How to get your child to sit on the potty and stay on the potty long enough to relax and do her business: this is one of the central dilemmas of potty training, whatever age your child may be. I'm currently potty training my third child. Since I've done early potty training with my 2nd and 3rd children, I've had a chance to hone my skills for entertaining a wide range of ages on the potty, from 3 years all the way down to 5 months. Whatever age your child may be, here are some ideas for getting them to take a seat and make a deposit.
Potty Time Entertainment
The list below is roughly in the order I have used them with my third child, who started sitting on the potty around 5 months and is now about 18 months.
board books of baby faces and nursery rhymes. As they get a little older, we might have to kick it up a notch to board books that are also songs. Once we hit the busy toddler age, I find the key is novelty. As soon as my 18-month-old loses interest in a book, I'm ready with another one to take its place. I recently got my 3-year-old to transition from a small potty to the toilet by giving her special books that she could look at by herself only while sitting on the toilet. Reading material is how my older children still choose (independently) to entertain themselves on the toilet, just like the adults. But sometimes, especially with my busy toddler, the board books don't cut it.
Finger PlayRhymes with finger play such as pat-a-cake and itsy-bitsy spider were enough to keep my 6-month-old excited about sitting on the potty for many months.
DrawingWe got through one period of particularly reluctant potty use when I hit on the idea of letting my one-year-old draw with a pen. Because she regularly draws on the floor and walls, I normally do my best to keep pens out of my toddler's hands. Which made pens the perfect forbidden object to be used only in the bathroom under my supervision. I would carry her to the bathroom, let her turn on the light switch herself, take a notebook and pen out of the bathroom cupboard where I had stashed them, hand her the pen and then put her on the potty. The pen in hand was enough to overcome any resistance. Best of all, I could leave the room for short spurts while she kept herself entertained drawing in the notebook placed on top of a stool in front of her. Before the pen, we also used a magna-doodle for entertainment periodically.
FoodYep, food. Especially right after she wakes up dry, when I know she needs to go, but she's still a little grumpy and resists me taking her to the bathroom. Sometimes a little bowl of cereal, a pita chip, or even one chocolate chip is enough to get her to stop fighting me and take a seat.
Older SiblingsWith my very busy, very energetic toddler, this is currently my ace-in-the-hole. When I cannot convince her on my own to come sit on the potty, I enlist one or both of her older siblings to come to the bathroom with us. Sometimes they will sit next to her while I read them both a book, or sometimes I can get the older sibling to read her a story or do a finger play with her.
CompanySome little potty users love company. For a long time, me using the toilet while I set my little one on the potty across from me was a sure-fire way to get her to use the potty. But now Mom isn't special enough anymore and I have to enlist an older sibling or Daddy to use the toilet so that the youngest will sit on the potty and go too. My favorite is when my 3-year-old and toddler need to go #2 at the same time, and I can leave them both in there together unsupervised for a long stretch while they do their business.
Other Methods I've Used
I haven't had to resort to any of these methods with my third child, but I did find them useful with my first two.
StickersI don't use this one with my third, because she mostly just tries to eat stickers, particularly little ones, but stickers were a great way for me to get my 2nd child to sit on the potty long enough to go #2. I would give her a sheet of little stickers and let her put them in her special sticker notebook which we stashed in the bathroom.
Blowing BubblesThe truth is, I don't really enjoy blowing bubbles because it's just plain messy. You end up with bubble solution all over your hands and also the floor from drips as well as popped bubbles. But my first child, who I potty trained the latest and who was my most challenging, loved bubbles. So for months I blew bubbles for long stretches to get him to sit on the potty long enough to go.
Annoying Electronic ToysYou know those annoying electronic toys that other people give your children that you hate to listen to? Use them only in the potty and they become a great source of novel entertainment. Also, it's not that tragic if they accidentally get ruined in the bathroom. I haven't relied on this method much with my third child, but a play cell phone's beeping often kept my second child happy on the potty when we she was 9-months-old, and often allowed me to do something else (like brush my teeth) as long as I stayed near her. A pretend laptop often kept my 2-year-old alone in the bathroom and seated on the potty for 30 minutes at a time.
Favorite ToyI've never used this one much, because honestly I don't really want to encourage bringing toys into the bathroom, but if you are having trouble luring your child to the potty and she is very busy with a particular stuffed friend/ puppet/ toy animal/ doll/ toy car, consider just bringing that toy with you and maybe even having the toy use the potty first.
DVDWhen it comes to potty training, I don't really consider anything to be off limits. Whatever it takes to get the job done. With my second child, there was a period of time where the only way we could convince her to sit long enough to go #2 was to let her watch a 20-minute show. This was partly the case because we were often too busy with her older brother or a new baby to sit with her long enough for her to do her business. The only trick was to set up the portable DVD player in the bathroom so as to minimize the chances that she would play with the buttons or drop it and break it.
For more tips, tricks, and tales from our potty training adventures, including the very best times to put your child on the potty, visit my Potty Training Page.
What is your best trick for getting your child to sit and stay on the potty?