No-mess Potty Training Tips
By Lisa Murphy
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Changing stinky diapers for two years may have tested your mettle, but toilet training takes courage to a whole new level. Steel yourself for messy underwear, a squirmy, sometimes resistant toddler and wipes aplenty. But don't fear: getting organized can help keep your bathroom clean, germs at bay and most importantly, keep the learning experience positive for you and your tot. "Toilet training can be a messy job, but we want to avoid making a big deal over it so we don't scare away a new toilet-trainee," says Elizabeth Pantley, president of Better Beginnings, a parent-education company in Kirkland, WA, and author of The No-Cry Potty Training Solution (McGraw-Hill). Don't have a child who is training yet? Many of the following tips work equally well for the change table, too.
Create your potty kit. Accidents are less of a hassle when you have the right supplies on hand. Keep flushable wipes, plastic bags for soiled clothes and fresh pull-ups or underwear beside the toilet. Also nearby, but out of kids' reach: sanitizing wipes or a spray bottle of bleach-water solution (a mixture of 1 teaspoon of bleach to two cups of water is effective for 24 hours, after that, you need to make another batch. And of course, always keep out of the reach of children). Keeping a stash of clean clothes handy is also smart, says Filip Dubovsky, father of Amelia, 5, and Ansel, 2, in Bethesda, Maryland. "When they gotta go, they gotta go."
Hone your technique. Gather the wipes, pull-ups or underwear you'll need to avoid contaminating containers during the change. Then start by taking your child's shoes or slippers off. Otherwise they can spread germs and bacteria around the house, according to Healthy Child Care Pennsylvania. Likewise, open the pull-up at the sides rather than pulling it down, or remove underwear carefully. You're trying to avoid getting pee or poo on your child's legs or other surfaces.
Remove the evidence. Put the soiled pull-up in a plastic-lined, step-on garbage can (one less thing for your hands to touch) and soiled clothes or underwear in a plastic bag immediately. "We always make sure there are grocery bags nearby so that the dirty stuff can be collected, tied and taken out," says Jennifer McIntyre, Toronto mom of Anna, 3, and 18-month-old Lila. That way they won't contaminate your bathroom floor until you get them to the laundry. Accept that some underwear may be beyond salvation. "Buy lots of pairs," suggests Brandie Weikle, mother of Cameron, 3, in Toronto. "Life is too short to clean the really scary ones." Finally, gently wipe your child from front to back, putting the wipes directly into the trash or toilet, depending on whether they're flushable or not.
Teach clean routines. If your little boy pees standing up, encourage him to put the seat down, then the lid. (Aerosolized toilet particles can land as far as six feet away.) Then get him to wash his hands, using the proper technique "Toddlers are all about routines," says Pantley. "Make these a usual part of your training and your child will easily adapt them as his own habits."
Make a clean sweep. Once your tot has left the bathroom, wipe the toilet or potty seat as necessary and clean any dirty surfaces with sanitizing wipes or a bleach-water solution. "You may find that your bathroom will need a more frequent cleaning during the toilet-training period," Pantley advises.
Keep your cool. While you're cleaning, try not to worry too much about your child's potty progress. Kids who are new to toilet training normally have one or more accidents a day, while those six months into the process or more may have accidents once a week. "The best solution is to be prepared for them with proper cleaning materials, easy access to a change of clothes, and a relaxed attitude," says Pantley.