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Potty Learning for Toddlers

By Tricia Ballad

Parents of toddlers know all too well the difficulties in convincing a two-year-old of the benefits of using the potty. Let’s face it: most two- to three-year olds are more interested in the contents of their toy box than that of their diapers.

Many parents don’t realize how they inadvertently hamper potty learning success by keeping their child in disposable diapers until the transition to big-kid underwear is complete. Here are five ways to help the process along – and to stretch out what you hope will be the last package of diapers you have to buy!

Put toddlers in simple cloth diapers. They will feel the wetness immediately and begin to associate the discomfort of wetness with the act of urination. Disposable diapers don't begin to feel wet until the child has urinated two or three times. In this situation, cloth diapers that wick wetness away from the skin are counterproductive, since you want your child to feel wet.

Go for simple prefolds. Just be sure to change them promptly to avoid diaper rash. Use a cover at first or when it isn't possible to do an immediate diaper change, until your child reliably tells you when she is wet. Prefolds and covers are now available in many mainstream stores. They’re not the best quality, but your child won’t be in them for long -- and once potty learning is complete, prefolds make great all-purpose cleaning cloths.

Use cloth diapers without covers whenever possible. This allows you to know immediately when your toddler has urinated. Let your child play in just a diaper and T-shirt. (Unless you really enjoy doing extra laundry.)

Notice common times and situations when your toddler wets the diaper. This allows you to catch her before she urinates and suggest that she go to the potty instead. Create success stories with your child.

Allow your child to go diaper-free for a while each day, preferably just after he’s gone to the potty. Most toddlers relish the freedom of being naked. This also saves precious time when rushing to the potty to "catch a pee."

Don't give up when your child's clothes (or the floor!) get wet. It's all part of the learning process. Have your toddler help clean up the mess and talk about how much quicker they can go back to playtime when they use the potty, instead of having to change clothes or clean up a puddle first. Then give them another chance, either in a cloth diaper or none at all.

© Tricia Ballad

NFO’s The Bottom Line Editor Tricia Ballad is a web developer by profession and a writer and natural family planning advocate by passion. Read more about Tricia.

The information appearing at Natural Family Online™ is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please review the rest of our disclaimer and user agreement.


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"The media have become the mainstream culture in children's lives. Parents have become the alternative. Americans once expected parents to raise their children in accordance with the dominant cultural messages. Today they are expected to raise their children in opposition to it."
-- Ellen Goodman, Boston Globe columnist

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