Note from Hint Mama: Potty training is a topic top of mind for me. As my daughter nears her second birthday, I’m starting to think about how we’re going to go about the potty training process (it’s too late to start my friend’s Russian early potty training technique). So for help, I turned to Karen Witham, a been-there, done-that mom with a 5-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son. As a new contributor to Hint Mama, Karen, who writes over at Thoughtstream, will be sharing hints from the perspective of a mom of a preschooler and a first-grader. Here’s her first hint.
When we first started down the potty training path a few years ago, we found that it involves more than toddler pep talks, promises of underpants, and dreaming hopefully of diaper-free credit card bills. It’s really a big lifestyle change.
When you’re out in public, instead of scouting locations for changing tables, you pray for a clean, conveniently located bathroom with no line of people waiting. There’s no more strolling or driving until you want to stop and change diapers; now, you have to factor in frequent bathroom breaks and figure out what to do when your little one says, “I have to go potty NOW!” as you sit trapped in six lanes of traffic. (This has happened to me more than once, and I admit I’m a side-of-the-road kind of mom.)
Even your approach to dressing your kid will change – or at least, it should. You’ll want your little one to wear clothes that are easy to quickly take off and on, not only to help avoid accidents, but also to help make potty training a more positive experience for them.
To that end, for today’s hint, I offer six tips to help ensure your munchkin deals with as few clothing-related roadblocks to success as possible during the potty training process.
1. Ditch the cute footie pajamas. Instead, opt for two-piece shirt-and-pants combos. (I prefer 100% cotton.) My go-to brands for jammies have included Carter’s, Old Navy, Gymboree, and The Children’s Place. Nightgowns are another good bet once your daughter has the wherewithal to gather the gown up while sitting on the potty – do a test run to see how she does, as pulling up a dress properly can be hard for toddlers. I recently splurged on a cute Tea Collection nightie for my daughter, as I’m pretty confident she’ll be able to wear it for at least a year, if not two. (A pajama- and underwear-buying tip: Buy them at least one, if not two, sizes bigger than your munchkin’s existing clothing size. They can be prone to shrinkage, and you’ll get more mileage from the jammies if they start on the slightly bigger side.)
2. Let your kid go commando. It might be worth letting your little trainee skip the underwear at night under his or her jammies. For daytime, a little girl could just wear leggings by themselves under a tunic, t-shirt or dress. For some kids, not having that additional layer might just help them be successful. If you allow yourself to experiment with different layering tricks and techniques, you will get a sense of what works for your unique little person.
3. Overalls: Just say no. Look at this melancholy boy; he knows what a struggle he’s in for. Overalls are complicated to get in and out of, and they are likely to get in the way, or drag on the bathroom floor, while your kid is on the potty. Trust me; you don’t want to deal with overalls right now.
4. Make T-shirts out of onesies. Before potty training, I loved the onesie. I loved its ease, its cuteness, and with a snap extender, its relatively long lifespan. But once potty training starts, onesies don’t make the wardrobe cut. If your little one is potty training and still sports a dresser full of these, you need to help him or her out. Cut off the onesie snaps and make t-shirts, or at minimum, let your munchkin run around with the snaps undone under elastic-waist pants or shorts.
5. Pick leggings over tights. Don’t make your little girl struggle with clingy tights. Just put her in leggings. They’re easier to pull on and off, and more durable, than tights. If she has an accident, thicker cotton leggings are going to be more absorbent and forgiving against her skin than nylon or polyester. I like to buy leggings on sale at the Gap and at Costco, where I bought Hanna Andersson leggings a couple of years ago.
6. Think twice about belts and buttons. About two years into parenting, I screeched, “Who puts BUTTONS on toddlers’ clothing?” They’re hard to manage on a squirming toddler and impossible to manage if you are a squirming toddler. Most toddler pant makers have gotten savvy to this fact and now use snaps or other fasteners at the top of the zipper fly. But even snaps and zippers can feel like a lot to a frantic kid trying to go potty. Echoing my leggings-for-girls tip above, I bought elastic waist pants for my son whenever possible. (Another tip: Even though potty training is a memory for us, my son still finds trying to manage a regular old belt buckle frustrating. So, when I found the wonderful Myself Belt, a belt that uses Velcro and is easy to fasten and unfasten, I was hopeful – and my son loves it.)
To be sure, some parents prefer to let their little ones run around naked – or at least naked from the shirt down – during much of the potty training process. There’s a fair amount of discussion online around the pros and cons of using such “naked time” to encourage toilet training.
But aside from a few random times where we let the kids run around pant-less (we called it going “Pooh style” in homage to Winnie-the-Pooh’s famous shirt-with-no-pants look), we didn’t actively use that technique. I figured that my kids were going to have to learn to go to the bathroom with clothes on eventually, so why not start that learning process from the get go. Plus, I work full time and my husband, as the full-time parent, was somewhat skeptical of the idea. As Mommy Shorts so eloquently puts it, “remembering to use the potty while fully naked is an entirely different skill than remembering to use the potty while wearing pants and underwear. Think algebra as compared to calculus.”
I’ll leave you with one more potty training tip: No matter what you dress your little one in, get in the habit early of having your kid go to the bathroom (or at least try to go) before leaving the house or going to bed. This may help you avoid lots of nagging – and clothing accidents — down the road.
What are your tips for potty training attire and for potty training in general?
Karen Witham is a mother of two children who she can’t believe are already ages five and six. She spends her time on both sides of the Bay, working full-time as an editor and writer in San Francisco and living in Oakland. A transplant from the East Coast, she spent ten years living in Boston and also loves New York and most of all, Paris. Karen has a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. from Emerson College. She blogs at Thoughtstream. Connect with her on Twitter at @kewitham or LinkedIn.