Potty Training Out and About

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Should I give her a pull-up when we go out?

April 2008

Yes, another potty training question...sorry. My daughter is doing really well on ''number 1'' while we are at home or at someone's house. When we run errands, go the park, or have any length of a drive, I do not want to set her up to fail, but when I am not sure about the ''facilities'' available to us, I am inclined to put on the old pull-ups, but then I wonder if I am undoing the training that she has accomplished. Also, she is at least telling me when she needs a pull up to go ''number 2'' - she has no interest in going on the potty chair (hers or mine) - she says it feels funny. Any words of wisdom on either issue? Thank you for your time and help. Anon

I got one of those travel potties for the car. It's basically a plastic frame that you line with a plastic bag. You can buy refill bags, but I just use grocery bags with a folded paper towel on the bottom. We check the time between the last time she used the potty and if it's about time for her to go again, we ask her to use it. If she refuses the one at home, we'll tell her as we leave that she will need to use the one in the car before we get in the car. So I think timing is essential knowing how often she goes and begin suggesting using the potty as the time approaches and knowing how long before you are able to access another facility or the potty in the trunk.

As for number 2 I'm unable to help. I had mine doing number 2 in the toilet since she was 3 months old so number 2 was the first thing she mastered then we worked on her doing number 1 herself. She's been diaper free since age 2 year 3 months.

Another item I used often during the beginning of the underwear period was the doggy training pads. I use them in the bed under the sheet as well as in the car seat. She would sit on top of the training pad in the car so if there is an accident it's easy to clean up. Good luck. Crystal

We always took our potty with us in the car, even for shopping trips to Costco and the like. We would put our little one on the potty when we got to the store ''to try'' and when we left the store. Same with longer car trips; we would pull off after 45 minutes or so and put him on. That way, he stayed in undies and was successful. And passers-by always thought it was hilarious! anon

Two things:

(1) You will shortly learn where the public toilets are at every place you go regularly. When you have a toddler, you will usually be permitted to use employee only toilets.

(2) Pack his/her potty (or buy a spare) to carry in the trunk of your car. We didn't carry it all the time, just when we were heading to a park or somewhere where we knew there were no bathrooms, but some moms I know carried one all the time. Carrie

Use a pull-up when you go out. It won't disrupt the process. Eliminate the conflict. I would say let her guide this process. Because it is connected to feelings of attachment and advancing into the world. Kids fluctuate. When they take a big step, then they sometimes step back a bit, or insist on having some control. They become increasingly aware that they have very little control and feel a need to control the process. This refusal is a way of her asserting control. She will potty train when she is ready and it sounds like she's well on her way. My son wasn't entirely proficient until he was 3 years and 8 months. susanjane

We have an amazing little portable toilet that comes with disposable zip-lock plastic bags. Look for the Cool Gear Travel Potty. It's so cute, too -- you might ALMOST think it's a laptop! :-) Lisa in Oakland

We have a travel potty called the Potette. It folds completely flat and can easily go into a diaper bag. It is sold online and at Rockridge Kids. It has little plastic bags with absorbent liners that fit inside it. We use this all the time. It was a little hard for my son at first because it is so small but he quickly got used to it. I would much rather put him on the potette in the back of our car or even on the sidewalk or something than take him to many sketchy public restrooms. Jillian

I used to put my daughter in a diaper/pull-up when I knew no bathrooms would be available- or the ones that were would be gross. My daughter was fine and understood the difference between diapers and panties. Actually, although she's been out of diapers during the day for about 18 months now, I'll still give her a diaper to use if we're caught in traffic - she opens it, slips it under her and away she goes. I also used to carry a potty in the trunk of the car in case we got caught short while out.

As for ''number 2'', she also would only go in a diaper and would hold off until one was put on. This is common and I followed advice that said to let her dictate when she was ready to use the toilet. However, after about a year I determined that using a diaper for ''#2'' was a control issue, not fear of the toilet, fear of flushing, fear of watching her poo being flushed (she LOVED to flush) so I decided to withhold the diapers. I was prepared to back off if she became constipated. Well, she screamed and yelled, but used the potty that night and was very proud of herself. The next day she also screamed and yelled but went in the potty. After that we've never looked back. Now I'm trying to figure out how to get her to use only the toilet instead of the potty so that I'm not required to admire her ''handy work''. Finally diaper free - for one child

Seat covers for potty training and public toilets?

Nov 2007

I am about to start potty training and am unsure how to deal with using public toliets. All the product reviews for folding seat covers are terrible and I don't want to use disposables. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Cheers!

Sometimes too much info is a bad thing. For example, only people that had some tragic accident would bother writing a product review of a $5 folding potty seat. Ours worked great. When our dd was just first potty trained (at 1.75 years) we just toted the baby bjorn potty in a shopping bag, but when she was comfortable going at home on the potty with a little seat, we started toting the folding thing around. After awhile, we just skipped it and put down the paper cover (if available) and held her so she didn't fall in. I'd recommend trying to get your child used to using the big potty with the seat as soon as possible, because if going from diapers to the little potty is a big improvement, going from the little potty to the big flushing potty is the greatest thing ever. anon

If there's seat covers I use those and hold her while she's sitting on the toilet. And if not, I make seat covers using the toilet paper. When traveling in cars, I place a doggy training pad on her car seat for her to seat on top of in case of accidents. Many new malls now have family rooms with toddler size toilets and seat covers. Crystal

We keep a small plastic Baby Bjorn potty in the back of our car for emergencies. If it is pee, just throw in a toilet...or a bush and wipe down.We have boys, so now if they have to pee, they don't actually touch anything and I don't usually break out the back-up potty. But if it is poop, we either dump in the toilet and then wash out, or wrap a plastic bag around it to poop into until we can dispose of the poop properly. public bathrooms creep me out too

I just plop my kids on the potty or hold them over it if it looks nasty. I am 39 and haven't caught anything from a toilet. My kids are doing okay so far. -not too worried.

I always carried one of the small, one-piece, molded plastic Baby Bjorn potties with me...ALWAYS. Similar ones can be found often at various Dollar stores. I just found it easier than dealing with the possible and potential disasters of public toilets. Potty Mama

Potty Training 2-year-old: Out and About

January 2006

Hello- Our son decided back in October that the potty is pretty cool and pretty much trained himself. He had literally just turned two the week before. My husband and I feel grateful that our son took the initiative and he is a regular user at home and school.

Our problem is when we are running errands. He still wears a diaper (as he is not 100% trained) and I can't figure out a simple way to get through the whole process. For example:

We are at the mall. I head to Nordstrom's and discover he has a poopy diaper. So, I go to the bathroom, remove his diaper and clean his toosh at the changing table, carry him buck-naked from the waist down across the bathroom and pray there isn't a line for a stall or that his need to go is immediate!

Then I get the seat insert we bought so he doesn't ''fall in'' and he does his business. Then I carry him back to the changing table and pray their isn't another kid on the thing, put a diaper back on and go about our day.

This takes a good amount of time. Then there are the issues of carrying around a naked kid (folks tend to not like that), and the fact that there are often lines at both the stalls and the changing table.

I tried to change his diaper in the stall. But that was a disaster and I vow not to do that again. The one thing that has been helpful are the rare occasions I can find a changing table *in* the stall, but those are few and far between.

Does anyone have a better system? I hope that there is an easier way, as my fumbled way leaves me in a sweat every time we have to use the restroom! Thanks!! :)

When I was potty training my now 5.5 year old and my 4 year old, I always took my child to the bathroom before we left the house and as soon as we arrived at our destination. I know it might sound excessive, but it truly works. My first question as soon as I arrived at stores was ''Where is the nearest bathroom?'' And I would head there right away. On a lighter note, today I saw a couple walk into church services carrying a portable potty seat. I'm sure glad that time is over for me!! Been There, Done That

Look into a little device called On the Go Potty. I bought mine at babycenter.com for $10-$12. It is a little pop-up seat with a plastic bag and an absorbent pad. You can set it up anywhere and throw away the little bag. Once I ran out of purchased bags, I made my own with grocery-style bags (those 10-for-a-dollar Hefty bags at Target, so no risk of holes in the bottom) and maxi pads from the dollar store. I love, love, love this thing. My daughter is reluctant to use the big potty at the stores and this has saved potty-training. Erin

We aren't quite there yet, so I look forward to reading the responses on this. But, have you considered the pull-up diapers? Since it's more like underwear it's probably a little easier to get them on/off in a bathroom stall. anon

I think that you are being too considerate of others. Just do what you have to do when and where you have to do it and your life will be easier.

If you think of it this way, you might have an easier time. People are so bored. They get so trapped in their little what should never be mode, that we mothers just HAVE to do a stand up diaper change here and there. Don't apologise. Ignore people staring at you. You are giving them something to get charged up about. They should thank you.

Also, for me, the minivan was an amazing revelation. I always had a cool car. With a baby, I can not tell you how many people, usually middle aged men, came and wanted to talk to me about my car while I was sitting in it nursing. I was a sitting duck.

I got a 10 year old minivan dirt cheap and have been so happy! Mostly for the portable potty in the back. I line the little pot bowl with a baggy (recycle my produce bags that way) some one pees, (several times that someone has been me!) you lift it off, tie a knot and toss it in the nearest trash can. Diaper wipes are the most handy thing for tidying up the van.....

I keep magazines for me to read while I wait. They love the privacy and I hate public toilets so it works out.

Really, you shouldn't miss your flight or whatever because your child has poo. Just change them on the spot. Put the diaper in a plastic bag, knot it and it will not stink up the trash. If you notice that you have scandalized some one, pat yourself on the back. They were so bored, and you gave them some some juice!!! Good Samaritinism in the trenches!

I trained my duaghter, which people say is different from training a boy, very early. In fact, much like your son, she trained herself. She really liked to be naked all of the time and did not like peeing on her legs. My adivce about being out and about is this: It sounds like you are having an extremely difficult time right now and what I suggest may be the same level or less of stress. WHen my daughter decided to potty train I realized there was no sense in her wearing a diaper out of the house if we were trying to train her at all times. So, we only kept er diapers on at nap and night time which are untrainable hours really. Yes, we've had accidents outside, almost never poop and she trained quite quickly. My advice is to carry a bag with extra clothes as you may already do and a plastic bag for the dirty ones. Other than that you are set. Show him where the toilet is wherever you go and when you can't, like at a mall, remind him to let you know when he has to go and to tell you. It may sound scary but it is less hassle than what you describe. Being in the middle of the transition sucks and it sounds like you're prolonging it accidentally. Nicole

I went through the same thing with my son. He's now almost 3 and, thankfully, seems to have mastered the potty on the go. Two things helped immensely. Switch from diapers to pull-ups - they are as absorbant and have the breakaway sides in case you have to take them off like a diaper; but they are a lot easier to put on in a bathroom stall than a diaper. My son also hated the folding toilet seat we bought for travel and mall errands; so that never worked out for us. What did work was a suggestion from my sister-in-law -allow him to seat on the seat backwards. Most toilets are narrower at the front; so it's easier for little bottoms to feel supported. Of course you have to remove one shoe and pant leg ensemble to do it that way; but you'd have to do that anyway to change the pull-up. This frees you from having to carry and clean the travel seat and it also turns out to be a good beginning for the whole standing-up-while-peeing routine my son is now learning. Beth

If you can't do without diapers entirely (and I urge you to try it -- many kids will use 'em if they're wearing 'em but hold it if they're not) then I think you should switch to the pull-up kind. Much easier to change in the stall.

Also, you may not need to bother with the seat insert doohickey. We never had one and I just held my son on the seat when necessary. He was older and probably larger at the time, but he learned how to balance himself pretty quickly. Holly

Dealing with small children and dirty public toilets

March 2005

My daughter recently turned 2 so we are gearing up for potty training. While I have a number of anxieties about this, I recently had a real scare. She and I were taking a walk along the Bay and I needed to find a toilet. What we found were a couple of those portable outhouses. Luckily for us we had a ''best case scenario'' in that one was large (wheelchair) and very clean. Even still, I didn't want my daughter to touch anything (I can't imagine that working in a normal sized outhouse) and there I stood staring at a hole over a large vat of human waste. So how do people deal with public toilets, both indoors and outhouse, as far as cleanliness and hole size? I can imagine several things such as carrying a small toilet or even seat along, but we won't always have those. Or maybe holding her suspended over the hole, but then where do her feet/pants dangle? And even if that worked with urinating, I am guessing that for poop she would need a more comfortable seating arrangement. I feel like I should be looking forward to ending diapers but I'm not.
Scared to Potty Train

**You're going to go into the restroom with her for a long time from now forward; she won't be solo.
**You'll almost always wipe the seat first, thanks to all those parents who hold their kids above the seat and don't clean the resulting spills.
**Bring backup wipes along - you never know when you're stuck with a porta potty.

Oh, also... despite germ gross out and toileting learning curves, you will naturally relax a little as time goes on. Children take a few years to learn how to wipe really well, but of course, you have to let them do it themselves at some point; otherwise you will end up with 5 year olds yelling to the end of the house ''Someone come wipe me!''. At some point, you just do your best and know your kid will perform less than perfect wiping for awhile. Try not to think about it. It is sorta gross. You will also learn to give your HOME toilet seat a good looking at before sitting on it, as aim is not always perfect in children either. Squeezes eyes shut and makes sure they bathe regularly.

Hi, I'm the mom of 5 yr old and 3 yr old girls, so have been dealing with this for a few years now...and I'm a clean-freak! First, calm down, you're thinking about all the right things...and as long as there's toilet paper, you'll be fine. Tell your daughter the basics about not touching anything in a public restroom--''germs are like tiny little bugs we can't see, and they're dirty. There are lots of germs in public bathrooms''. Or something like that.

Then, use a seat cover, if available, or cover the seat with TP if not. You can lift her up and set her on the seat, and hold her there. Neither of my girls had a problem going #1 or #2 (that only happens rarely, though--they usually prefer to poop at home) while I'm holding them. Yes, their dress or pants might touch the front of the toilet, but hey, that's what washing machines are for...

And I can't say enough about that waterless hand cleaner--Purell, or any generic form of it (Safeway, Albertsons, Longs & Walgreens have their own brands which are cheaper and exactly the same). We have numerous bottles of it all over the house, and in the car and diaper bag. I have a tiny bottle in each stroller and in my purse, fannypack, etc. We are never without the stuff. It makes me feel so much better when I can squirt that in my kids' hands after an encounter with a public toilet (sink or not--sometimes I just want to get my 3 year old out fast (she still tries to touch too many things in public restrooms), so we forego the sink and use the ''special stuff'' instead.) Another tip--scope out public restrooms around town (in stores, restaurants...), and try to plan your trips around the cleanest ones. Heidi

We've just gone through this phase and I too dreaded having to use often yucky public toilets. I recommend having the fold-up toilet seat with you as much as possible, as it really helps to be able to whip it out at a moment's notice. When you are caught without it--which we know will happen--you end up holding your child while they try and poop. Not as comfortable, but it has worked for us.

It seems our ''diaper bag'' is bigger now than when my child was in actually diapers because we not only carry the fold-up potty seat, but a spare pair of underpants, pants and socks (yes, they can get mighty wet in an accident). We always have a spare pull- up too in case our son is just too tired to make it to the toilet, has diarrhea, or we end up on a long drive for nap potential.

Good luck mastering the logistics, it won't seem as difficult in a few months. Constance

My two year old was potty trained at 22 months, and we use a foldable toilet seat for public places. They can be purchased at BabiesRus. She was not able to use it the first time, but had no problem from then on. She really likes ''her potty seat'' and it folds small enough for me to carry in my purse. As for touching things in the restroom, I have no answer, she has touched the most disgusting things. We use lots of soap after. happy with seat

Hi there - my best buy ever was a portable, foldable potty seat. It fits on any toilet and you know it's clean - just keep it in a ziploc bag and then clean it when you get home. Here's a link, search for Folding Potty Seat http://www.leapsandboundscatalog.com Good Luck - using public toilets is not that scary! cathy

Potty training for on-the-go stroller set

May 2004

We are now trying to potty train in earnest, and have found that we can take our ''portable'' baby bjorn potty with us in the car (for driving over to a park, etc.). But we cannot figure out what to do about the weekdays when our daughter is home with her nanny, who uses only the stroller to go to the local parks, walk along College Ave., and other local routes. There are no close bathrooms at most of the parks they go to (Bateman,Willard,etc.); the potty is too big to carry around (it's the kind with the white pot that you remove from teh seat to empty out), and even if she did haul it in a big plastic bag hanging from the stroller (which seems really awkward), there's no way to clean it easily after use.

How do people deal with potty training when they are out and about during the day with a new trainee who cannot yet ''hold it'' until they can find a bathroom perhaps 5 or 10 minutes away??

Any advice appreciated!
1st time potty trainer

Our son has just started potty training and if we don't have the potty or access to a toilet i get him to pee wherever is convenient...ie a bush or tree etc. This may be easier for a little boy but he did have to poop once in a park with no toilet and we got him to squat and then cleaned it up with one of the numerous plastic bags we always travel with now! I've also become very aware where toilets are (rockridge kids, frog park. cactus etc). But sometimes these are just not available and when you gotta go, you gotta go!

''Little Potette'' (or something like this) is a foldable plastic potty you can get at Babyworld, Rockridge Kids and Long's Drugs. It's small enough to fit in the bottom of a stroller, or even in a bag. Toddlers often have fun to set it up themselves. A quiet corner on the playground, in a park, or at a not too busy sidewalk are places to go.

The potty comes with disposable plastic liners. If you prefer something reusable, you put some tupperware under the potty and close it with a lid afterwoods. (One of the standard Rubbermaid round flat sizes fits perfectly.) You can either take everything home, or you empty it in a public bathroom or pour it into the canalisation (the latter not for #2).

Try to Google the 'Potette' to get some pictures of it so you can get an idea if that fits your need. I bought one when I was in NY area (in buybuyBaby store), but there is no store other than NY/NJ area, and I could not find the product in its website. However, a quick search in Google resulted in few online stores in the USA (the first link was for UK market, maybe it's more popular there).

Good luck

PS: I have not used it, so I can say if it was a good buy or not.

PS2: I think I remember saying that she bought hers at Baby Depot at Burlington Coat Factory, maybe you should check there. anon

We bought our Potette at OneStepAhead. We've used it a couple of times now & are very pleased with it. It seems a bit flimsy, but it is comfortable enough for our 37 lb widget. KB

2 1/2 Yr Old will only use the potty at home

November 2002

My potty training 2 1/2 year old refuses to go on any potty other than the one at home. At home, he's great, even getting up from the middle of a video to tell me he has to go. Great, right? The downside is that when we are not at home, he HOLDS it, sometimes 4 or 5 or 6 hours at a time (I know, I can't believe it either). I feel no rush to potty train, but I feel like we're neither here nor there, and I'm concerned about how long he's holding it. Any ideas?

A 2 1/2 year old can hold out for 4,5,6 hours without using the potty, with no problem. Ask him/her if s/he to go before you leave home, and then if s/he refuses to use a public toilet while you're out but has no accidents, I wouldn't worry about it. My child can go a LOT longer than I can and seems to have suffered no ill effects. Sometimes he wants to use a public toilet and lots of times he doesn't. I don't fight him on this one. Fran

I don't know if your son has expressed his reasons for only wanting to use the potty at home, but for my daughter, she found the big industrial toilets that you find in many public places to be quite menacing.

My solution: To carry around a Baby Bjorn potty (about $10) and a ziploc of Clorox wipes (well-marked, so as not to confuse them with diaper wipes!!). I usually just got smiles in public as we went from place to place with the potty in tow. (My husband found it to be a little too crass for his comfort, so he'd stick the potty in a plastic bag.) When she'd have to go, we'd stop in the nearest restroom and do our thing.

Now, she doesn't mind going on the public toilets, but if they are the big industrial ones, she asks to leave the room before I flush, as she finds that noise to be too scary. -- Ilana