Let's Ditch Those Diapers!
While many "experts" claim it is best to wait "until your child is ready" (usually around 3) to potty train, waiting this long is a historical anomaly. Prior to the 1960's, potty training as early as 18 months was the norm. Large portions of the globe continued down this path of early training and many experts have come back around. Proper training requires three items: a potty chair, a training seat (you can find our top picks reviewed HERE) and a travel potty seat (reviewed HERE). First up, potty chairs . . .
- OUR TAKEPROSCONS
- OUR TAKE
- A great choice for children who are big for their age, this unit has a large bowl yet is still close enough to the ground for those on the smaller side. It's also easy to clean and sturdy, with non-slip grip on the bottom. We wish it looked a bit more like a "real" potty but is close enough to be our top pick.
- Lowest list price in our comparison.
- Super easy-to-clean design.
- Sturdy—made of high quality plastic (BPA, PVC and phthalate free) with a non-slip base.
- Large bowl is perfect for bigger kids.
- We wish it looked more like a "real" potty for younger children (still, we haven't seen reports of training confusion as with "multi-function" potties).
- OUR TAKE
- This unit has its problems BUT is a great starter potty, especially for younger children as it generates interest in the potty with its realistic appearance, flush sound and small size. It's also clearly a potty, helping to avoid training confusion. The downside: it's small and rather difficult to clean.
- Small size and realistic appearance are great for smaller children (especially those afraid of the larger potty).
- It's clearly a potty and is fantastic for generating interest in the toilet (just like those for "big boys" and "big girls").
- Comparatively difficult to clean—one popular solution is to line the bowl with a small waste-bin bag.
- The unit is quite small (we'd recommend for younger children).
- Some assembly required (still, quite easy and only takes approximately 5 minutes).
- OUR TAKE
- A design that doesn't hide grime and is easy-to-clean earn this unit high marks. It's also clearly a potty, helping to avoid training confusion (other units may look like toys or have multiple non-potty functions). It missed our top spot due to reports of "bowl sticking to the bum" issues.
- Simple, easy-to-clean design.
- It is clearly a potty (children can struggle with units that look like toys or which serve multiple functions).
- Made of high quality plastic and comes in two sizes and multiple colors.
- Non-slip bottom stays put on tile.
- On the pricier side for this type of unit.
- The inner "pot" isn't particularly secure—in extreme cases it can stick to your child bum and spill over when he or she stands up.
- OUR TAKE
- This unit has been very well received (and reviewed) in the marketplace and also serves as a step stool, "potty reducer" and "travel potty reducer." Ultimately, we feel the extra uses for this device enhance the risk of training confusion—we like our potties to be just that, a potty.
- Competitive price when accounting for the fact that the unit includes a "potty reducer" and "travel potty reducer."
- The only unit in our comparison with handles (children tend to grab the sides of the toilet when training).
- Comes with a soft seat pad.
- Our experience is that extra functions can lead to training confusion (i.e. its best the potty is only a potty).
- The potty reducer and travel potty reducer are nice extras, but won't really end up saving you much. For example, you ABSOLUTELY, 100% need a fold-able travel potty reducer and this one doesn't fold.
What to Focus On
Training Effectiveness, Build Quality and Easy-to-Clean
When evaluating the potty chairs in today's comparison, we focused on three key attributes: (1) training effectiveness, (2) build quality and (3) ease of clean-up. Training effectiveness addresses the question of just how effective the potty chair is in helping your child adjust to the scary and new world of using the potty (after all, he or she has been wrapped in a diaper since birth). Build quality is obviously important, as you do not want a unit that tips over, is otherwise flimsy or overly complex. Lastly, ease of clean-up largely speaks for itself—you don't want a unit that accumulates grime or which is overly difficult to empty. Among these three factors, we assigned training effectiveness slightly more weight. Build quality and ease of clean-up were weighed equally.
We choose the Loo Potty Chair by Joovy as our top pick because it is very sturdy and makes clean-up a breeze. This unit is also the most competitively priced in our comparison and feels like it is made of high quality plastics (they are BPA, PVC and phthalate free). The "Loo" earned slightly lower marks on training effectiveness because we wish it looked more clearly like a "real" potty (training confusion can occur when a potty is used for multiple functions or isn't treated). Still, this unit is clearly not a stool or toy, so the risk of training confusion remains low.
We chose the My Size potty by Summer Infant as our Runner Up, not because it is particularly sturdy or easy to clean, but because it scores extremely high in our training effectiveness rankings.Specifically, this potty is a great starter potty, especially for smaller children as it generates interest in the potty with its realistic appearance, flush sound and small size. As mentioned above, transitioning to the potty can be scary and the model by Summer Infant makes the process approachable and interesting. This unit is quite small (and therefore best for smaller children), the bowl is rather shallow and clean-up isn't as easy as with other models. All that aside, you are buying a potty chair to POTTY TRAIN and this unit will help you do that faster and get your child onto the "real" potty sooner.
The Potty Chair by BabyBjörn is very well reviewed, but missed our top spots due to reports of "bowl sticking to the bum" issues. Specifically, the inner "pot" isn't particularly secure and in extreme cases it can stick to your child bum and spill over when he or she stands up. If it wasn't for this issue, this potty chair would have earned our top spot because we feel it is more clearly a potty than the Joovy Loo and therefore scores higher in our training effectiveness rankings.
Our final pick, 4-in-1 Potty by Primo, came in behind our other models because we feel it tries to do too much at the expense of training effectiveness. Specifically, this unit is also designed to serve as a step stool, "potty reducer" and "travel potty reducer." We don't feel the travel potty reducer is particularly good, as you will want a FOLDABLE UNIT you can carry with you in your purse for emergencies when out and about. Moreover, we fell that that using the potty as a step stool can lead to training confusion (i.e. we like our potty chairs to serve one, and only one, function).
Do I Really Need a Potty Chair?
Yes! YES! Y.E.S.!
As alluded to in the introduction to today's review, many potty training pros have come (back) around to the realization that training younger is better. Aside from the cost and environmental benefits of ditching diapers, timing savings (one famous book estimated that changing diapers and related activities take around 9 hours a week of a caregiver’s time) and the benefit of being able to get your child into a potty-trained only day care, is the fact that your child has a behavioral window when he or she is "open" to being trained. This window is is generally recognized as being between 20 and 30 months old, although it can begin as early as 18 months. Specifically, it is best to train your child before he or she progresses too far down the process of individuation (i.e. recognizing his or her own sense of being), which typically begins occurring around 12 months but really takes off after 30 months. This is when your child will start saying "NO" and being defiant. Why is this so important? At all costs you want to avoid teaching a child who is old enough to want to be rebellious. Training a child who wants to say "no" simply for the sake of it can make training exponentially more difficult (and messy). LONG STORY SHORT, EARLIER IS BETTER.
So how does a potty chair fit into the equation? For starters, younger children have a harder time getting up and onto an adult potty, even with a stool and seat reducer. In addition, younger children may be a bit intimidated by the adult toilet: the potty chair represents a more approachable intermediate step. Furthermore, the potty chair can be placed in your child's bedroom during night training and can be placed in the back of your vehicle for road trips (consistency is THE KEY to successful potty training, so you want to be ready and able to drop everything when your child indicates he or she has to go). Most importantly, however, is for proper prompting.
Prompting is the activity whereby you instruct your child to use the bathroom. The proper manner of prompting will vary with how far along you are in the potty training process. During the first few days of prompting, prompting will consist of telling your child to use the toilet. After this initial stage is complete, however, prompting will morph into something more like "hinting." This is where the potty chair comes in. At this stage, you will simply ask your child if he would like to use "his potty or the big potty." Importantly, you won't be telling him to "go pee pee" or "go poo poo." Instead you are offering two options, with the backdrop inference that he or she will be going "poo poo" or "pee pee." We know it sounds like splitting hairs, but over prompting in a direct manner after the first few days of training can lead to push-back.
So now you know! Keep in mind that many larger children will quickly move on to the big potty. Other's will use the potty chair for some time. Regardless, its an important transition tool and will remain essential for proper promoting even when your child no longer regularly uses it.
Lastly, keeping in mind that potty training is all about transitions and consistency, you will also want to invest in (1) a travel potty seat (reviewed HERE) and (2) a seat reducer (review coming soon). The travel potty seat you select will ideally be fold-able so that you can bring it with you in your purse or stroller—the idea is to have it at the ready so that your child can continue training when you are out and about (going back to diapers for outings can severely hinder the training process). The seat reducer is necessary for when your child is necessary to "step-up" from his potty chair to the big potty (hint: you'll also want to buy a stool at that time).
The ReviewDecide Method
What We Do...
We started ReviewDecide on the premise that a great deal of the information required to properly evaluate a given product is already right in front of your (and our) eyes. In fact there is too much information! A crucial skill necessary to picking the best products is instead the ability to cull through the available information, focusing on what should really drive a purchase decision.
To make those crucial determinations as to what matters and what doesn’t, we begin by thinking through what really matters to us when we use a particular product. We then use the that type of product to further refine the features we care about and that we think you will care about too. Next we search the web, looking to manufacturer’s websites, product specifications, consumer reports, expert blogs, research reports and the like to obtain crucial insights and the facts.
Finally, we distill the results of our research and combine it with our own experiences as consumers, professionals, techies, mothers, fathers, hobbyists, designers, software engineers, attorneys (sorry) and more. Ultimately, this process results in the reviews we present to you. We hope you enjoy!
- Photo of mother and son potty training from iStock.
- Photo of baby boy on potty training chair from iStock.
*Images have been cropped and/or resized.