A lot of people who teach potty training say, "Don't leave the potty out. It's not something to be played with."
But when we're doing Elimination Communication with babies ages 0 to 18 months, everything is played with. Everything is put in their mouth. Everything is handled, explored, through all of the senses, all the time.
Is it okay to let your baby play with the potty?
My stand on this is yes, it is okay for your child to play with the potty. In fact, because EC is an “exposure technique” and something that exposes your child to the potty as a normal part of everyday life from as early as you start - between birth and 18 months old - we want to make the toilet just another part of the scenery. This is part of the environment, part of the landscape.
What if we don’t use a mini potty?
Just like we have a big toilet, we also have a mini potty. Some of you may not use a mini potty, while some of you may only use a top hat potty, which is for newborns to around 12 months or sometimes older.
Some of you will only use the sink or the toilet. (It's your sink. You have the right to use that if you want, because it's easier on the back)
If you just use the toilet, you're going to use a toilet seat reducer. We definitely want children or babies, as soon as they're walking and as soon as they can pull up, to be able to take that toilet seat reducer and put it on and off the potty as many times as they want, because, guess what? Playing with it does not last forever.
Once they master the ability to get that thing on and off the big toilet, the sheen and shine and allure of it is just going to wear off and it's just going to be a normal part of the furniture, right? We want to let them explore.
When playing with the potty or seat becomes a signal
We also want to keep an eye out for if a child's using a toilet seat reducer, not a mini potty, when do they crawl or walk into the bathroom and start putting that toilet seat reducer on the toilet or taking it off. That can actually be a signal that means that they need to go potty right then.
This is all good information and if we just hide it away, there's no way they can communicate to us, without words, with their body language and movements, that they need to go to the bathroom.
Establishing familiarity with the potty
The reason I say leave the mini potty out (obviously don't leave pee or poop in it ever) clean, sanitized, and setting it wherever we are spending the most time - in the living room, the bedroom or wherever we are, we want to bring it with us in the car and stick it in the car on the floorboard and potty your baby on that, or on the seat or in the back of the minivan, whatever - is because we want to have familiarity with that potty.
This is part of our furniture - and babies can't hold it that long at these ages. If they're crawling around and they're diaper free and they start to go, you want to quickly transport them to the potty. We want to have it in our play space, which means they're going to play with it.
Let's get over our germaphobic tendencies as new mothers and fathers, especially first time parents of a single child. Single children, first time moms are often very paranoid. I used to wipe my baby's hands with a wet wipe after somebody touched him! It was kind of over the top, but now with my fifth baby things are a lot different. (We definitely have the 5 Second Rule at play.)
Offering a pottytunity (because playing with the potty may be a signal!)
Playing with the potty is going to happen and often, when they start to play with it, we want to set them on it to see if that might've been a signal.
They approach the potty through crawling or walking. They go over and pick it up. Let's say, "Hey, let's try to go," and put it back down, have them sit on it, place it at their calves, tell them to sit if they can't stand yet or just have them sit on it - whatever way you want to - put them on it and see if going and approaching the potty was a signal.
This shows them that when I approach the potty, my parent will put me on the potty, which means that they can use that as a way to communicate that they need to go.
Again, for play for children of this age, for babies and young, early toddlers, play is an expression. They're getting to know things. They're getting to know the ropes and they're also communicating through their play if we just pay attention. I definitely think it's okay, to a point.
Dumping the mini potty on their own
Now, when they go to the bathroom in the mini potty and they're trying to carry it by themselves to the toilet to dump it, it's still okay, but you're going to need to help them feel like they're carrying it themselves so you don't get into a tug of war and spill it.
We want to definitely allow them the ability to walk with you. You're spotting it, or you're holding it and they've got their hands on it. You're doing it together.
Yes, we have to slow life down for this, but we can move to the bathroom together and dump the potty together.
Practicing dumping the potty creatively
A great way to practice this and play with the potty in a productive manner that teaches a good skill is to fill it with water outside and allow them to dump it over and over again and fill it with water and dump it so that they can learn how to carry the potty without spilling it.
Which mini potty is best?
I highly recommend my mini potty from tinyundies.com. It's very short and easy to get on and off of and very easy to lift, pick it up and dump it themselves, and small enough that it's not going to make a huge disaster.
When allll baby wants to do is play with the mini potty
If you feel like your baby is obsessed with the potty and playing with it way too much, and you're not able to make that connection, then put the potty away and use a toilet seat reducer. You can see my other podcasts and my book on that, transitioning to the big toilet.
Maybe they don't realize that the potty is not for play. Maybe they don't realize this is where I need to be going to the bathroom. Maybe they don't like the mini potty, which happened to one of my five kids.
In this case, they're just using it as a toy. You can have them potty their doll onto the mini potty or whatever. You can still use it as a signal. They go to the potty and if you know they won't go on the potty, then take them to the big toilet once they approach the mini potty.
You can still use it as a tool, but then we're going to want to put a toilet seat reducer on the big toilet and start using that because it's a lot less likely to have them playing with the potty whenever.
Whether to use toilet seat locks
I do also recommend toilet seat locks if your child's sticking their hand in the toilet. I recommend them until your child is about 18-20 months old. You have to gauge that with your own child, but that's how long I use them.
They have a quick release so older kids can open them, but the babies can't. If you've got an issue where your child loves the water, like my 5th, and definitely likes to play rubber ducky in there, lock it up!
Whether to say “no” to playing with pee or poop
If they stick their hand in the potty after they go pee or poop, I always say no. With my first child, I never said no. (I didn’t want him to learn to say no...lol.)
Then my mom showed me a funny sitcom episode about a child’s parents who were so afraid to say no, and it was this funny thing where she keeps testing all the light sockets in the room. And they're like, "Not for you. Not for baby. Not for..." It was ridiculous.
Finally, with babies two through five, I say no. They're all going to say no whether I ever say it or not. So we're not teaching them to say no by setting boundaries, we're actually showing them what's safe or not - and it's not safe to play with pee or poop.
In that case, when they stick their hand in the pee or poop afterwards, we say, "No, no. Yucky," or, "Not for Twyla," or, "Uh-uh, don’t touch the pee-pee."
I would never lie to my children. I would never mislead them. I always want to give them the actual facts and the truth - and the truth of the matter is that you don't play with pee or poop. It's just not hygienic. I'm fine with making a boundary there. Maybe you are as well.
And that is about all I have to say about playing with the potty.
Is it okay? Yeah. To a point.
And what should you do about it? You should definitely use “playing with the potty” as a signal, use it as a tool, and use this playtime to teach things so your child can learn to be independent at an early age (which is early to us, perfect for them).
Alright, and that's it.
Let me know in the comments below:
Does your child play with the potty? If so, what did you do about it, or if it hasn’t happened yet, what are you going to do about it if it does?
Until next time, happy pottying, y'all.
PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)