Potty Training Gear: What to Get, What to Skip

You’ll find when you get to the potty training stage that there is a whole new arsenal of gear you just have to have:

  • Pull-ups
  • Cloth training pants
  • Potty Chair
  • Singing/talking/laughing potty chair
  • Miniature urinal for boys
  • Potty Ring
  • Travel Potty Ring
  • Step stool
  • “Incentives” (e.g., candy, stickers, toys)
  • A peeing doll
  • “How to Toilet Train Your Child” instructional books/ DVDs for you
  • “How to Abandon the Diapers” inspirational books/ DVDs for your child
  • Underwear
  • Waterproof mattress cover
  • Extra sheets

So what do you really need? Well, I would like to say I simply took away the diapers and introduced the underwear, and that was that. There’s something to be said for the cold turkey approach to toilet training: the child quickly learns that no diapers = big mess and then takes it upon himself to jump up on the toilet and take care of business.

We ended up buying a little potty before Audrey was two. I like the idea of skipping the potty and letting kids learn on the regular toilet, but she just seemed so little and uncoordinated at the time. What if she fell in and became traumatized forever? She did enjoy sitting on the potty but it did not inspire her to take any action for several months, and we didn’t do much to push her along.

Throughout our potty training adventures, I ended up getting her a few of the listed items above: cloth training pants, a potty ring, incentives in the form of unnatural and not-exactly-organic chocolate candy, and of course underwear. While I’d like to claim that she trained on her own without any help from potty training products, I found everything I bought helpful.

What were your potty training essentials? What can you skip altogether? Help other parents avoid some unnecessary purchases (and save the world from one more singing potty chair).


  1. what about the stickers??? I totally remember that Audrey loved the star stickers and the little chart you made yourself. I don’t remember chocolate being part of the process at all, at least during my visit.

    Happy New Year!!!

  2. We bought a combo step stool/potty made by Boon. It wasn’t much help as a potty, but it is still in daily use as a step stool. By the time Freddie was ready to lose the diapers, he was tall enough that a full-size toilet wasn’t intimidating. If he’d been shorter, maybe we would’ve needed the chair.

    Our potty training books came from the library and we went from diapers to underpants without an intermediate step. We made our own reward charts out of paper, and used whatever stickers were around the house.

    Our big splurge was Matchbox cars. At first, ten successes on the potty = one car. Then ten poops on the potty = one car. Finally, ten dry days = one car. I don’t think he got more than five or six, total, but yeah – that’s the one thing that we decided was completely worth it. My toddler can be bribed!

  3. Thanks for the tips – we are immersed in potty training with my two year old son right now. He was 85% potty trained a few months ago, then an allergy/asthma related illness put our hard work down the tubes.

    We are skipping Pull Ups, if possible – and have the step stool/potty combo. He seems to do fine with that. As far as incentives – we are steering clear of food related rewards so far. At first stickers were working as a great reward – his potty chart was full. Lately he hasn’t been interested AT ALL and stickers are not helpful.

    We have started trying Cars. So far, he’s had two poops and received two very special prizes. I like the idea of 10 poops = one car. Otherwise we’re going to go broke!

    Thanks for the tips!

  4. rebecca's mom says

    Instead of thinking “bribe” think positive reinforcement which is a very effective way to train kids and even adults. I trained number one daughter with juice and wheat thins which she thought were cookies. Number two child was more challenging parlty because I wasn’t as focused. Different personalities respond to different tricks.

  5. We bought a bjorn little potty which was good for early potty training and a potty seat insert for the big potty, which is what our daughter uses now. We also bought cloth training pants, which were essential, but we only used them for a short time. I would try to find someone to get them from used (we’re holding onto ours for now b/c baby #2 is on the way, but after that we’ll pass them along to someone else).

    We have to use pullups at daycare, but don’t use them at home. We bought one book, but that was really optional, especially since you can get those at the library and we find telling stories about a topic to be more effective. Oh, and we also have a stool for our daughter to use getting on the potty so she can do the whole thing herself, from start to finish!

  6. I recommend the bjorn potty (especially for boys). Who knew aim could be a problem while sitting. Underpants with favorite characters are good motivation to keep the pants clean. A stool for washing hand and climbing onto the big potty is helpful. Pull-ups are good for naps, daycare and long trips, although at some point you have to go all in. We also used a urinating doll and the book “Potty training in one day”. It did not lead to training in one day, but it did teach DS how to go when he sat on a potty. After that it was really just reminding him to use the potty at regular intervals (I recommend a sports watch with repeating alarm) to keep the pants dry.
    We resorted to M&Ms for positive reinforcement. With almost no candy allowed these were major motivators. BMs were another story and these were a problem for about 1 month after we went all in. Finally we made a deal that the person who put the poop in the potty got a chocolate chip cookie (again not normally served at home). After watching a parent savor a cookie for cleaning up messy pants twice, he resolved to get the cookie and miraculously the poop went in the potty.
    He is also competitive, so if he refuses to use the bathroom we make it a race, “I want to go first before we leave for the park”.
    Glad these days are done for now, until DS #@is ready.
    PS….I don’t recommend the musical potty (royal potty FP). We have one and it is horrible to clean. You have to rip it into about 5 pieces to clean it at least once per month or the smell of urine will knock you out.

  7. For us, the pull ups were a drawback rather than a help so I’d say ditch them. Stickers and treats were of no help either but that has more to do with my child not the idea! LOL!

    Mind you, pull ups were great when he got diarrhea some time after he was trained and we had to deal with the issue of not getting to the loo in time…

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