Fourteen months old and on the potty! Pre-Montessori I would have thought this was crazy, but I now know this is a great time to start. Babies start to develop bladder & bowel control and awareness of their bodily functions around a year. Around that same time, they often begin to show interest in the toilet and how we use it. As with all things toddler, they want to imitate! So why not let them? Potty learning* at this age is a gradual process, but if we have the time, it's a pleasant one, without bribes or tantrums. For young toddlers, it's about learning their rhythm, letting them experience wet vs. dry vs. going on the toilet, and giving them opportunities for independence.
* I call it potty learning rather than training because the toddler is just as involved in the process as we are. We, the adults, are not training, just guiding and helping. Some people prefer to call it toilet learning but I like to differentiate the small potty from the big toilet.
We started Dakota's potty learning process last week, just after she turned 14 months. I had been waiting for her to walk, but she's taking her sweet time, so we just dove in! To encourage body awareness during potty learning, I let her wear underwear or be bare-bummed at home. We aren't strict about it, but having just a couple hours a day without a diaper is useful for her to learn the feeling of being wet vs. dry. It's hard to feel anything in a diaper! By allowing Dakota to be pantless/diaperless, I am also better able to learn her rhythm and patterns. When we are home, I aim to let her sit on the potty every 45 min or so.
Sitting on the potty is always an invitation, never forced. As I invite her and show her the potty (which she usually does), I make the sign for potty. We start by pulling down her underwear or diaper while she stands and then she sits down. She likes to look at books or dig through her "supplies" while she sits, and I let her. This week she started trying to put on her own underwear! This is too tricky for her now, but the more we do it together, the more confidence she'll have to do it by herself. I let her sit for a while and then if she goes pee or poop, I make the sign for pee or poop as well as potty. She can feel it when it's happening and proudly points to what she's made. :) Then I show her how I dump it in the big toilet and clean it out. We get her underpants or diaper back on and then wash our hands together. When she's walking, she'll participate more in this process (and hopefully have a hand washing station)!
After only a week, Dakota is already peeing and pooping on the toilet fairly consistently at home. She doesn't yet sign for it or go there herself, but when I routinely sit her on the potty throughout the morning or afternoon, she goes. She has also started to touch her underwear or diaper if she's going. If she starts to go pee or poop in her underwear, I just take her straight to the potty and she finishes there. Of course there are accidents but less than I'd imagined. When she gets tired or cranky, or we're headed out, we just switch to diapers. With no expectations or a set schedule, this slow potty learning is pretty pleasant for all.
A big part of this early potty learning is creating a bathroom space that is inviting for her to be part of stand-up diaper/undie changes and sitting on the potty. I found it easiest to set up two spaces; one downstairs and one upstairs, so we don't have to travel far. As you can see from the photos, the set-up can work no matter how small the bathroom! Here are our essential supplies:
Small Potty - We like the simplicity of the Joovy Loo and the price is low enough to get one for each bathroom!
Diapers or training underwear - we are using both. She wears training underwear around the house and diapers for sleep and when we are out and about. As she gets more consistent, we'll switch to undies full time, but we aren't in a rush.
Wipes - these water wipes are just the best for sensitive little skin!
Laundry bin - a small basket or box for Dakota to help toss her wet or dirty clothes into.
Water - I find it helps her to go pee on the potty when she drinks a little water right before. We keep a cup in the bathroom. It also helps to model peeing or even have the faucet dripping.
Low mirror - This isn't a necessity but we have one in our upstairs bathroom and Dakota likes to look at herself when she's on the potty, and it is helpful for body awareness.
As with all things, I am sure this is not going to be easy forever, and there will be plenty of bumps along the way. But it's nice to know what 14-month-olds are capable of, and that the potty can be a bonding time too!