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Potty training 2 kids at the same time - it's easier than you think
Until I started toilet training two children at the same time, both boys, I didn’t think there would be any advantages to this situation. While it was true that the work was busy and challenging I also noticed there were a surprising number of hidden advantages. Here they are, plus some helpful tips for easy potty training of 2 children together.
Note: for the purposes of this article, "toilet training" and "potty training" are taken to mean the same thing and the terms are used interchangeably here. This is because many children will train with both a potty and later a toilet.
Why would someone need to potty train 2 children together?
Potty training two kids at the same time is not so unusual these days. This situation is not just restricted to parents of twins. Other situations include a stepchild and a biological child; an older special needs child and a younger normal child; two very closely spaced children (e.g. 9-12 months apart) where the oldest isn’t eager on potty training; and so on.
An otherwise normally developing older child whose toilet training has been delayed by significant illness, surgery, or injury might also be toilet trained at the same time as a younger sibling.
And of course, moms who work from home providing informal ongoing daycare in their home for another child may also find themselves potty training two kids of similar ages together.
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1. You double your chances of success
Right off the bat, you double the chances of success when you have two kids doing toilet training. This is because instead of having "one egg in the basket" you have two. If for example after commencing, it becomes evident that one of the children is not taking to it easily, at least the other child might have success with it sooner. This makes it more rewarding than it otherwise would be.
Aside from doubling the ultimate success of the endeavor, with two children you also double the chances of day-to-day successes (e.g. having a greater number of successful occasions of someone peeing in the potty, having someone telling the caregiver that it’s time to pee, etc). Once you realize that you can have double the successes during the day, then it’s much easier for you and the kids to get excited about how the potty training is going.
2. Each kid wants to gain skills the other has, which speeds up the learning process
Children often learn from each other more easily or more willingly than they will from an adult. As an example, one of the two I was training developed an irrational fear of the potty or toilet. He seemed truly terrified to even try it, no matter how I tried to help him or what approach I used. However, when he saw the other child climbing on the step stool to sit on the toilet, he then was willing to try it himself – but only by copying the other child move for move.
As you can imagine, when a child wants to gain a skill the other child has, it can really speed up the process of toilet training more than any technique that you could devise.
3. Less total time of your life will be spent toilet training
If one of the kids happens to take 3 months to toilet train and the other takes 5 months, then by training them together you are still only taking up 5 months (the total length of time of the slower one) to have the process completed by both kids. Whereas if you had toilet trained them one at a time, you will take a total of 8 months of your life potty training.
Add this time savings to the point above about two kids learning faster from each other, and the news looks even better.
4. Potty training rewards have a stronger effect with 2 kids
Initially you will probably use treats of some sort (cookies, stickers, or some other treat) as a reward when a child pees in the potty or toilet. These rewards have a stronger effect with two children. This is because, for example, Bob quickly sees exactly why Jack received a treat (for peeing in the potty). Furthermore, Bob (who didn’t pee in the potty) didn’t get a treat. However, now that Bob sees by example exactly how to get a treat, he will be highly motivated to pee in the potty next time.
So your rewards are much more powerful when you have two kids toilet training at the same time.
5. It’s easier for you to get around to bathroom cleaning
It may be hard for you to get either or both children interested in even being in the bathroom at all. So how do you get one child in the bathroom? Get the other child in and the second will follow. How do you get the first child in? Start cleaning the bathroom.
When they see you doing something “official” in the bathroom (i.e. other than trying to convince them to get in there and try the potty), they will follow you in and watch what you are doing! This helps them feel happier about being in the bathroom in general. As a result, it will be much easier for you to clean the bathroom than it was before – in fact, you may find yourself cleaning the bathroom quite frequently to get them to come in.
6. Increased bonding and learning time with the children
Because you will be around your children literally every second as you watch carefully for signs of needing the potty, you will get increased time to bond with your children. Before, you may have read a magazine at the table while they ate their snack. Now you watch them like a hawk for signs of restlessness to use the toilet. While this is understandably exhausting for you, rest assured they will lap up all the extra attention. Also, while they’re sitting on the potty you may be entertaining them by singing songs for a lot longer than you normally would. Or play peekaboo. Perhaps your more advanced child even wants to do flashcards or read a book. Either way, they’ll learn a lot (that is unrelated to potty training) and enjoy this extra watchfulness.
Of course, this point is still true even if you are only training one child – but with two kids, each one will also learn extra from the other one’s “potty time entertainment”, making for almost double the total learning time.
7. They will most likely progress at different rates in their toilet training
Odds are that the kids will progress at different rates, and this will actually be an advantage for you. Although it sounds like it is a disadvantage, it’s not. This is because it allows you to have a bit more trust in the more advanced child’s skills, or at least be able to prioritize at any given minute which child needs your full potty-related attention and which child can wait or can be trusted on the carpet.
As an example, I was supervising one of the children in the little potty in one room of the house when the faster-progressing one informed me he had to go too. So I took him to the big-person toilet (which he had recently started learning) and set him on there and returned to the child on the little potty, knowing I could trust the more advanced one to get the business done, hopefully wash hands, and come back to me. If the more advanced one had not ‘pulled ahead’ early in the process, I would have had two children both needing lots of active supervision at that same moment.
Sometimes one child will need your immediate attention, sometimes the other child. It will vary during the course of the day. But in contrast, if they are at the exact same stages with the exact same problems, it can be a lot harder on you. So really, potty training 2 kids at the same time is not quite twice the work of one child at a time because odds are they will progress differently.
Disadvantages of potty training two children together
- Lots more laundry and floor mopping
- Busier and more stressful or frustrating for you
- Much more difficult to schedule outings such as groceries or even chores at home like vacuuming, etc. as so much of your time is taken up with potty training
- You will almost certainly have to cut down on other weekly activities you do, at least in the beginning, in order to give the full attention that this situation deserves
- If the toilet training is going very poorly with both kids, it is much more difficult than with just one child
Best way to potty train two kids at the same time
Make sure each child’s underwear is easily identifiable at first glance without having to resort to reading the sizing info. However, if the kids are the same gender and not too different in size, consider purchasing plenty of only the larger sized underwear for both kids. Either way, you will need to be able to grab and put on new underwear quickly.
Don’t be afraid to cut things out of your schedule, at least for the first few weeks, in order to get toilet training properly established at home. Despite all its hidden advantages, toilet training two kids still isn’t an easy job. Friends you socialize with, playdates and your volunteer work or other regular activities may have to take a back seat for those weeks. If they are truly your friends, people will understand. Ultimately it is you (not your friends) who have to deal with complications if your children don’t toilet train well, so make your time limitations clear if need be and set your boundaries well.
Don’t automatically assume you need to buy two potties when you have two kids toilet training. We bought two but didn’t need the second – we noticed the kids were more likely to want to go on the potty when they saw it as a “hot commodity”. Of course, use your intuition for this as situations vary: for example a child who struggles with sharing would be best suited to his or her very own potty.
Stock up on easy-cook meals for the first week. The end of the day is difficult for the potty training children and caregiver, so make cooking be easy. With 2 kids, that first week or two is probably the worst phase (at least for us it was), but once they have figured out what to do, even if they are not consistent, things get much easier on everyone.
The bottom line on toilet training 2 kids
Potty training two children together, while not easy, has a surprising number of hidden advantages. Make the most of these advantages and have double the enjoyment when both children are potty trained!