Updated: Mar 10
Inside: How to toilet train a child when your toddler prefers the small potty?
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This phase will pass is a mama mantra you see all over your social media. But sometimes the planner in you takes over and wants to have a concrete number.
How long will it be like this?
And there’s part of you that wonders, is something off with the timing for my child? Timing of when your toddler will start to speak more, starts to sleep less..
Or the timing for when your toddler will stop pooping and peeing in that small plastic potty you clean out a dozen times a day.
When will your toddler start using a toilet?
And how long with that small plastic potty be a part of your everyday life?
Should you be doing something to help the toilet training along with your child?
I know that small potty loses its plastic glow of feeling like an oh-so-helpful tool after you’ve gone some time with the ritual of wiping it out and cleaning it (especially after the poops).
Your toilet sits a few feet away, with its magical flush that seems to almost taunt you.
And you keep wondering, when will it happen? When will your toddler start to use the toilet (and make this cleanup job go away!). Here’s what you need to know..
When will your toddler stop using the small potty?
This is a common question about how to potty train a toddler.
What's the best way to potty train your toddler to use the flushing toilet?
I've got the answer.
Let's start with this simple tip.
You follow your child's lead.
Wait a second?! That's all! Yep, that's all. Children will transition at different times. Because as a reminder, every child will respond to being diaper-free in a different way.
I've seen children (personally and as a potty training consultant) who start potty training and *week one* are comfortable sitting on the big toilet for pee and poop with a potty insert. I've seen children (personally and as a potty training consultant) who choose to use the small potty as their go-to potty for months and months.
Is one way more right than the other?
Nope. We're just looking for catches.
*Potty trained* means the child is having less than 2 pee accidents in a week (and there should be no poop accidents.) Depending on the age, size, and personality of your child, one kiddo may simply feel more comfortable on that small potty chair versus the big toilet.
For a long time.
Keep in mind if you're toilet training a 22 month-old toddler, your child may not even be able to securely get themselves up onto the toilet, even with a stepstool and potty insert. Toddlers on the small side can definitely look a bit wobbly on those potty inserts for a while.
The toilet may simply feel too high and overwhelming for a time. That is okay.
Don't bug your toddler about it.
Let your toddler have this element of choice and control in their life. If your child is getting their pee and poop in the potty, THAT is what matters. Not the vessel.
The small potty helps your child independently take themselves to go pee and poop, without any boosts up, without having to add in a potty insert to the toilet — it's simple and easy for toddler independence.
And toddlers love to be able to do it all on their own. In potty training, that's when you're more likely to see self-initiation — when the child feels like they can take on the process themselves.
In Oh Crap Potty Training, and in all the years of Jamie's work with children, she talks about how she's never seen a child *not* transition over to using the big toilet. It doesn't happen. You want to let it happen in the child's own time.
It shouldn't be forced (you have to sit on the toilet).
The child shouldn't be *shamed* into using the big toilet.
Here's a few things to keep in mind about why your child may be preferring the small potty chair over the big toilet.
The small potty is actually EASIER for your child to poop in.
So think about that before being in a rush to push the small potty chair into a closet. The reason being? When you're in a squatting position — versus a sitting with feet dangling position — it's much easier for you to release a poop.
Squatting is the body's natural position for pooping.
When your child uses the small potty, we actually recommend in Oh Crap Potty Training that you try and elevate your child's feet (with books or something to give a lift.) That's not so easy to do on the big toilet, unless if you have a Squatty Potty (and even then your child's legs may not be long enough to reach at this point.)
I hear you, mamas, that cleaning out the small potty with daily poops is not a pleasant task. Point taken.
But here's more about why you want to hand the ropes to your child on this one, and let them decide when they're comfortable to use the big toilet.
Emotionally it tends to *feel* easier for a child to poop in the small potty. Why is this so?
Because there's not this big drop down into the porcelain bowl when they poop in the small potty versus sitting on the big toilet. Remember your child is learning how to release poop in the potty after years of using a snug diaper to poop in.
That is a really different sensation!
Their pattern has been to poop in a snug diaper. And suddenly they are supposed to be okay with the feeling of dropping a big poop into the giant toilet. That feeling can freak out some toddlers. It's a really different thing. You may need to give it some time and as your child gets more and more comfortable with using the small potty, then your kiddo will transition over to the big toilet.
Or it may happen fast!
Like I said, this is one of those things where there is no *firm* timeline. Simply follow your child and be supportive.
But what if you ARE on a time crunch because your toddler needs to be able to use a toilet at daycare or preschool?
I hear you.
That's a different situation. Right this way for tips on setting up for success at daycare and their bathrooms.
Related: If you're on a deadline for getting your child to be comfortable with a flushing toilet for daycare or preschool, then check out Oh Crap! How to Potty Train With Daycare and Preschool which sets you up with all the things to do to prep your child for the daycare bathrooms and what to do if you're seeing your child hold and resist. We share a whole toolbox of solutions for how to set up your child for using the toilet there.
Keep in mind: the small potty can be a valuable tool in the early weeks of potty training.
Do you notice your toddler holding their pee (too long) as you started potty training? Does your son dribble? The small potty chair can be an effective tool in helping your child learn to fully release their pee. You can challenge your toddler with a prompt like, *Hey buddy, see if you can fill up the potty with your pee.*
Wait, there's more.
You'll need that small potty in your life for other reasons!
Is your child naturally going dry overnight? If not, you may need to attend to potty training at night. And you will most definitely need that small potty chair by your toddler's bed for sleepy wakeups (see this post on night training if you don't know what sleepy wakeups are all about!).
When you start night training, you need a little potty chair right there in the room with your child (easy access).
Even if your child is super comfortable with using the big toilet during the day.
So the potty training tip of the day: try to be zen about the small potty chair.
It won't be in your life forever. Promise.
Illustrations: Citrus and Mint Designs