Tired of changing double the diapers with your twins? Now could be the time to potty train. Here are proven tips on how to potty train twins (without losing your sanity).
When to Potty Train Twins
About the time that our girls turned 2 years old my wife and I had the conversation that went along the lines of “OK it’s time to potty train our twins now.” Potty training isn’t something that any parent really looks forward to doing but it is a necessary step and milestone.
When is the right time to potty train your twins? You may hear a lot about readiness and how to determine if your child is ready, but I’ll save you some time: blow past all of that fluff. It really doesn’t matter so much if your twins are ready as much as it matters that you and your wife are ready.
However, once you feel like you are ready to tackle this newest twin challenge, there are several other factors that will help you decide when you should potty train your twins:
Your Twins Want To Potty Train
We were reluctant to potty train our twin girls because we knew it would be a lot of work. This procrastination gave our girls time to mature. Slowly, over time, our girls started showing interest in using the potty like Mommy and Daddy. We found ourselves frequently taking them to the potty at their request.
If you wait long enough, your twins may very well ask to potty train.
You are Sick of Diapers
One of the challenges you have is the massive amount of diapers that twins use. This is a significant financial burden in addition to the hassle of changing all those diapers.
You will reach the point where you don’t want to keep spending that money or dealing with always packing diapers wherever you go. This may be a good time to start potty training your twins.
You Aren’t Going Anywhere
Potty training your twins is not an instantly completed task. Plan to train your twins when you won’t be traveling for vacation or business. By sticking around the house you will have more control over accident clean-ups and have the benefit of your home’s familiarity.
Your Twins Can Communicate
Your twins’ ability to communicate to you is a critical aspect of potty training. They don’t necessarily need to be talking, perhaps they are using baby signs to communicate.
(RELATED: Don't reinvent the twin parenting wheel. Get my 7 Things Every Dad of Twins Needs to Know.)
Regardless of the communication method, be sure you can understand your twins’ needs and they understand your instructions. If they have demonstrated the ability to follow directions, that will also help with their training.
You are Prepared
Before you begin potty training your twins, you need a plan. Ideally, this plan will cover what you will do and say, and how you will respond, react, encourage, support, clean-up, practice, help, and teach your twins.
I recommend the book Toilet Training in Less Than A Day for giving you step-by-step tips on how to potty train your child. My wife and I loved that book and used its positive reinforcement methods to teach each of our kids.
Yes, you can teach your child the logistics of using the potty in one day. Will they magically keep their pants dry immediately thereafter? No. Mastering their bodies will likely take a little longer.
We took the steps from that book and printed them out on papers that we hung up in the kitchen the day we were training each of our twins. This helped us remember what we should do in the chaos of the moment.
Potty training your twins really comes in two phases: teaching the skills and daily practice. First, let’s talk about what you need to begin twin potty training:
Essential Supplies You’ll Need to Potty Train Twins
When it is time to potty train your twins, make sure you have the right supplies on hand.
Potty Training Bathroom Gear
While it is true that twins don’t always need two of everything, the exception occurs with potty training. We found that when one of our twins wanted to go potty, the other almost always followed with a “Me, too!” When you are training your twins, you want to enable them to form good habits so you’ll need to make provisions for them to both go potty at the same time.
(RELATED: The Twin Stroller Advisor helps you find the perfect double stroller for your family.)
You may think that if you have two bathrooms in your house that you are set. However, this isn’t the case. In the early days of potty training, your twins will likely need help. If you are home alone, you can’t realistically send one twin off to another bathroom while you stay with her sibling.
You need to prepare one bathroom as the potty training bathroom. This should have a little potty training toilet, likely a hard plastic toy-looking one with a removable bowl like this. If your training toilet has flashing lights or sounds, take the batteries out or you’ll go crazy.
Augment the little potty with a child’s toilet seat adapter that will fit on your full-size toilet. Something like this potty training seat.
You will also need step stools to help your twins step up to the big potty and to reach the sink and wash their hands. Make sure you have two stools.
Clothing for Potty Training
Loose fitting clothes are best for potty training your twins. You don’t want them to have trouble pulling down their pants at the critical moment. Try buying underpants that are a few sizes bigger than your child. Make sure you have plenty of clean changes on hand and be prepared to do laundry every day to handle accidents.
You will need to clean up five things: the twins, the bathroom, the floor (wherever accidents happen) and clothing.
Wet wipes are your best friend for cleaning up your twins, especially when they poop in their pants. Toilet paper is fine for general use, but sometimes you just need the extra ‘umph’ a wet wipe provides to clean a dirty bottom. You can use the wipes to clean out the underwear, too.
Get some disinfectant cleaner wipes for cleaning the hard surfaces in your bathroom during potty training: floor, sink, toilet, tub, etc.
(RELATED: Don't reinvent the twin parenting wheel. Get my 7 Things Every Dad of Twins Needs to Know.)
Have a supply of floor or carpet cleaner for handling accidents that will occur around your home. Hopefully, you aren’t too emotionally attached to your carpet, because it will take a beating while your twins learn to master the art of potty training.
Stock an adequate supply of laundry detergent and stain remover spray for the extra laundry you will be doing.
You will have poop accidents where your twins’ underwear is so nasty that you’ll want to just throw it away. Don’t worry, that is natural. It is especially hard to handle poop in public when you are away from your cleaning resources. In times like that, it is OK to let it go. Wrap those soiled undies up in paper towels, drop them in the trash, and move on with your life.
The key to a happy and successful twin potty training is patience. You must remain calm and positive in your encouragement or things will quickly spiral out of control. Take your time, and lower your expectations and things will work themselves out. Your twins will master the potty and you can move on to the next stage of twin parenthood.
How to Potty Train Twins
Feeling overwhelmed at the thought of training both twins at the same time? Take heart: it is fine to train each twin one at a time.
Decide Which Parent Will Train
We found it very helpful to potty train our girls one at a time.
My wife had potty trained our older son. I took a turn on our second son and a potty trained him. When the time came for potty training our twins, my wife and I discussed our options and decided that she would be the one to potty train them.
To teach them the mechanics of using the potty, I took all the other kids out of the house for a morning while my wife trained our daughter. The absence of sibling distractions combined with the reassuring presence of constant parental attention helped each daughter focus on the task at hand.
Which parent should potty train the twins? You need to decide based on what makes the most sense in your situation. My wife and I took turns with each of our boys (singletons) and we decided that she would potty train our twins.
This step is all about expectations. Even though one of you will do the official training, the other spouse will need to support the trainer and reinforce the right behaviors for the trainees as well.
You Have to Teach Them
Your twins will not naturally know how to use the potty. They won’t know how to pull down their pants, sit on the toilet, use the toilet paper, pull their pants up, and wash their hands unless you show them. These very tactical skills are essential to potty training and too often parents assume that kids just know how to do it. You need to set aside a day to teach and practice these basic skills.
Pick the Day to Begin Potty Training
Look at your calendar and set aside “potty training day” for one of your twins. Mark it on the calendar and start talking to your child about that day. Get them excited about potty training by taking them to the store to pick out “big girl (or boy) underpants” and help them prepare for the big day.
Potty Training Day needs to be a day when you are free from distractions and other obligations. You need to dedicate all your attention to the process and focus 100% on your child on this day.
Learning the Skills
As I’ve mentioned before, the book Toilet Training in Less Than A Day has fabulous step-by-step instructions on how to potty train your child.
It starts with your child “training” a doll that can wet herself. Your child will help the doll to learn how to use the potty. In so doing, she will learn the steps herself.
After the doll exercise, you will need to have your child drink lots of fluids throughout the day. The book’s method uses positive reinforcement so it rewards the child when she has dry pants.
Accidents are followed up with practice drills reinforcing how to run to the potty, getting on the potty, and then repeating the process.
By the end of the day, your child can physically use the toilet by herself. Truly amazing.
Continual Reinforcement & Positive Peer Pressure
After the mechanics of potty use are mastered, you will need to constantly praise and reinforce your twins during the subsequent weeks and months. Over time they will become more self-sufficient but be sure to stick around and support them until they can go unprompted and unassisted.
One of our girls wanted to potty train and the other parked her heels and refused. So we trained the willing child and left the other in diapers.
However, as the diaper-laden girl saw all the attention and praise her sister was getting, she quickly wanted to train, too. One advantage of twins is that once you get one doing what you like, you can leverage that peer pressure to influence the other.
Have you already potty trained your twins? What methods worked for you?