Is Potty Training During a Global Pandemic a Good Idea?

So, at a minimum, you are likely to be spending more time at home over the next few weeks. Great! A perfect time to potty train, right?


There are pros and cons to potty training at any time. This MIGHT be an excellent opportunity to potty train your toddler and adequately follow up. Having the chance to encourage potty skills after the initial learning has taken place is often a real problem for parents. Now parents may have a much better chance to fully support their child to use the potty independently after they’ve started using it. Or, you could be like this mom and panicking because diapers are in short supply. 😂 

However, this might be the worst possible time to potty train. You might be stressed, overwhelmed, and ill-prepared to start. When potty training isn't thoughtfully planned out, it can really go sidewise. Toddlers who don't want to sit on the potty, parents who give up after 3 days- meltdowns, tantrums, or children not learning the whole process. We get emails all the time from moms and dads whose children resist pooping in the potty or have ongoing accidents when they wear clothing. 

So how do you know if it’s a good time? We’ve outlined the critical areas you need to consider to know whether now is prime time to train or whether you might be better suited to wait it out a bit.

  1. Your child is ready. You need to know your child is ready for potty training. Age is a poor predictor of readiness. Generally speaking, if you are looking to potty train your child quickly and efficiently, then you need to assess for physical, instructional, and communicative readiness. We have a comprehensive free course designed to allow you to assess potty training readiness. You can check it out here!
  2. You have a plan. Trust me you need a plan. The “let’s just see how it goes if we put a potty in the bathroom” method often extends potty training for months and frustrates parents. You need to have a specific plan in mind of how you will introduce the potty, teach potty behaviors, and strengthen those skills. 
  1. You have a plan B. I’ve read a lot of potty training books. A LOT. Even for those I’d recommend, there are always parents who find that the methods fail for their child. Of course they do! Children are individuals and so are parents. No one method works for every child. That’s why having a plan B in place and deciding AHEAD of time under what circumstances you will change your methods or postpone training are important. 
  1. You have the right gear. The gear will vary based on your child, but you need appropriate gear. At a minimum, you need to know where they can potty comfortably, how you will clean up, and what they will wear. If you’re using treat and snacks as a reward or to encouraging drinking, you’ll need those as well. 

Here are some of our gear recommendations for a play-based quick potty training day:

  • A training doll. One that is new and exciting for your child and that wets is ideal, but don’t overthink it. We’ve used spider man and various others over the years with the same success.
  • A potty chair or potty insert. The biggest consideration here is what your child is already use too if they are partially trained or what they are the most comfortable with. It’s hard to use the potty if you aren’t comfortably seated and have relaxed muscles.
  • Tasty drinks and treats. You can make tasty treats a part of your plan in which case, pick bite sized items or those that you can make bite sized that your child loves. These should be things that your child would find special and that they don’t typically have access too. Otherwise, consider adding some salty snacks to promote drinking during your potty training. In our house, goldfish, gummy bears, mini m&ms, capri sun waters, and strawberries were the on hand tools.
  • 8 or more pairs of underwear. Cotton underwear that is one to two sizes larger than current child’s size is desired. This helps kids with pulling up and down in the learning phase quickly, and they’ll grow into them in no time. We do not recommend any “pull-ups.” Sorry, there is no science to support that these assist with a quick completion to potty training.
  • Other rewards, if applicable. Sometimes parent provide backup rewards for the maintenance phase of potty training. These can be delivered after “dry pants” checks (e.g. 3 dry pants earns one My Little Pony, a poop in the potty earns one one new car).
  • Cleaning materials. In our Potty U course, we typically recommend Clorox wipes or an eco-friendly alternative. We know those are in short supply these days! The good news, urine is generally sterile. I say generally speaking, because as it touches your skin leaving the body it’s not truly sterile anymore. At any rate, urine is unlikely to contaminate your house. It has actually been used as an antiseptic at times. Consider using basics to clean as you go and save your Clorox wipes or bleach for the end of your training day. You can get a pack of baby wipes and pour Lysol or another brand of your favorite cleaner in the pack, and voilà, cleaning wipes.
  1. Everyone is healthy. No one should approach potty training if they or their child is sick. Aside from COVID-19, if your child has allergies, an ear ache, or is having a tough sleeping period, it may be best to wait until those resolve or get a bit better.

With regards to COVID-19 specifically, you might be home and healthy now. You may never get sick, and you may get sick and have no symptoms. The same is true for your child. However, it can be really tough to help your child maintain their new potty skills if you aren’t’ well, and it’s not uncommon to have some potty training regression for toddlers who get sick. It’s something to consider. However, if your currently well, your child is ready and you have a good plan, chances are you can potty train without a concern for wellness.

  1. You are able to remove distractions. This may be the challenging one when it comes to potty training during COVID-19. Children learn best when distractions are removed. That means the television is off, many of their toys are put away, mom or dad is fully attending to their child’s learning, and other children are away from the action unless they are training too. That might be extremely difficult for some families when schools are closed and everyone is hunkering down. The up side is that the initial phases of potty training can happen in less than a day and then distractions are less of a concern.
  2. You are calm. Uncertainty tends to heighten the intensity of any situation. If nothing else, seeing stores without toilet paper can leave you feeling on edge. Potty training is MUCH smoother when parents are calm and collected. Your child will have accidents as part of the learning process. They may protest using the potty. If you are already feeling stressed, you should consider reducing demands to minimum until they feel like opportunities. 
  1. You’re looking forward to getting started. If you’ve gone through this list and are feeling like this is an awesome opportunity. Then, this is your time, and we’d love to support you.

Are you taking on pandemic potty training? Make sure you're child is ready.Take the free potty training readiness test and rate your child's readiness for potty training by assessing their languagebladder controlfine motor control, physical readiness, cooperation, and other critical areas. 

We'd love to hear about what has been helpful for you or what unexpected challenges you encountered as you take on pandemic potty training. Send us a note at [email protected]



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