Everyone Poops

   Just as your soft cloud of a baby whose caterpillar crawl and tender coos have been replaced with the trail-blazing, defiant, chaos-making toddler, it is time to potty train. Yes, now when she is the most unruly I am expected to teach her how to give up the only remaining comfort from babyhood- the luxury to go wherever and whenever she pleases without judgment. And like all else as a new parent, it is frightening. It is frightening because like all else as a new parent it's not about potty training the child, it's really about training the parent. Potty training a two year old (if you wait that long because, you know, our mothers' generation had all of us house-broken at nine months...eye roll) is one of decades more lessons in patience, intuition, and repetition. But, fear not. I can help. All you need is a little perspective, a mantra if you will, "Everyone Poops."

   My first step in preparing for my oldest daughter's rite of passage was a call for reinforcement- a trip to the bookstore. I bought three books that day, two for resources (PARENTING Guide to Toilet Training by Anne Krueger with the editors of Parenting magazine, and Pee, Poop, and Potty Training by Alison Mackonochie), and one because it looked hilarious- Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi. Both parent training books were perfectly satisfactory. But the one I threw in just for laughs? It came with a big surprise. Though I had found the pictures of the different shapes and sizes of various animals' poop a bit graphic, I thought it might be a useful reference in an inevitable moment of desperation. I pictured pulling the book out for only a quick glance just in case I needed to break Little Girl's state of confusion with the process, or to hold her attention and hopefully keep her still for an entire minute. And when the time came, I did. It worked.

   Not only did it work, but I witnessed her comprehension rise like the sun in the morning. "OHHhhhh," she proclaimed, "all the poop! I poop? I poop!" Laughter followed. Two years later, when it was Baby Girl's turn, I pulled out the same Everyone Poops book. The same puzzled expression left and her face lit up, "Ohhhh! Poop. Heee hee heeee! Poop." I don't know if this book was the secret to potty training success, but because of the priceless entertainment it has provided, it is our twelfth Blueberry Book.

   First published as Minna Unchi in Japan in 1977, it has also been released in Thai, Spanish, English (Everyone Poos in the UK and Everyone Poops in the US) editions. "Tarō Gomi," according to Wikipedia, "is one of Japan's most prolific children's book illustrators and writers. He has published over 400 books in Japan and his work has been widely translated into other languages. He is a graduate of the Kuwazawa Design Institute."

   Before I share some great potty training resources, do not proceed any further until you read this fantastic article by parenting expert Jody Johnston Pawel where she offers a refreshing and realistic angle on potty training, "Potty Trained or Parent Trained?" ..............did you read it??....Seriously. Click on the link and read it. .......So? Did you like it as much as I do?? I want to share my favorite parts but am not allowed to quote her in bits and pieces. I can only copy the entire article. My blog posts are long enough. Ha.

   I'm no expert. But this is my method to tackle the seemingly insurmountable task of potty training. First, when you feel it might be time to start (more on this below) but prior to physically setting your little one on the potty, you'll need to make some preparations. Buy a potty. Sounds easy, right? Click here for a great list of potties to compare. I bought two (one for each floor of our last two-story home) of the "Fisher-Price Cheer for Me Potty" because I wanted all the bells and whistles. It has a working lid, retractable toilet paper holder and a toy flush handle, sings songs or says encouraging phrases, is easy to clean, and has a removable seat that snaps onto regular-size toilet seats in case she preferred to go straight to the big potty. Both of my girls loved it! However, Baby Girl didn't stay on the little potty long because she wanted to use the big one like her big sister.

   Resources: check. Potty: check. Now to enact a mental strategy and assemble an arsenal. For a week or two, I did the following:

  • put the potty out in the bathroom (you can make a big deal by wrapping it as a present first)
  • began talking about the potty, discussing body parts, and teaching proper vocabulary
  • made a production out of my own bathroom cues and brought my child with me to celebrate when I made it to the potty without an accident (as if I'd ever been alone in the restroom since I was pregnant)

Next, I went over this ready signs checklist from my copy of PARENTING Guide to Toilet Training:

  • Pulls own pants up and down
  • Shows an interest in dressing himself
  • Seems gung-ho to "do it herself"
  • Knows what a potty is and what it's for
  • Is able to navigate from room to room to get to potty
  • Sits on potty by himself
  • Follows sequential directions, such as "Get the ball, throw the ball"
  • Shows interest in cleanliness or orderliness
  • Likes to imitate Mommy and Daddy
  • Is in a positive phase, showing independence but not saying no to everything
  • Understands the difference between wet and dry
  • Indicates when a diaper needs to be changed or tries to remove it herself
  • Recognizes when he's having a bowel movement
  • Has a dry diaper for several hours for several days in a row
  • Expresses interest in potty or underpants

   Neither of my girls met every guideline, and most experts would probably agree they weren't ready yet, but I was ready. I hope I didn't traumatize them for life. In hindsight, I could've/should've waited a bit longer. I did postpone potty training Little Girl until she was 27 months young (but only because Baby Girl was born when she was 23 months and our pediatrician suggested she'd probably regress if she could be trained before Baby Girl's birth).  Baby Girl was 28 months young when we started. I felt I waited an excruciatingly long amount of time with both, but especially with Baby Girl because she is our last child. I wasn't ready to have two grown-up little girls yet.

   Instead, I forged on with a plan of attack I'd heard about from other moms. I set aside three whole days on the calendar when we would not leave the house (except for a quick trip or two to the grocery store which is used to dealing with spills).  Yes, this is also known as the three days naked method.  Some of the time she was free as a bird, but I don't think being naked or clothed really made a difference with either of my girls.  A few days before, I purchased supplies. Of course, these are all optional. But I'm an over-planner. Here is my potty training shopping list:


  1. big kid underpants, pull-ups
  2. mattress pads
  3. night light for the bathroom or the super cool one pictured below
  4. easy to clean and easy to remove clothing (no overalls, rompers, or jumpers)
  5. cleaning supplies for all types of flooring and upholstery in your home (crazy awesome cleaner recipe here)
  6. puppy pads for the car seat
  7. for girls- a doll as an example (I didn't find it necessary to buy one that actually goes potty, but if you want to spend the extra money I bet it would be helpful)
  8. for boys- cheerios or biodegradable toilet targets (click here for some great ones)
  9. reward chart with stickers
  10. party supplies (party hats, noise makers, or party blowers) or cheerleader gear like the t-shirt below
  11. M&Ms, or any small candy, and candy dispenser or plastic jar, tiny marshmallows, and dum-dum lollipops
  12. about twenty fast-food restaurant or dollar store toys
  13. stool for potty and sink
  14. fun hand soap (make your own by adding legos or small toys to a clear bottle) 
  15. a basket full of books (potty related or not) next to the potty; see the very bottom for some additional and wonderful choices
  16. food coloring (I colored water for the doll in #7 yellow to provide a more detailed example, but another cool trick is to color the water in the big potty red, yellow, or blue and see the change in color after they use the potty)

Removable Glo night lights go with them to the bathroom. Buy it here!
Available in baby, toddler, kids,
and adult sizes here. Hilarious!
The Littlest Pet Shop toys from McDonalds

She loved them SO much, she tucked them in before bed.
And before she wrapped herself in a snake stuffed animal.

[Lego soap from Simply Sara]

      After all that, it's time to start. I've provided the tools, discussed the skills, and now it's time to ask her to try it. Fast-forward a few agonizing hours, and I've begun negotiations.  "If you sit on the potty and listen to a story, I'll give you two M&M's. If you sit and try to go potty, I'll give you three marshmallows. If you make a teetee in the potty, I'll give you a lollipop! If you make a poopoo, I'll give you a toy!! Wait! Want a sticker?!"  See why I bought all that junk? Honestly, the first time I set aside three days (both times for both girls), I gave up the first day and we tried again a week or so later.

        If you're wondering what the party supplies are for, I heard a while ago that a great way to potty train children is the baby doll method. You're sitting around playing, the doll feels the urge to go to the bathroom, so you drop everything and make a big fuss as you rush to the potty. After the doll does his/her business (either with a fully functional doll or a supplement of water with yellow food coloring), he/she receives the biggest praises, including a potty party- cue hats, noise-makers, and a super embarrassed parent making up a fun song. I am not convinced that this was a life-changer, but it was fun.

       I have probably offended so many moms who feed their children only unprocessed, sustainable, organic morsels, and I did lose a few brain cells in all that bargaining and horrible singing, but eventually it worked!!! So there. I wish you could've seen Little Girl's light bulb go on when I said, "toy!" She spent the next hour and a half rationing and cleaned out the entire toy bag with twenty tiny poops. And Baby Girl hadn't sat still for a story in months, but really enjoyed reading a fantastic lift-the-flap book with me called A Potty for Me! by Karen Katz. We still read it together.

       Following three intense days of constant potty visits, introducing underwear, and learning what they respond best to, I'll start to prolong the amount of time between visits and lessen the number of reminders. Along the way I remind myself to be patient, that night time bladder control develops last, the flushing noise from the big potty might scare them at first, public restrooms are a whole different animal (no, I never carried around a seat cover with us), the visit right before bed and right after they wake up are the most important, and accidents are normal. I avoid showing too much disappointment, though I will admit I have said, "Why did you do that?! That is bad!" a couple times when they had accidents on the brand-new carpet. Here are the top ten biggest mistakes according to Pee, Poop, and Potty Train:

    1. You start too soon.
    2. You push too hard.
    3. Your expectations are too high.
    4. You overpraise.  (oops)
    5. You care too much.   (oops)
    6. You feel competitive about it.
    7. You try to control your child too much.
    8. You try to bribe your child.   (oops)
    9. You lose your patience and your temper.   (oops)
    10. You don't have enough faith in your child- or yourself.

       Relax, pick up on their cues, be patient with their tiny bladder and tender hearts, let them take ownership of their own achievement, keep them still on the potty with books, and know at this age they will be too busy playing to remember to stop and go potty as often as you'd like. I kept a potty in our game room or next to their bed at night, just in case. And most of all, don't forget, "Everyone poops." Purchase our Blueberry Book Everyone Poops, which received 4 out of 5 blueberries, here!)

    For another great blog post about potty training, click here!

    Check out this review of a fun book that makes big kid underwear exciting!
    Buy here and for more click here!

    Purchase it here!
    Read a review of this perfect potty book for boys here!

    I wish I would've seen this earlier!
    Buy it here! Read a review here!

    After reading this review, purchase it here!

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