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Child Development & Parenting: Early (3-7)
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Toilet Training-Friendly Clothing

Angela Oswalt, MSW, Natalie Staats Reiss, Ph.D and Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Many parents choose to invest in disposable training pants or underwear that absorbs waste like a diaper, but which are put on and taken off much like "big kid" underwear. Many parents like disposable training pants because they reduce messes from accidents and can be beneficial in transitioning from diapers to underwear. As well, they provide an alternative to diapers in the early potty training stages when children may not be able to stay completely dry throughout the night.

young girl on slideSome families find that using training pants only hinders potty training because children still feel like they have the security of a diaper and therefore do not have as much incentive to stop what they are doing and run to a potty. As well, the training pants can induce complacency in parents when it is difficult to find a toilet or potty for children to use. Inconsistency in parental attitudes about when it is appropriate to poop or pee in the training pants and when it is not can decrease children's overall training success and may extend the overall time children need to complete the toilet training process. Families may also dislike the expense and mess associated with using disposable training pants. For a cheaper alternative to training pants, some families use regular underwear inside of a traditional diaper. This way, children will still experience the discomfort associated with soiling or wetting cotton underwear (and want to avoid that feeling). However, messes and stained external clothing are less likely to occur.

One way to help young children get excited about potty training is by introducing "big kid" cotton underwear. Parents can talk with their diapered children about how after they learn to use the potty, they get to wear these fun garments instead of diapers. Parents can even bring home a package of cotton underwear with the child's favorite cartoon character printed on them to demonstrate what these garments look and feel like. Alternatively, they can let children pick out their favorite underwear package at the store.

Parents should also take care to buy and select outfits that are easy for children to take off and to put on in a hurry. Normally, the rule is that the fewer items on the lower half of the body, the better. Overalls or coveralls are often a particularly bad choice for potty-training children as they are difficult to get on and off. The best clothing will have relatively few buttons, snaps, or ties that need to be undone or done. Elastic waist bands are amazingly helpful during this stage of life as they are the easiest type of garments for children to get on and off.