The best potty-training advice I ever received was “don’t rush it.” We’d test the waters here and there but when it was apparent that my daughter wasn’t fully comfortable, we didn’t push it. It can be a frustrating process for all parties involved — lots of waiting (often with no results), and a little more laundry than usual.
Tiny incentives can make the process much easier — we do our best to stay away from bribes and rewards on a daily basis because the merit-based obedience can be a slippery slope (but who hasn’t dangled the promise of a spoonful of ice cream once those asparagus are gobbled up?). Though, if there’s ever an action to be celebrated and rewarded, it’s potty training!
When we finally set aside a weekend to commit to training, I threw together a potty chart with as much puff paint and glitter as possible. Our daughter would be given a sticker with every successful potty use and once the chart was full, we’d have a trip to the toy store. If she pooped, there was typically a treat involved (small animal cracker or three chocolate chips).
Because the rewards are associated with the potty we weren’t worried about our daughter getting used to prizes every time she obeyed but it was easy to slip and give her a cookie when she peed, and then “oh! that’s four poops, let’s go get ice cream instead!” She was trained in three days, but admittedly, my system could have been a bit more intentional and exciting.
Just as you’re the only one that will know if your child is ready to potty train or not, you’re the most qualified to make the decision of if and how to reward. Some kids need to see their prize — maybe it’s a big toy truck that motivates them or a large bucket filled with tiny toys they can choose once they use the potty.
We opted for the chart route because it gave our daughter something tangible to track her progress. Since our little girl loves surprises so much, I wish I had thought about the experience of our potty chart as much as the reward. Of course I had a better idea one month after we had potty trained…
This interactive DIY Scratch-Off Potty Chart rewards the independence of using the potty not only with a prize, but also with the opportunity to choose all on their own — it provides an added layer of ownership in the process and continues to build their self confidence. And the anticipation of the surprise makes the training more of a, dare I say, fun experience. Each time the kiddo uses the restroom they get to scratch away a circle of their choice revealing one of two, three, or four (pre-determined and parent-approved) prizes.
- Poster (I used two 12×12″ pieces of scrapbook paper)
- Small circle cookie cutter or stencil (optional)
- Packing tape
- Dish soap (any brand will do)
- Prizes of choice
*Decide on your prizes and then assign a sticker to each prize type. Our prizes of choice were popsicles, tiny cookies, and a sheet of stickers. I found stickers to fit each prize and used three special gold hearts for a few larger prizes (an accessory for her doll, an art project, and a small toy car). If you don’t have time to find coordinating stickers for each prize, you could simply assign a color (red for a cookie treat, blue for a toy, etc.), or draw a picture.
- Decorate your poster so that your child will flip out when they see it.
- Draft your design. I used our tiny cookie cutter to map out fifteen circles on the chart, placing an “x” where each sticker should go. You can be as detailed and meticulous with this as you want but since most of us only have a short window (nap-time) to work on such things, I’ll kindly remind you that your audience is 2 or 3 years old. I know for my little girl so long as there’s bright color and sparkle involved, I can save the perfectionism for her seventh grade science fair project.
- Place stickers. You can let your child choose which circle to scratch off or go in order from top to bottom and if that’s the case, you might want to plan the order of the stickers/prizes with the biggest at the very end.
- Cover each sticker with packaging tape.
- Mix two parts paint with one part dish soap and mix slowly, trying to avoid too many bubbles.
- Place the stencil or cookie cutter over each sticker + tape, and paint. This might take 2-3 coats before the sticker is fully covered.
- Let dry and then hang proudly in your bathroom (low enough for little arms). Have a couple of quarters nearby for scratching time!
- Stock up on toilet paper, wet wipes, and patience. And maybe make a chart for yourself, too. If there’s ever a time you deserve an award, it’s after potty training.