Potty training twins with one bathroom. It kind of sounds like a horror movie, doesn’t it? I’m not a fan of horror movies. I like to know what to expect and how to handle it, which is pretty much the opposite of what you get with twins. Since my twins were born, I’ve learned to set the bar low — sometimes extremely low — in order to better enjoy my life. Low expectations equal happy surprises when things actually do work out. This is how I approached potty training my twin boys, and, boy oh boy, am I glad I did.
The truth is that my boys went above and beyond what I expected. This is mostly due to the fact that I waited so long to start. At 2.5 years old they started showing interest in the potty. They’d ask about the toilet and wanted to watch me and my husband “go”, so I took this as a sign that they were getting ready. I ran out and bought a floor potty, underwear, and pull-ups that same day. Within a few days they were back to showing no interest, sometimes even aversion to sitting on the floor potty, so I gave up pretty quickly. I was also not ready to delve into potty training, so I was fine to hide everything away until it was the right time.
Timing is everything
Their 3rd birthday came and went and my mom started asking when I was going to get going with potty training. I cringed every time she brought it up. Honestly, I didn’t want to deal with it. It was the busiest season for me at work, the holidays were upon us, the boys kept getting sick, and I had a business trip coming up that would take me away for several days. I was in no mood to potty train. But I knew they were more mature and they had started showing interest again, so I planned to start right after returning from my business trip.
I’m so glad I waited until I was ready. Here’s another confession: my twins were ready before I was! The funny thing about potty training twins is that it’s really more about training the parents. You have to be ready and willing to put in the time and effort in order to be consistent and committed to the process. Only then will you see positive results. If you start potty training half-assed, it’s not going to work. And this goes for all caregivers: if not everyone is on board and being consistent it will take a lot longer to work.
I used a 3-day potty training twins boot camp method to train my twin boys. The point of the “boot camp” is to stay focused and kick off the training right. All you’re doing is staying home for 3 days straight and practicing going on the potty as much as possible. This gives your kids consistency and repetition, the foundations of every learning experience. It also trains you to learn their cues so you can better predict when they need to “go”. While your twins are house-bound for 3 days straight, I encourage YOU to get out of the house once a day by yourself to make sure you don’t lose your mind. Plan ahead to get these breaks, even if it’s just for an hour.
I wasn’t sure the boot camp was going to work — but it DID! By the end of day one, I had one boy totally on board, but I was 75% sure the other boy wasn’t ready and we’d have to stop with him. But a mom friend of mine encouraged me to keep going and see what happened at the end of the third day, and guess what? Day three was the total opposite of day one for him and he was well on his way to getting the hang of it. I’m so glad she gave me that advice and I didn’t give up on him too soon.
Items to invest in for potty training twins
- foam pump soap (lathers really easy, seems like a lot so they don’t over-pump)
- toddler underwear (just regular cotton briefs are fine; 8-10 pairs per child. Double that if they attend daycare outside the home.)
- sweatpants or shorts with elastic waistbands (8-10 pairs per child. Double that if they attend daycare outside the home.)
- 2-floor potties for each floor of your home (love the Contours Bravo potty)
- 2 kid stools for each bathroom (love the BabyBjorn step stools)
- Child training urinal (optional)
- Toilet seat with the child insert for every toilet in your home, or toilet trainers to place on top of a normal toilet seat
- Clorox wipes
- Plastic bags for containing poop accidents
- Baby wipes (I wouldn’t bother with “flushable potty training wipes”; they are too thin to get the job done and they will clog your toilets if flushed)
- Tons of laundry detergent and fabric softener. You’ll be doing a lot of laundry.
- Posterboard and stickers
- Small prizes
- Craft supplies for the 3-day weekend, like finger paints, paintbrushes, and heavyweight paper. You’ll be home a lot so make sure to liven up the routine with some new activities that can be done at home.
- Twiniversity Tip: Did you know that your Amazon Echo (aka “Alexa”) can help you POTTY TRAIN? Open the Alexa app on your phone. Under the “Alerts & Alarms” tab in the menu bar, you can set reminders, timers, or alarms. Choose Reminders, and name each of them “[YOUR TWINS NAMES], it’s time to use the potty.” and Alexa will actually say those words to your twins! You can’t set recurring reminders–only one at a time–but you can set multiple reminders at once. BRILLIANT! To buy: http://amzn.to/2gQzFWG
Two weeks prior
Find time to make a big shopping trip to get all the supplies you’ll need. It can really get your kids excited to start if they get to pick out their own style of underwear and potties. Start talking it up to them every chance you get. I reminded them at each diaper change how nice it will be to not have pee and poop on their tushies all the time. I told them how big they are and how nice it will be to not have diaper rash anymore.
Consider what equipment you’ll need. In the above list, I included all the options but that doesn’t mean you will need every single one for your potty training twins experience. For example, the child urinal may be helpful for boys, if you have space in your bathroom. But remember if you teach your boys to pee standing up from the beginning, they may never want to sit to pee. Teaching your sons to sit to pee from the start will keep your bathroom cleaner, as well as avoid falls from stools. We made a rule in our house that standing to pee is only for daddies, and they bought it (so far.)
One week prior
Make a hand-drawn calendar to count down the final week until potty training starts. Post this on your fridge at their eye level and have them cross off each day to get more excited. Talk to your child care provider about the plan and make sure you are on the same page. You’ll need them to stay consistent with your plan and rules to really drive home the training for your twins.
Boot Camp Eve
Give your twins a big pep talk before bed about how they won’t be wearing diapers anymore starting first thing in the morning. Tell them how great it’s going to be and how much fun you’ll have (lies) and try to be as sincere as possible. Make one last trip to the store to get some treats for yourself: wine, chocolate, fancy iced coffee drinks — whatever floats your boat, stock up on it.
If you want to use a reward system, create one chart for each child (download this free printable potty chart here: Potty Training Twins Chart.) Print two out and tape them to individual poster boards for each child and keep switching out the charts as they are completed. Some people like to offer a single piece of candy for pee and something cheap like a Matchbox car or Shopkins for poop, while some experts recommend staying away from rewards because verbal praise will often be enough to keep your kids motivated.
When you’re dealing with twins you’re dealing with two different personalities, not everything will work for both of them. Once one guy sees that the other guy is getting candy or toys, he will want it too. One way to do it is to start out with a sticker chart. You might each pee or poop with 1 sticker, and lead up to a bigger reward once the chart is finished. Make sure your stickers are out of reach of your twins or they might try to cheat on the game by stealing stickers (yes, this happened!) to get a treat sooner. Remember that, eventually, they will stop getting rewards. If you feel that your kids won’t be ok with that you might not want to introduce rewards at all.
Preparing your home and yourself for potty training twins is absolutely crucial to save your sanity during the 3-day boot camp. Over-prepare for the insanity of it all so that when it goes really well you’ll be pleasantly surprised. In part 2, I will discuss in detail what to expect throughout the process and what to expect afterward too.
Julie Burt Nichols is Twiniversity’s Dean of Parents, serving as Editor-in-Chief of Twiniversity.com, Account Manager, and Instructor for Chicago Twiniversity classes.
In What to Do When You’re Having Two, national twins guru and founder of Twiniversity (and twin mom herself!) Natalie Diaz provides a no-holds-barred resource about life with twins, from twin pregnancy and twin birth all the way through your twins’ first year of life. Click here to buy on Amazon!