What to Know About Potty Chairs

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on May 07, 2022
4 min read

If you're thinking about toilet training your child, you probably know a lot about diapers — whether you like disposables or cloth, what brands you prefer, how often your child typically needs changing — but you might not know a lot yet about what you need to potty train. Chances are you've seen a lot of different potty chairs while browsing the baby section of your favorite store, but how can potty chairs help you potty train your child.

Potty chairs began as simple wooden stools, but today you have many choices. There are potty chairs that feature popular children's characters, ones that make real flushing noises, and even children's urinals. Modern potty chairs can make toilet training more accessible and fun for your child, and when your child has an easier time, you do too.

Read on to learn what you need to know about potty chairs. 

Toilet training, also called potty training or toilet learning, is when your child learns to use the toilet rather than using diapers. For many children, toilet training begins between 18 and 24 months, but some children are much older before they're ready to use the toilet. Children must develop complex cognitive skills to be ready for toileting, including body awareness, working memory, and problem-solving. Children reach these milestones at different times. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting to begin toilet training until children are ready behaviorally, developmentally, and emotionally. Toilet training typically only refers to day training. Bedwetting can continue for months or years after a child is fully toilet trained during the day.

Toilet training is also cultural, and many non-western families toilet train much earlier with no evidence of harm. For example, 89% of Vietnamese children start toilet training at six months old. 

No single age is correct for toilet training. Readiness depends on your individual child's development, your family's cultural norms, and your preparation. Some questions you might want to ask yourself to help you determine if your child is ready for toilet training include:

  • Can your child get to the toilet independently?
  • Can your child put on and take off simple clothing alone?
    Can your child follow simple directions that involve one or two steps?
  • Does your child show interest in toilet use, training pants, or "big kid" underpants?
  • Does your child pull at a wet or soiled diaper or ask to be changed immediately?
  • Does your child seek out privacy when peeing or pooping in their diaper?
  • Does your child consistently stay dry for a few hours at a time?
  • Are you in a good place to show patience, clean up accidents, and more frequently assist your child?

A potty training chair, commonly called a potty chair or just a potty, is a small, child-sized chair with a basin for toileting. You don't hook a potty chair up to indoor plumbing like an adult toilet — the basin is typically removable, allowing you to flush waste and clean the potty. Potty chairs frequently include splash guards to help contain liquids and are usually made of plastic that's easy to wipe clean and sanitize. 

Today, potty chairs come in many styles, from potties that look like miniature adult toilets to potties that feature lights and sounds to engage a baby or toddler. Folding potty chairs can even be purchased for travel. 

Are Potty Chairs Necessary for Toilet Training?

While potty chairs aren't strictly necessary for toilet training, they may make learning to use the toilet a more straightforward process for you and your child. Potty chairs allow you to place potties in multiple rooms. This can allow your child to use the potty wherever they spend the most time. This limits the number of accidents caused by a child not making it to the bathroom in time. Additionally, some children are intimidated frightened by an adult-sized toilet, and a small potty chair can be more approachable. 

You can also purchase products designed to give an adult toilet the accessibility of a free-standing potty chair, such as potty ladders, stools, and child-sized potty seats that attach to an adult-sized toilet. These potty-training aids can make it easier for a child to use an adult-sized toilet independently.

If you're using a potty chair to help your child learn to use the toilet, you may want to start by placing the potty in the room where your child spends the most time. You can let your child familiarize themselves with their potty chair before they start using it for toilet training by sitting on it while clothed. You and your child can establish what the potty chair is used for by reading potty-training themed children's books and engaging with imaginative play, such as pretending that dolls or stuffed animals are using the potty. Some potty training chairs include battery-powered features that can encourage your child to use the potty regularly, such as realistic flushing sound effects or recorded praise from popular children's characters.

As your child starts to become more familiar with using the potty you can move the potty chair into the bathroom to prepare your child to transition to using the adult toilet eventually. 

Potty training tips include: 

  • Let your child see you using the toilet.
  • Talk about toilet training and the steps needed to use the toilet with your child.
  • Watch for signs your child needs to poop or pee and encourage them to sit on the potty.
  • Praise your child for successfully using the potty.
  • Accept that accidents are a normal part of potty training. Punishing your child for accidents can cause long-term problems like chronic constipation.

You may want to avoid starting potty training during a stressful time or when your child's routine is already disrupted, such as the birth of a sibling, a move to a new house, or your child starting a new school.