Potty training can be both stressful and exciting for you and your child. There are a lot of different methods for potty training and no matter which method you choose, you will ultimately have to take your child out into the world. You will need to go to the grocery or a playdate, take a car trip to grandma's, make it to a doctor's appointment, or just need to get out of the house to keep from going crazy. You can't stay in the safe zone of your house and your potty routine forever, but taking your even successfully potty trained child out for the first few times, can cause some anxiety. There are a few things you can do to make sure your child can continue his or her success into the outside world.
1. Pack a bag. This is absolutely essential. You need to keep a well-stocked bag of supplies with you at all times. This bag should include: at least two pairs of underwear, two pairs of pants, a diaper, wipes, a large ziplock bag, and an absorbent towel. I know you don't want to include that diaper, but in an emergency when you are out of underwear and miles from home, that diaper can be a last resort. It is better to have it with you and not use it than to leave it at home out of principle. Pack the towel to clean up accidents in unusual situations: the grocery aisle, the car seat, the hallway of preschool. You can put any accidents in the ziplock bag until you get home. The ziplock ensures you aren't the woman who smells like poop roaming the aisles of preschool. You want to avoid being that woman.
It's often a good idea to keep a board book in your bag so you have something to read to your child while he or she is waiting to poop. Children get bored and distracted on the potty sometimes and a book helps refocus that effort. A book from home also makes that transition to an unfamiliar potty not so scary for your little one. If your potty training system uses rewards, be sure to pack them in the bag too. M&Ms travel well unless you are going somewhere hot and stickers are always easy to transport.
I also recommend keeping a small bottle of hand sanitizer in the bag. When you have more than one child in a restroom and they all want to wash their hand with that gooey public soap, and no one can reach the sink, it can turn a five minute trip to the restroom into a 20-minute ordeal. If you have the hand sanitizer in your bag, you can get everyone a quick squirt and skip the sinks and the hassle altogether.
Keep that bag stocked and ready by the door so you can always just grab it and go. Even though your child may be potty trained, he or she may still have accidents for a few months or longer. You will know when you stop needing to bring the bag along.
Some children are hesitant to use the regular toilets found in public restrooms. It will be more convenient for you if you can help your child overcome this hesitation. However, if you cannot, then there are potty seats that come with a handle or that fit easily into a diaper bag. These seats fit on top of the regular toilet and may make your child feel more comfortable with the public toilets. If your child feels more comfortable using that type of seat, pack it in your bag too.
2. Wear a watch and consult it often. Even if you've successfully trained your child to come and tell you or to go potty on his or her own, when kids get busy or distracted, they forget. Just keep an eye on your watch and remind them when you notice they haven't gone in a while. If they ignore your reminders consistently, you may need to go over, look them in the eye, and tell them it is time to go potty. Walk them there and show them where to go. Often kids just need to disengage with their activity and they have trouble justifying that to go potty. Keep an eye on that watch.
3. Be a potty scout. Wherever you go, the first thing you should do it scout out the nearest bathroom. Once you've found it, point it out to your child. Remind him or her that there are potties here and if he or she needs to go, to let you know. If you are at someone's house and your child can get to the potty on his or her own, take them there when you arrive so he or she knows where it is and how to get there. If you are in department or grocery stores, make extra sure you know where it is. Often the bathrooms aren't located where you think they should be and running a toddler to the wrong location is a recipe for accidents. Just ask someone when you enter the store; you might not be able to find someone to ask when the moment arrives.
Some children find it exciting to go to the potty in stores. It seems like an adventure to them: new potties, other people, strange toilet paper holders, the big line of sinks. My own children asked to go potty whenever we entered a department store or restaurant. They just wanted to see the bathrooms. While this got to be a frustrating game, they always went when we visited these potties, and it wasn't long before I learned the locations of every bathroom in our regular stores and restaurants around town.
4. Pre-potty and avoid drinks. Everyone should try to go potty before leaving the house, and if you can help it, avoid giving your child drinks in the car. Even if you think you will be home again before he or she needs to potty, you never know what will keep you out in the world longer than you think. One errand often turns into two or three and the difference between an hour and two hours often slips away, the odds of accidents increase. In your first few out in the world activities, avoid drinks in the car or during the trip since they can complicate your errand. If drinks make your trip more stress-free or your child is simply thirsty while out, give out the drinks but keep an extra watchful eye on the time between drinking and potty trips.
5. Accidents. Your child will almost certainly have an accident out in the world. You will be at a playdate and find your child playing with trains in the tent, his batman underoos full of poop or standing in a puddle at the grocery check-out. It is certain to happen. It happens to everyone. In these situations, whip out your potty training bag and clean up the child and the mess. Excuse yourself from the location, if you must. I recommend that you do not scold your child or discipline him or her in public. That is humiliating for him or her in an already uncomfortable situation. Just explain that it was an accident, that pee/poop goes in the potty, and that he or she should tell you when they need to go. Clean your child up matter-of-factly and don't make a big fuss. You may feel additional pressure to make a fuss of it because other people are watching. Don't do it and don't say anything disparaging about your child or the process. He or she is watching and will notice how you react, even with other people. Don't be discouraged. It is a learning process and your child will eventually get it. Don't retreat to your house.
6. Out in the world success. When your child successfully makes it to the potty out in the world, praise him or her lavishly. Do not hold back your praise because other people are watching. Make a big deal of it. Your child will notice and will be motivated to continue such big kid successes. Tell your family about it when you get home so the child can hear. If you use a rewards system, do not forget to reward for those outside world successes. I success that when you get home, praise your child for keeping dry pants. Even if he or she did not go to the bathroom out in the world, praising for dryness reminds your child that you expect him or her to stay dry in the car and out on trips with you. It will reinforce your training methods and help make those out in the world trips easier in the future.
7. Have potty, will travel. For long trips or situations where you are not sure there will be a bathroom available or easily accessible, you might want to bring your child's potty chair and a roll of toilet paper. Just keep the potty in the car or the trunk of your car. If you need to use it, you can always pull over into a parking lot and get it out. It is better than hearing that little voice say from the carseat, "Need to pee-pee," and racing to find the next exit with restroom available. Plus, a lot of gas station restrooms are creepy and it saves you from having to brave those for the sake of one toddler. Traveling with that potty, gives you peace of mind and saves you from having to clean a wet car seat on the side of the road.
8. You are your own worst enemy. When you go out among normal people, it will be easy for you to get distracted. You've spent so much time worrying about someone else's bladder that it can be a relief to talk about something else with someone, to look at things in stores, or to lose track of time. As tempting as these welcome distractions may be, do not entirely give in to them. If you allow yourself to get distracted and forget about your new job as potty police, your child will almost certainly have accidents. Enjoy your time out, but don't forget about the time and your child's bladder.
As your child gains greater control of his bladder and mastery of his new-found potty skills, you will be able to phase out these measures. But many children take several months to completely potty train and you simply can't stay in your house that long. Be brave, take them out just be prepared. Soon these potty training days will be a distant memory.