Potty training while traveling isn’t always easy: sometimes it involves going with the flow in more ways than one. But it’s a necessary element: unless you plan to keep your child inside the house until they’re out of diapers, odds are you’ll eventually find yourself in a public place with a potential code brown on your hands. So, what do you do? Or, more accurately, what do you doo-doo?
There’s no guaranteed way to avoid incidents, but the following tips will help:
1. Baby steps, baby steps
It’s easy to want to dive right into potty training on the go as fast as you can: let’s get this done and over with. Yet starting small is key. Rather than taking your kid on a four-hour tour of the local museum, opt for something lower level. Take a walk around the block or a short drive to the grocery store. Once they’ve mastered these baby steps, expand your child’s horizons. But first, make sure these horizons have public bathrooms.
When you’re on the go, your child will have to use a variety of toilets. Prime them for this challenge by allowing them to get comfortable with unfamiliarity. Have them use the toilet at a friend’s house or a neighbor’s.
2. Have your child go before you leave
It’s an inevitability that your child will have to use the bathroom the instant you find yourself in bumper to bumper gridiron traffic. That’s why going beforehand is essential. Even if your child assures you that they don’t need to tinkle, ask them to try again. You – and your leather car seats – will be glad you did.
3. Go portable
The portable toilet is one of the best inventions for parents (it’s up there with whiskey!). If it will help your child adjust, consider bringing a collapsible toilet with you on your daily adventures. These are made so that your child can go on the go without having to deal with new toilets each time. If a portable potty is a bit too drastic for you, consider disposable toilet seat covers. Sanitation is fun!
When you do opt for a travel potty, practice using it at home first. That way, things will go wrong in privacy.
4. Make time for bathroom breaks
One of the biggest reasons for accidents is distraction: your child is having too much fun on the playground or at the zoo – they don’t have time for poo. This means it’s up to mom and dad to make sure bathroom breaks are taken. Set your cellphone every half an hour to an hour to remind you to encourage your child to go.
5. Have a potty plan
A potty plan is a plan that prepares you for when your child must go in the middle of the mall or at a restaurant (right as the waiter brings out your food, of course). The most important factor in this plan is knowing where the bathrooms are – know before the urge arrives. You should also accompany your child to the restroom – most experts encourage parents to at least wait outside the door until their children are preteens. If you find that there is a long line, ask if you can go to the front. Most people will understand if you explain the situation (especially if they’re parents themselves).
6. Be Respectful of Gender
If possible, fathers should escort sons to the bathroom and mothers should escort daughters. When the opposite occurs, you can help perpetuate privacy by being respectful of others. If you’re a dad taking your daughter to the bathroom, consider looking into the men’s room to see if anyone is there before letting your child inside while you stand guard.
7. Know the flushing toilet is scary
Sure, a toilet flush isn’t enough to suck you or your child into the plumbing, but your kid might not be convinced. Toilets that flush automatically are even scarier – they tend to leave children rattled, making them less likely to use the toilet the next time. Beware of this and warn your kiddo that a flush is imminent. You may also opt to travel with sticky notes and place these over the toilet sensors – that assures there won’t be any flushing until your child is ready.
8. Practice hand washing
While hand washing is vital whenever your child uses the potty, it’s of particular importance inside public restrooms. Simply, in these bathrooms, the germs have germs. But don’t just let your child run their hands under the faucet and call it a day: it takes between 15 and 30 seconds of constant friction to properly cleanse.
9. Keep rewards on hand
All parents know that rewards are a major part of child rearing, particularly when it comes to toilet training. Incentives should be used on a consistent basis, when you’re at home and you’re away from home. Keep in mind that children need instant gratification to connect the dots between behavior and reward. If you don’t have an incentive handy, this may leave you at a nearby toy store, spending much more than you’d bargained for.
10. Use diapers when needed
Going back to diapers may seem counterintuitive – you’re past this, right? Still, there is a time and place for diapers. If you’re taking a long road trip with bathrooms few and far between, boarding a plane, or riding a train, consider diapers as an alternative. Reinforce that they’re temporary and let your child know not to get too comfortable with the convenience of going whenever they want.
11. Prepare for accidents
Accidents happen in the home when toilets are mere feet away; you can all but bet they’ll happen outside of the home too. In fact, they’re more likely to happen away from the home when your child is experiencing a disruption in their routine. For this reason, carry supplies: wipes, a change of clothes, a plastic bag to seal the contaminated materials, and sanitizer. And don’t overreact: accidents are accidents for a reason. Simply remind your child where the pee and poop go and then move on.
Sure, it’s hard to relax when your child is peeing in the town square fountain, but children learn from observation – if you’re a frantic mess, they’ll be too. Whenever things don’t go as planned – your child has repeated accidents or seems to regress – take a deep breath and remain calm. Every parent has been there. However, if relaxing will be extraordinarily hard, consider putting your child in a diaper.
The clock might reset a little on toilet training progress – that’s okay! It’s more vital for your child to view potty training as a stress-free endeavor than it is to never touch diapers again. If they equate the toilet with something negative, they’ll avoid it.
13. Know that regression happens
Even if you do everything right, regression can happen. It’s especially common following a change in your child’s daily schedule. Perhaps you spent a weekend at grandma’s and were a little lax on the toilet training or maybe you’re just returning from a family getaway. Don’t fret when regression rears its head. Just go back to your routine right away when you get home – your child will be friends with the potty in time.
Potty training is one of life’s more frustrating events – attempting to do potty training on the go is that much more difficult. Even so, the above tips will help make the transition easier: it might not be as smooth as possible, but it’ll be as dry as possible.