training, after getting the small potty for inside your home..
is the travel potty for getting out of your home.
Even the small plastic potty chairs are much too bulky and cumbersome to carry around with you everywhere. You want something that can fold down, toss under the stroller, or stash in a large wet/dry pouch in your bag.
My favorite travel potty is the Potette potty, because it can do all of that.
You want to have a potty that your child feels comfortable with, ready to use at the playground.
I lived in New York City (Brooklyn) for my first potty training experience as a mama. There are countless playgrounds in the city, but many don't have restroom facilities.
So if your child says *potty*, and you need to find a store or restaurant with a public bathroom available, you're bound to get stuck.
With a child who can hold their pee a mere minute!
Your toddler will often wait to the last minute to go potty, so you want to set yourself up for success.
Outside of big cities, you're even less likely to find bathrooms near playgrounds.
(Maybe port-o-potties, but those are far from ideal for the newly potty trained toddlers.)
So here are my tips for potty training and going out to the playground for some fun, some fresh air, and for getting back to your regular schedule after potty training.
+ Bring a travel potty
Why the silicone liner?
Because no one likes to pee in a plastic bag.
It's crinkly, noisy, and doesn't feel soft. Invite your child to choose the color of the silicone liner.
Because anything a toddler has choice in helps them *buy into* the process easier. (We have a green one, so when we're out and about, I refer to the travel potty as the *green potty*.)
Do you want to pee in the park toilet or the green potty?
Offering two simple choices often helps with toddlers, too.
+ Practice using the travel potty at home first.
Introduce the travel potty with a little role-playing with your child. You can even have your child practice sitting on it clothed, or have him practice pushing his pants down and then sitting as if to go pee.
You can set it up like this:
Let's pretend we're at the playground.
You feel your pee. What do you do? That's right, potty!
Here's your green potty, let's see you pretend to pee in it.
Keep in mind that your newly potty trained toddler will not be able to *hold it* for long. So continue to practice pushing down pants as another at-home activity, as it's often a rush to the potty in the first little while after potty training.
If you're newly adding in underwear, it helps to first see how it looks at home with your toddler just wearing the underwear. See if there are any issues with just getting the undies down all by himself.
Then add in pants and see if your toddler can push both down together.
+ Remember you're teaching your child to contain the pee
If you have a boy, and you're thinking there's no way you need a travel potty when he can just pee in the street, pee in the grass..
Think on this.
You're training your child to pee into a vessel, aka the potty. It's a social norm.
So you're more likely to hit confusion if sometimes it's okay for your child to pee in a potty or toilet and sometimes it's okay to just pee in the street.
Solution: always travel with a vessel.
I recommend at least bringing a red solo cup with you so that he can pee in the cup.
That way he's learning two important things:
He's containing his pee, an important part of potty training.
You're normalizing the routine of using a vessel when he feels the pee.
+ Set up the potty try before playing begins
Before your child gets super engrossed in playing on the slide or some other part of the playground, set up a potty try. Make it routine. Especially if she hasn't peed in the last little while or you didn't see a good pee before you left the house.
In the early stages of potty training, the child is still testing limits and may not realize that she can *break* to go potty..
and the activity will still be there
or the toy (slide/swing) will still be there
and a potty break doesn't mean she loses out on fun.
So it's a good idea to prompt your child to pee before your kiddo gets focused in play on the playground.
Otherwise, you're likely to see accidents.
Give her a simple reminder:
The slide will be there after you go potty.
You won't lose your turn.
And by having your travel potty with you, you don't have to go far. So the potty break is even faster.
Then it's back to playing!
+ What about a poop?
All that running around can bring on a poop. That's why, in the early days of potty training, it's best to time your outings around a poop to help stack up poop catches in the potty. But as you transition back to your routine after potty training, you may be out at the playground and your child starts going into poop dance mode or says *poop* to you.
What now? The travel potty is there for emergencies but obviously poop brings other cleanup issues.
Here's how to avoid a poop panic in the moment:
Take a look around for exit options when you're at a playground. See what's close by and could make for an easy bathroom emergency. Maybe there's a Starbucks at the corner or some other shop or restaurant you could duck into. Potty liners are helpful in these cases (or any grocery store bags), so that you don't have to wipe out the potty.
You do still want to offer the travel potty that your child is used to. He may not be up for sitting on a big toilet at a public restroom and comfortably pooping with you holding him on the toilet a week after potty training. Remember that poops are related to sphincter muscles, so if your child isn't feeling comfortable and relaxed to poop, he won't be able to release the poop.
It helps to have friends around who are in the same boat! Travel with friends. That way a friend can watch your stroller, your stuff, or your littlest baby as you dash across the street for a bathroom.
When we lived in Brooklyn, we would meet up daily with friends at a nearby playground in a park. When it came to potty training, the travel potty just became part of our supplies. My kiddo was set up with her green travel potty in a discrete spot off to the side of the playground — right next to her friend's blue travel potty.
They would often take their pee breaks together and it was super easy (and adorable.)
The main thing to remember is you and your child need the fresh air.
Related: It helps to normalize the routine of going pee in the potty when you're out. This book on being a potty ninja shows toddlers how to be brave in public bathroom stalls. And this book on what preschool will look like talks through taking potty breaks before going out to the playground. I also love the book Today where your toddler chooses their outfit (butterfly wings! polka dots!) and the outing for the day (and how to get there...helicopter?!) through the illustrations in the book.
A playground run feels recharging after a few days of being cooped up in the house potty training. When you're set up for success, everyone can be more relaxed while hanging out in the sunshine.
Next up? Your toddler may tackle the monkey bars.
Illustrations: Citrus and Mint Designs