What Happens at the Pool or Beach with your Diaper-Free Toddler?

Here's how to help your potty training toddler at the pool or beach.

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Risk and reward is something we constantly assess as parents. Is the risk of your toddler climbing those rocks he spotted, and potentially falling, worth the reward of a cool climbing experience? Sometimes, yes it is. Is the risk of having a fidgety toddler at your table worth the reward of eating out at a restaurant as a family? Typically, yes.

What about the risk of heading to the pool or beach with your diaper-free child without any thought to how that should look?

Now that's a risky one. Why?

Because picture a child (your child) accidentally pooping in the pool.

Picture your toddler calling out the word POTTY, after you just spent 10 minutes walking through hot deep sand to find your spot on the beach.

Picture poop in any swimming situation and you'll likely want less risk, right?

A poop accident on its own brings drama.

A poop accident in the water kicks up the drama to high-dive levels.

Poop floating in a pool.

Pooping about to happen when you're stuck on a sandy beach.

You get the picture.

So cut your risk, and consider these 5 tips to help your potty training toddler..

on the beach,

or the pool,

or whenever you take a fun trip by the water (whether it's your local go-to pool, or a vacation to a beach or lake.)

Here's how to set up your diaper-free child for success by the pool or beach.

diaper free child swimming potty training tips
5 Tips for Taking Your Potty Training Toddler to the Pool or Beach

1. Prepare your Child for the Trip to the Beach or Pool

Talk through what's going to happen when.

This goes for trips to the beach bathroom.

This goes for when you're going to apply sunscreen.

Really anything that you expect to be a point of resistance, make a plan with your child before you even get to the destination. If you've mapped it out with your toddler first, so they know what to expect, you can help bring down some of the resistance.

Related: There's an entire chapter in Jamie's new book, Oh Crap I Have a Toddler, about preparing your toddler to avoid that instant meltdown that can show up in new situations. Trust me when I say this book is a must-have resource for any toddler parent!

In the moment of arriving at the beach, if you spring on your child that they have to go to the bathroom before going to the sand WHERE ALL OF THEIR SAND CASTLE MAKING DREAMS CAN COME TRUE...well then you're set up to see a full on beach meltdown.

Here are examples of what NOT to say because this language is more likely to trigger a power battle with your toddler:

You need to go pee before we go in the pool.
We have to go potty now.
If you don't go potty, we can't go to the beach.

Instead you want to create a visual roadmap.

What's it going to look like in this new swimming spot where you're going to spend the day?

Make a plan with your toddler and you're way less likely to see resistance.

Here's an example of a roadmap to go pee in the potty at the beach:

After we park the car, what do we need to do first?
That's right, go potty! You can pee in the beach potty or your green potty. Your choice. That's our first job.
Then what do we do second? Carry our beach things to our beach spot. How about I carry the towels and you carry the buckets?
So what's our plan?
Pee in potty. Carry toys. Find beach spot. High fives.

Notice how few words are in the final roadmap.

Jamie talks about shaving language in her book, and it's because your toddler developmentally can't absorb directions when you're using TOO MANY WORDS.

So shave down the language when you're doing reminders and steer away from power battle words. (Really, no one wants to be told you have to do something, right?)

beach tips for potty training toddler
Prepare your child for a beach trip before you get to the beach, so you're less like to see resistance to go potty.

Other reminders can help set up your newly potty trained toddler for success:

  • Once you find your spot by the pool or on the beach, let your kiddo choose a spot for their travel potty. While yes, pee is sterile and I'm sure we've all peed in the ocean or pool at some time, remember that consistency is important wth potty training. You don't want to repeatedly say...just pee on the grass, just pee in the water...and then expect your child to know not to pee on the floor hours later.

Potty training is training your child to pee and poop in a vessel...you're teaching your kiddo to contain their pee.

*For more on traveling with your newly potty trained toddler, check out these travel tips.

  • Maybe your child is cool with peeing on a toilet, but a beach toilet may be an entirely different experience. We're talking rough sand on the toilet seat, possibly flies swirling around. Those public bathrooms can be a turnoff even for us grownups. So come prepared with your travel potty, wipes, and an attitude that you're on the same team. If your toddler doesn't want to sit on the toilet, then you can offer your travel potty (or you can have your child stand on the toilet with your support.)

Related: I talk through the solutions for helping a child who won't sit on the potty in my e-course Potty Training Solutions, which you can check out right here.

  • Point out where the bathroom is in relation to where you are. If you're on the beach, point out how the sand is hot to walk on, or it takes longer to walk through deep sand...set up how you'll need time to get to the bathroom. This is something you can chat through the day before your adventure, and when you arrive. Make it a clear roadmap in the child's mind. This isn't like home...we need to walk really far to get to the boardwalk/bathroom/pool outhouse, etc.

Related: When you're trying to get your toddler to use toilets in public bathrooms, this is the potty book I always recommend. The illustrations are awesome and it helps to normalize (and empower!) your toddler to be brave like a ninja in trying out a new bathroom..whether that's at the beach, pool, or anywhere you adventure.

What about you feeling anxious about a potential poop on the beach?...see below for tips!

2. Prepare for the Poop (Just in Case)

Can you trust your toddler not to poop in the pool, in the ocean, or in the lake?

This is a serious risk.

Why? First, we all know that poop is toxic.

A poop in the pool means everyone out and the pool gets closed down.

Then we're talking another level of risk, too. The risk of feeling total embarassment that you're the one whose child pooped while swimming.

Enter the swim diaper.

We are big fans of a clean break with diapers when you start potty training with Oh Crap Potty Training.

We're big fans of consistency in the process.

But it's also true that a fun water outing early into the potty training process can be a recipe for a poop accident.

You've got high excitement, the child is super relaxed in the water..which means a surprise poop can happen. Those sphincter muscles of the anus are directly tied to emotion. When you're super relaxed, that's when you can poop. That's why you may have seen a poop in the bath when you started potty training.

Warm water, the child is super relaxed...oops, a poop slides out.

And there's no guarantee that if you've been seeing poops in the potty for the past couple of weeks, your child is golden. There's no guarantee your child won't hold back on pooping in the beach potty and then suddenly a poop goes in the swim trunks while he's squatting down making sand towers.

If there's any doubt in your mind whether your child may poop in their swimsuit, or just let a poop out in the pool, you want to follow that mama hunch.

This is not a time to choose the risky option..wing it and see what happens.

Because a poop in the pool or in the sand — that's high drama.

A poop accident like that can ruin the day.