Friday, November 9

Toddler Potty Training Charts and Book Reviews

Potty training - Yipee! (or kill me...which ever you perfer)

The blessed event can be horrible or easy or anywhere in between. It all depends on our child's personality and our approach. For example, if we get all bound and determined with a strong-willed child, we're probably setting ourselves up for a battle.

Toddler Potty Training 2 Week Chart:
Quick Print:

Now, I've trained three kids, and of course I've watched all my friends train their kids. I've tried the naked method, the routine method, and the sit-on-the-damn-potty-all-day-until-you-tinkle method, all the while watching my friends battle with tantrums, painstaking progress, and carrying around a portable potty every single place they traveled ("Mind if I dump this pee real quick? We just came from the store!"). In this journey, I've discovered a couple of things: first, all the kids ended up using the potty and adapting to appropriate, current social standards. No one died of embarrassment (well, okay, they did - but only theoretically), no one ended up in therapy over the trauma, and no one (as of yet) has grown up and gone to 3rd grade parties sporting pull-ups. All good news. Second, I've learned that you've got a lot of factors involved in potty training. No one method works for all kids (despite claims of our dear fore bearers) and conventional wisdom changes generation to generation. We modern day parents don't like to upset the little boo-boos, and some of the more forceful or strict methods out there seem rather barbaric.

In my research, I've pored over a couple of books. Toilet Training in Less Than a Dayby Azrin and Fox, and Stress-Free Potty Training: A Commonsense Guide to Finding the Right Approach for Your Childby Au and Stavinoha. Interesting stuff. They both have good points, but my personal recommendation is Stress-Free Potty Training: A Commonsense Guide to Finding the Right Approach for Your Child. Toilet Training in Less Than a Day is more for the take-detailed-notes-clear-your-schedule-and-prepare-to-be-absolutely-consistent-and-strict kind of parent. If you are an intense reader, want step-by-step instructions, and can handle a method that might take you out of your comfort zone, have at it. This book just gives a one-size-fits-all method with some out-dated reprimanding, tons of repetition, and pretty intense consequences. (This coming from someone who rides around on a broomstick - and if I'm uncomfortable with it, you know it's over-the-top.) My observations of current mommies lend me to believe there might be a teeny bit of rejection from the more liberal cootchy-coo types. I include myself in this, as I'm not going to make my kid "practice" going to the potty ten times after he has an accident. Seems overkill.

Stress-Free Potty Training, on the other hand, gives focus to different personalities, recommends praise instead of treats as a reward (you all know how I feel about candy as rewards - gah!), and it goes over the universal strategies as applied to your own child's personality. The only caveat is, you have to read it. (Sigh.) I know we all want a quick answer, but in this case, investing some time and research before you get started can save you a ton of headaches and pee pee to clean up.

Overall, I have a few recommendations:

1. Research ahead of time. Read articles, ask your friends (just for feedback, not advice to take no matter what), or get some books. Read samples of the books before you buy and see which one fits your personality. Get down the lingo, absorb the advice, and find a balance on what approach will work best for you and your child. For example, I would never inconvenience myself with carrying around a damn portable potty all day, nor did I get one for my own home. Cleaning that thing just seems too gross for me. However, I didn't mind clearing the calendar and staying at home for days on end to train my kids. Just me. Everyone is different.

2. Don't use food as rewards. In my experience working with kids and behavior, treats are a temporary motivator and don't allow your kids to experience the reward of a job well done for the sake of a job well done. There's also the big picture of teaching our kids to behave in certain ways only for treats, which leads to a lazy "what's in it for me?" attitude when they're twelve, but we'll leave that aside, as it's assuming you reward your kids often with treats for good behavior, which you don't, do you? (Don't prove me wrong lest I scream.)

3. Make them responsible for their own toileting and cleaning up the messes. This is major step from Toilet Training in Less Than a Day that I really liked. You can do this in a loving, matter-of-fact way that doesn't promote shame for accidents. Rather, it teaches kids the direct and real consequence of having accidents in your undies or flooding the floor. Someone has to clean it up, right? Well, if you are teaching kids to be responsible for their own body and its actions, that is just a natural consequence. It's not a big deal . . . it's just something that needs to be done. When they take part in that, while it may be fun at first, it gets to be a pain in the butt real quick, and it just might be an appropriate motivator for our darlings to get on the ball and embrace the ridiculous notion of relieving ourselves on the porcelain monster.

4. Don't be a wish-wash. It's one thing to get into it and realize it's one, big, fat mistake and you're obviously pushing your child too soon and need to stop the training. It's entirely another if you just get sick of the consistency it takes or you get all mushy that your child is a little resistant and tearful. I mean, really, turn the tables; if someone suddenly told your adult-self that toilets weren't acceptable anymore and you had to start using a diaper, you'd freak a little, right? You've been using a toilet for (we won't count how many) years and to change the routine would upset you. It's the same for your kids. You're changing the rules of their little world and it's upsetting. Just go back to advice #1 on my list and research ahead of time to save yourself the agony and confusion. If you've read up on the readiness factors and you feel good that the timing is right, be confident in your decision and forward ho. Don't go back and forth with diapers then no diapers because you'll confuse the tar out of your child and that's just not fair.

5. Try to be patient. This process is time consuming and will doubtless piss you off sometimes. Such is life. Don't take it out on your kid, because they are looking to you for guidance on this process. On the other hand, be forgiving of yourself if you get frustrated and blow up. We are human and being a mommy is tiring! Just learn from your mistakes and try to do better. I'm a spiritual gal, and I'm telling you, if you pray for patience, you're going to get a ton of opportunities to practice it so that you'll learn. :) Not a bad thing.

It's not lost on me that I just wrote a very long post and didn't give you any step-by-steps, but that's the point! You need to research the different methods and figure out what is best for you both. I'd be a stinky friend if I said, "You have to do it this works!" Because that's a honkin' lie. Your child is unique, and you have your own way of doing things as well. Figure out a balance that will give you and your child the best chance of success, the most quickly, with the least amount of tears. No small feat, but I know you can do it! :) When this is all over, we'll toast to your genius and send happy vibes to all the other parents out there who are scared out of their wits. You can then confidently tell them, "Relax, honey. It's all good!"

Happy peeing my friends!

Free Printable Toddler Potty Training 2 Week Chart:
Quick Print:

Free Printable Toddler Potty Training 1 Week Chart:
Quick Print:

If you are going to use a potty chair, this one is a favorite Baby Bjorn Potty Chair [many colors to choose]:

Thursday, October 11

Toddler Feelings Chart

One of the biggest problems I see as kids age is the ability to communicate feelings. This translates into bad behavior. The child stays with the same patterns of communication, which usually means arguing, crying, or tantrums. Not a pretty thing as toddlers age into bigger kids. If you think it's embarrassing to deal with tantrums now, just wait until your eight year old throws enough crying fits at school that you get called into a meeting to put a "behavior plan" in place. Pretty darn awful.

Click or Tap here for a Free Printable Toddler Feelings Chart

Address this now!! Get kids identifying and labeling their feelings. Talk about what went wrong and how you can change it. Of course you have to do this in toddler-speak, but the little dudes and dudettes are a lot smarter than you think. They just need the vocabulary and guidance to organize all these feelings and learn how to deal with them appropriately. Use our emotion chart to start. If you need, pick one emotion a day and introduce them to the cooresponding face. Practice acting out that emotion (or have a favorite stuffed animal act it out instead!) and review it the next day, adding another emotion. It won't be long before your child has a pretty cool grasp of different emotions and can start to identify and talk to you about them as they occur in daily life. This puts you and your child well on the way to healthy, productive, and positive communication patterns!

Friday, October 5

Toddler Advanced Practice Pre-Handwriting Turtle Maze Charts

We've created some Advanced Pre-Handwriting charts to follow-up with our Basic Pre-Handwriting charts. Have fun :)

Click or Tap here for Free Printable Advanced Toddler Pre-Handwriting Turtle Maze Charts

Monday, September 24

Toddler Basic Practice Pre-Handwriting Turtle Maze Charts

Get those little fingers preparing to write numbers and letters with this maze activity. It's great for fine motor skills and working those noggins to think through a problem. (Sigh)...I love a good old fashioned worksheet. Picking up an actual crayon or pencil and working on this is very different than clicking a mouse or arrows on a keyboard to get through the maze. Paper and crayon, people. It's a beautiful thing!

Click or Tap here for Free Printable Toddler Pre-Handwriting Turtle Maze Charts

Thursday, September 13

Free Toddler Number Trace Charts for 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Even more marbles to count! Learn to count by writing 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10...Enjoy!

Click here for Free Printable Toddler Number Trace Charts for 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10

Click here for Free Printable Toddler Number Trace Charts for 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5

Wednesday, September 12

Free Toddler Number Trace Charts for 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Writing fun! Even if you just count the marbles, this is a great activity to get the little genius started with math.

Click or Tap here for Free Printable Toddler Number Trace Charts for 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5

Here's to your future president!!

Tuesday, August 7

Mommy Guilt Relief Chart

So we feel crapola guilty for one reason or another. Every day it's something! The kid is crying nonstop, so we snap and yell at them to stop. Or we are just a little less loving because - let's face it - we feel less loving when they cry and scream like monkeys.

Here are a few of the top reasons we feel guilty and quick answers on how to zap it asap. We all want answers now, and this will get you going on the right track. I just finished a new book on guilt and it has more in-depth answers (and commiseration), but this chart is a good, quick start.

Take a deep breath, grab some calming tea, and remember this is a long haul. Do the best you can each day and forgive yourself when you slip up.

Hugs, my dear!

Click or Tap here for Free Printable Mommy Guilt Relief Chart

Thursday, July 12

Free Toddler Goal Charts

Toddlers often love having a sense of purpose and helping. Add that to their need for guidance, and you get goal-setting! We've created some fantastic charts to help you.

Click or Tap here for Free Printable Toddler Goal Charts

Say you'd like them to stop hoarding so many toys and learn to share. You can start by picking a toy that isn't so important to them and make a goal of sharing. Use simple terms and talk to them about what you're going to do. Write it down and have them help by putting a smiley face or sticker by the goal - this gets them participating and involved in the process. Once the goal is met, have them check it off or put a stamp by it. Then pick another toy that is a bit more important, and repeat the process as needed.

You can use this for setting a good bedtime routine, potty training, helping clean up toys...anything. These charts are a great way to introduce a new skill and get the family focused on creating a positive environment. Just remember to stay structured and consistent.

Happy goal setting!!

Tuesday, June 19

Free Toddler Sleep Tracking Charts

As parents, we are forever needing to recall our child's sleep pattern for one reason or another. Whether it's to determine why their behavior is sour, if they are getting sick, teething, needing extra nap time...the reasons are endless.

Click or Tap here for Free Printable Toddler Sleeping Charts

Use this sleeping chart to track your child's sleep patterns. It allows for recording morning, afternoon, and night. Just mark the hours slept, and if you'd like, use the empty box next to each block of day to "rate" that block's sleep. Then you can average it on the right side of the chart. For example, you might equate "1" to mean "woke up one time" or "cried one time". Two can mean, "woke up/cried two times," etc. This way you can average how rough or disturbed your child's sleep was on any particular day.

Poor sleep leads to health and behavior problems. Toddlers need anywhere from 12-14 hours of sleep (this includes up to two naps a day). Make sure they are getting it! Charting can help you realize where you need to tighten up your routine. A strict sleep schedule can make all the difference in healthy sleep habits. Kids love routines and are more likely to cooperate when you have the same sleep schedule at the same time every single day.

Happy sleeping!

Free Toddler Hygiene Charts

Oh dear. Grubby little hands, filthy toes, and teeth growing fuzz...yikes! The best way to get kids on board with the whole cleanliness-thing is to make it a game. These charts put fun into hygiene and give toddlers a regimented task...which they love! Just print, hang it up, and have them mark off or put a sticker in each box when they finish the task. As long as you are consistent, it will quickly become a habit and something they look forward to.

Soap and smiles, everyone!

Click or Tap here for Free Printable Toddler Hygiene Charts

Thursday, June 7

Brother and Sister Sibling Behavior Charts

Here are some cute behavior charts when it comes to getting along with siblings. Just write in what behavior you want to see such as: use nice words, use inside voice, control anger (ie, by going to room when upset with sibling), help brother/sister with project, read to brother/sister, etc. Do NOT write things like, "no hitting," "no yelling," etc. Those are negatives and doesn't tell your child what you want to see instead. Give them a goal of the behavior you want to see, not what you don't.

Sibs can be totally annoying, but we all have to realize that the family unit is a team. No, child #1 didn't ask to have a pesky brother or sister, but that's life! And the more they fight it, the more miserable they'll be. Sometimes one sib just wants attention from the other. So if you give both children a behavior chart with very specific, positive things they can do to improve the relationship, it guides them on how to act. And when one child gets upset with the other, remember to tell and show them what to do in each and every situation.

Good luck!

Click or Tap here for Free Printable Sibling Behavior Charts

Wednesday, May 30

Amazon Mom

I'm seriously not one for pushing products. However, I am a cheap-o, and if I find a good deal, I'm on it. I get especially excited about good deals on anything that I use daily and any process that makes life easier. We are mothers with eight million things to do. We do not need the stress of shopping! Here's a cool link to a deal on diapers, wipes, and more called Amazon Family. If you find it makes your life easier (since you won't have to drag your poor strep-ti-fied child shopping because you ran out of diapers) go for it, girl! Here's to time management and saving money...woohoo!

Friday, May 25

Teach Your Toddler Shapes like Circles, Diamonds, Squares, Triangles and more...

So cute! Check out a fun way to teach your toddler shapes. I like this because it gets you interacting with your child and doing something non-electronic. While there are many "cool" interactive programs on your computer, ipad, etc., I will always prefer one-on-one, person-to-person interaction. It is precious time with your little one and keeps you connected.

Just print the shapes, trace, and color.

Click or Tap here for Free Printable Toddler Learning Shapes Charts

Friday, May 18

Teaching Your Toddler to Write the Letters A to Z

For a cute, free activity on teaching your toddler the alphabet and how to write the letters of the alphabet, go to We have new printable pages to trace the letters - nice and big, too, for those cute little hands to get around a ginormous crayon!

Have fun!

Click or Tap here for Free Printable Toddler Learn to Write the Alphabet A-Z Charts

Tuesday, May 1

WebMD: 7 Embarrassing Pregnancy Symptoms

Attention all ye pregnant women!  Okay, so this is a little off topic, but I was recently quoted in a WebMD article called, "7 Embarrassing Pregnancy Symptoms".  I've written a book on pregnancy (Taboo Secrets of Pregnancy: A Guide to Life with a Belly) and was asked to give my "expert" opinion on things like gas, belching, and sprouting ape hair.  First of all, it defies me how one becomes an expert on such things, and second, that's a pretty darn disgusting thing to be an expert at.  But whatever.  I'm an easy going gal and don't have a problem blabbing about indecent things.  Guess that makes me an expert.  
What I ended up being quoted on is quite hilarious, although my husband was absolutely horrified.  He likes to brag on me, but he can't exactly send this to friends and family.  (LOVE it!!)
If you aren't too faint of heart, you may find the article a bit humorous whether you have been pregnant or will become pregnant.  Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 14

Toddler kicks, screams, defiant

Here's a recent question someone sent me...very typical of questions that I get, so I figured I'd post the Q/A.  Remember, my friends - "firm" is NOT mean!!  Kids need and want boundaries.  Don't be a mush, or they'll just keep acting like toots...because it works.  Eeek! 

Q:  My two year old can be so sweet, but in a drop of a hat he turns just out of control. He doesn't listen to any commands that are given to him, he screams yells and kicks, slams doors, you name it he'll do it to test you. His favorite is to do something that you've told him not to while he's looking at you dead in the eye. I've tried spankings, timeout, toys taken away,and talking to him.  Were also trying potty training and just like everything else, there is defiance. I'm at my wits end. I'm clueless.  Please help.

Hi there - thanks for writing.  :)
Well, it sounds like he may be a little bit more of a strong willed child - but this is a good thing in terms of when he's older, as long as you can channel that energy and turn it into independence, not defiance.
The main thing I hear is that he's needing attention.  By looking you in the eye and doing exactly what you told him not to do...he wants your attention.  It can be negative or positive - doesn't matter - he just wants you to interact with him.  So here's what you do:
1.  Tell him what you WANT, not what you don't.  Instead of, "Don't touch that!" say, "Hands to yourself."  Instead of "no kicking" we say, "quiet feet".  Does that make sense?  It takes a complete change of thought process but we have to tell toddlers exactly what we want if we expect them to behave.  As far as negatives, from his standpoint, all he hears is "touch that".  They can't process those negatives like "Don't touch that".  If I told you, "Don't think of what you had for dinner last night" - what's the first thing you do?  You think of what you had for dinner.  It's the same w/ kids.  We have to get away from "don't, no, stop it, cut it out," etc., as much as possible.  Think about what you WANT him to do, and tell him.  Show him.  Demonstrate.  Teach him.  Otherwise, he won't know and he'll continue to guess...which doesn't help anyone.
2.  Time outs are tricky.  You have to do them correctly or it's a waste of time.  If he's acting bad for attention, time-outs give him a heck of a lot of attention - b/c people do them wrong.  They'll talk, lecture, yell, keep chasing the kid to put him back's useless. 
You first have to determine why they act out.  If it definitely boils down to attention, I will not say a word - I'll take the kid, put them in time out, and I don't talk, touch, or make eye contact.  If they keep trying to get up, I do the minimum to put them back in.  Cribs were great for me.  I could put them in, remove any toys or blankets, and walk away until they calmed down.  Once they regained control of themselves, I'd walk in and say, "Are you ready to be nice?" or "Are you calm now?"  If the answer is yes, I say simply "We do not bite" (or whatever the infraction was).  If we yell at them during the heat of the moment, emotions are too high and the point will be lost.  Wait until they are calm and recovered, then state it simply and matter of fact.  Try to keep it to what you want to see instead (ie, "we use a calm voice," instead of "we don not scream"), but if you can't, you can't.  (How do you turn "no biting" into a positive?  We have nice teeth???)  Then give very specific instruction on what you want to see next time.  "When you are upset, use your words to tell mommy."
3.  Always think about what his goal is in acting out.  Then give him the opposite.  You really, really have to think about this.  Most of the time, they keep acting that way because we are unknowingly reinforcing that when they act bad, they get what they want.  We think we are telling them that it's not okay, but our actions tell them it works.  Very tricky!  If he starts screaming because he didn't get spaghetti for dinner, by golly, do NOT give him spaghetti...even if he calms down and acts nicely in 5 minutes.  Make it super super clear that he does NOT get what he wants when he acts out.  Short term, this may mean more tantrums, but it's only because it's what he's learned to get what he wants.  Kids figure if they just turn it up a notch, it will eventually work.  We just have to train them that the rules have changed.  Long term, it makes for a MUCH happier kid b/c they have boundaries and feel secure.  Giving in to kids' tantrums never, ever makes them any happier individuals.  The opposite is true.  :)
4.  Intervene when he's getting violent.  Stick your foot in the door if he tries to slam it, grab his legs and hold them if he's kicking (and turn your face the other way so you are not looking at him and giving any attention), and find a spot that is his "calming down" spot.  It needs to have NO fun, no charm, and is only meant for him to calm down.  Make him stay put.  This can mean a 45 minute session of grabbing him and setting him back down in it, but make him stay put and still/quiet for a few minutes.  Do not talk at all - b/c that's the attention he wants.  And he'll think it's a funny game for a while - but he'll eventually get tired of it and figure out it's not so fun anymore.
5.  Make sure you are recognizing him and giving him positive attention for what he does well that you like.  Praise lets him know, "oh, she likes that".  Tell him specifically, "I like the way you're sitting so still while I put your shoes on!"...things like that.  Now, he may turn around and start kicking and confuse the tar out of you, thinking the positive attention thing is bunk, but think about it.  He gets that positive attention from you, likes it, then immediately seeks more attention in the only way he knows kicking...he doesn't realize it's negative's just attention.  So you react to that by holding his legs, turn your head away, and wait until he stops....remember, give him the opposite of what he wants.  By holding his legs and turning your head away, you've taken away the attention he's seeking.  Over time, you will train him that the sitting quietly part is what you like, not the kicking. 
As far as potty training, give the overall behavior time to improve before you start that.  And make sure he's not teething, has an ear infection, or some other phsical issue.  When they hurt, they act awful.  :)  And make sure he has a way to communicate with you.  They get super frustrated when they can't communicate.
Hope this helps!     

Yours Truly,
Michelle Smith, M.S., SLP
Author of Life With Toddlers and The Toddler ABC Guide©