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Potty Training Part 3: Leaving the House!

By Cecilia Matson, MA, Child Development Expert and Stacey Jackson Flammia, MLA, Adult Learning and Development Specialist

Galoop – Child Development Classes for Babies and Toddlers and Expert Advice for Caregivers
Coolidge Corner, Brookline, MA


potty trainingIn our first two blogs about potty training we talked about how to recognize the signs of readiness and the basics of helping your child learn to use the potty.

Finally, after spending a few days at home near the bathroom, everyone will be more than ready to leave the house! If your child has been able to get to the potty at home without accidents for a day or two, you can take this show on the road. Here are a few best practices for leaving the house with a toddler who is still learning to use the potty.


1) What to wear? Depending on your child’s response to potty training, your level of comfort with accidents, and your patience with the learning process, your child could wear regular underwear, training pants, pull-ups, or even a diaper.

Diapers and disposable pull-ups will catch most or all of an accident.  But having your child wear them after starting potty training can send a confusing message: is the child supposed to go in the potty or the diaper?  Certainly if the parents are very anxious about accidents away from home, a diaper or pull-up may be the way to go.  Know that it will likely lengthen the period of time that the child spends learning to be independent of diapers.

Cotton training pants can catch a small accident, and regular underpants will only catch the smallest accident – in both cases you’ll need to change your child’s underwear and probably her clothes.  The advantage of having your child go straight to underwear or cotton training pants is that they offer more feedback to the child about how to control his bladder and bowels.


2) Potty on the go! Invest in a travel seat or travel potty and practice setting it up and using it at home first.  Make sure that it is sturdy enough to support your child!  One brand we particularly like is the Potette Plus – it’s very sturdy on most toilet seats, and it can also be used alone or with a plastic bag if you find yourself far away from a toilet.


3) What to bring? Bring at least one complete change of clothes, including shoes.  It’s also a great idea to bring a roll of blue painter’s tape to cover the motion sensor of toilets that flush by themselves.  Having the toilet flush on its own (which usually involves the child getting splashed) can be scary to a young child and cause regression.


4) Try to time it right. If possible, leave the house shortly after your child has gone to the bathroom.


5) Finding a bathroom. When you arrive at a location away from home, invite your child to check out the bathroom with you – what it looks like, how far it is located from wherever you are spending your time.  Ask him if he wants to practice going to the bathroom here.

Being away from home can be very exciting and this can cause a child to forget she has to go to the bathroom.  Invite your child to go with you when you go to the bathroom; invite her to “practice” going to the bathroom in the new location if she doesn’t have to go.

How do you navigate parks, beaches, and other outdoor spaces that may not have bathrooms nearby?  The answer really depends on your parenting style and the temperament of your child.  Some parents have their children go behind a tree or bush, with or without a travel potty whenever they need to go.  Other parents expect their children to learn to hold it for the amount of time it takes to walk or stroll to the nearest public restroom.


6) What if you are not confident your child can stay dry away from home?  Certainly the first time you leave the house without a diaper can be nerve-wracking for the parent! Just like at home, accidents will happen, and the best thing you can do to support your child is to remain calm, clean him up, and assure him that he’ll make it to the potty the next time.


In our next potty training post, we’ll cover nighttime and nap time dryness, as well as how to handle common potty training setbacks.

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