Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

Teaching Kids Healthy Habits Teaching Kids Healthy Habits

Would you use an iPad app to potty train?

Posted by   + Show Post

Review: Potty-training apps for iOS

Interactivity and extras help some apps stand out from others

I enjoy many things about fatherhood. Changing diapers is not one of them. Fortunately, my daughter has begun to show signs that the sun is about to set on the Pampers era. She’s beginning to tell us when her diaper is… not so empty anymore. She’s eyeing the plastic potty we bought her with greater intent. It won’t be long now, or so I keep telling myself with each diaper change.

To help pave the way, then, I’ve turned to the App Store for potty-training help. I’ve spent the past few weeks looking at two kinds of potty-training apps—books that help kids learn what it’s like to go diaper-free, and all-in-one apps that combine extras like progress charts and videos with stories about potty training. And I also discovered a few apps that stood out from their potty-training compatriots.

Book apps

After thumbing through my share of potty training books, I found that worthwhile materials cover a lot of the same themes. A good potty-training book for your kid emphasizes that this is all part of becoming a big kid and that a reward—wearing underwear!—awaits them at the end. Good books also acknowledge that there are going to be accidents along the way and that’s all right. And for heaven sakes, wash your hands afterward.

With one unfortunate exception we’ll talk about at the end of this section, the iOS books I looked at for this review covered those bases. Where they stand out from one another is in the details.

Of the story-only iPhone and iPad apps I looked at,The New Potty, a mobile adaptation of Gina and Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter book released by Oceanhouse Media, impressed me the most. The story is about a little girl learning how to use the potty, and there are some great messages for kids and parents alike—it’s perfectly natural to be scared, accidents are going to happen along the way, and so forth. Because the story is told from the perspective of an older brother, it’s also a great choice for families with more than one child, as it may inspire your other kids to help out with their potty-training sibling.


Words on the Page: Tap an object when reading The New Potty, and its name appears on the screen while a narrator pronounces the word.

The New Potty offers Read to Me and Read It Myself options; an Auto Play feature runs through the story without any intervention from you, which may be a good choice for especially young kids. Tap on any of the words in the story, and the app will read them aloud. It’ll also say the names of any objects you tap, with the words floating across the screen. Each page also features a grasshopper and a spider hidden among the illustrations; you’re supposed to tap them, and the app will tally up your score at the end. It’s not exactly germane to the potty-training mission of the app, but it’s a clever little bit of interactivity that may keep your kids coming back for more.

Oceanhouse is also responsible for Once Upon a Potty, which comes in separate gender-specific versions that run on both the iPhone and iPad. In the story, Prudence—or Joshua, depending on which version you’ve downloaded—gets a new potty, discovers what it’s used for, and learns a lesson about the importance of patience and persistance. As with The New Potty, Once Upon a Potty features narrator and read-it-myself modes as well as an auto-play feature. Touching objects or people on the screen will cause the app to announce them aloud and highlight the words if they appear in the text on the screen. There are some hidden sound effects you can activate with a tap as well.


Not-So-Short Story: Things drag a little bit in Once Upon a Potty.

Once Upon a Potty is probably a perfectly acceptable story for many users, but I found it to be a bit of a drag. The pacing of the narration is slow and deliberate and may not appeal to younger kids; my daughter certainly had a hard time sitting through the story. The app features an extra called The Potty Song, which you can sing along with, but the song has a not-very-kid-friendly slow jazz rhythm—think “Girl from Ipanema”—and not especially catchy lyrics. I don’t think Once Upon a Potty measures up to The New Potty.

I Have to Go is another adaptation of a children’s book for the iPad, this one by Sieneke de Rooij and Tineke Merirink. It’s a short, easy-to-sit-through tale of a little girl who needs to go to the bathroom and undertakes a house-wide search for her potty. Some positive messages are emphasized along the way—chiefly, that going to the potty is what big kids do—and there’s a bit of interactivity thrown in as well. Touch one of the drawings, and an object—a cat, a dog, a stuffed animal—will make a cute, little noise. Multilingual families will appreciate that the app from Tizio lets you choose six different languages for the narration; you can also turn off the narration for kids who want to read the story aloud.


Navigation Frustrations: I Have to Go is a pleasant-enough story, but its controls are a little confusing.

I Have to Go’s lone extra is a drawing feature, in which kids can color in one of three drawings using a palette of 12 colors. Drawing tools are limited to tapping the area you want colored in, and there’s no erase feature, so more creatively inclined kids may find this extra a little frustrating.

I thought the navigation for I Have To Go left a little bit to be desired as well. There’s a play button to repeat narration and arrows to advance or go back. But it’s not immediately clear what these buttons do at first, so you might tap the play button thinking you’re going to go to the next page; you won’t. That’s a minor issue. More significant is the home button that automatically takes you to the beginning of the story—a potential problem if it’s tapped by an over-eager toddler who’s just trying to interact with the story. There’s no way to skip ahead to a specific page of I Have to Go, so if you inadvertently tap that home button, you’re starting over.


Making a Mess: Crude drawings and poor sound makes Potty Time an easy app to ignore.

I don’t know if Potty Time from 1598741 Alberta began its life as a physical book before arriving in the App Store. I do know it was easily the most disappointing of the potty training apps I looked at. The illustrations are crudely drawn and unappealing. The options for having the story read back to you are limited to tapping the words on the screen. Each screen has an interactive element or two, but if you tap multiple things at once—as kids are wont to do—the resulting sound effects play over each other, resulting in a cacophonous din. Some kids may like the noise, but I can say from experience that parents will not. Don’t give this iPhone and iPad app a second look.

All-in-one apps

Two of the iPhone/iPad apps I looked at not only contain a potty-training story, but other materials aimed at helping your child finally ditch those diapers. One offering is more complete than the other, however.

I had high hopes for Potty Training Time, because it’s produced by Two Little Hands. That company is also responsible for the terrific “Signing Time” series, which teaches kids how to use American Sign Language and may be my daughter’s favorite thing ever. It certainly outranks me.


Phone Home: One of the best features in Potty Training Time is a simulated phone call from Rachel Coleman that praises your child for using the potty.

Unfortunately, Potty Training Time didn’t quite meet my expectations. The app is a free download and ships with a peppy introductory video, a story, a potty-training-themed match game, and a chart for tracking potty training progress. There’s an especially cool feature that simulates a phone call from Signing Time and Potty Time host Rachel Coleman in which she exalts in a successful trip to the potty or offers words of encouragement when there’s been an accident. That’s the sort of thing that’s really going to appeal to kids who adore the Signing Time series.

The problem is, the app feels a little incomplete at this point. The Books and Games sections have “More coming soon…” entries next to their single offerings, and the Community section of the app is little more than a link to the Potty Time Facebook page that takes you out of the app and into the Safari browser. Apart from the one video that ships with the app and another that you unlock by using the progress chart, the seven other videos in Potty Training Time are only available via in-app purchase for $1 each. The developer certainly has the right to explore revenue-generating opportunities, especially for a free app, but I would have liked an option that lets me pay once to unlock all the videos; that’s not available in Potty Training Time.

Perhaps future updates will make Potty Training Time feel like a more worthwhile app. At this point, the app could use a little more polish.

You’ll get a more complete package with Potty Time with Elmo, an iPhone and iPad offering from Sesame Street featuring the ubiquitous red muppet. Take note, however—while he may get top billing, Elmo only has a few lines of dialogue in the app. A narrator supplies the rest of the story and even the included songs are performed by a non-Elmo singer. It’s not that big of a deal, but if you download the app hoping for wall-to-wall Elmo, you need to dial down your expectations.

What you will get with the app is a rather pleasing story, in which Elmo shows kids how to go to the potty, from knowing when it’s time to go to washing your hands afterwards. You can opt between Read & Play, Listen & Play, and Just Watch modes. The Play part of those options is especially noteworthy: Each scene features an interactive element that makes a noise and vibrates when tapped. You’ll also hear a squeal of delight from Elmo the first time you discover that tappable element, and it gets stored in an achievement roll.


Musical Accompaniment: The songs included in Potty Time with Elmo are easy for kids to sing along with—this one’s set to the tune of I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.

Extras include a four-piece puzzle game that’s just easy enough for toddlers to solve and bask in Elmo’s appreciative cheers. A sticker reward chart lets parents track when their kids go to the potty, wipe, flush, and wash their hands. It all adds up to a pretty solid one-stop app for your potty-training needs.

I think the most valuable assessment, though, comes from my daughter. She tested all these apps with me, and Potty Time with Elmo is the only one she clamors for consistently. I think the sounds of a toddler shouting “Potty! Elmo!” is a better endorsement than anything I can offer, and the sight of her sitting on her potty at Elmo’s urging is giving me hope that our diaper days may soon be drawing to a close. 

by on Jun. 11, 2012 at 8:59 AM
Replies (11-16):
countrymomma81
by on Jun. 12, 2012 at 11:48 AM

Both of my kids did this. My son would poop in his dump trucks and bring it to me. My daughter would take her pants off and poop in her closet well after she was potty trained. Some kids are just difficult. 

Quoting bethany169:

That's great, but what if they're ready and fighting you on it?  DS will be 4 next month, goes pee in the potty when he feels like it but will go in his pull-up if he's playing or just doesn't feel like getting up to the go the bathroom.  When he poops, he goes into a specific corner of his toy room every time.  He knows what he's doing, he's ready and it's just become a power struggle.  We've tried the reward system, the schedule, bribing him with big toys that I know he wants, talking to him about it, pretty much everything short of an iPad app and he just won't do it. 

Not everyone who uses things like this is forcing their kids before they're not ready.

Quoting timon95:

exactly, we had one potty trainingbook and that was it. no videos, apps or anything else. we waited until they were ready to start trying then set up a reward system, schedule, and just went with it.

Quoting sarah824:

We don't have an I-pad, but we probably would not have anyway. We didn't use many tricks to potty train. I waited until they were ready and let them lead the way. 




timon95
by Betty on Jun. 12, 2012 at 12:31 PM

well, like you My Boy was the first to potty train and pooping was an issue. Like your son, mine just did not want to poop in the potty. Not sure, but I think that is a common issue for both boys and girls - they are just not comfortable pooping in the potty. Ds also learned though, that he did not like being in a poopy pull-up or underwear. But, like your son, mine knew what he was doing when he would hide and poo in his pants. My thoughts are, if they know what they are doing, they know they have to go and they hide, then something does need to get taken away or some form of discipline. But not doing anythign it is saying that it is ok to go hide and go in their pants, and to keep making messes and more work and laundry for you. Yes, potty train when they are ready, don't force the issue. But, once a certain age is reached and they know they have to do this and they hide, then it does need to be enforced a bit. I sat ds down for many talks on how it wasn't good for him to poop in his pants anymore, it wasn't good for his bum. And I also gave him the talk on how it wasn't good to hold it in until a pull-up was on, it could cause tummy issues. He got that talk because he did hold it in and got backed up and couldn't poop. i gave him a stool softener and he did not like that feeling - pooped in the potty after that. :) I understand how frustrating it can be, nothing wrong with getting frustrated over this. Maybe talk with your son on what would work for him for pooping on the potty? Have him seem involved?

Quoting bethany169:

Well, saying that you didn't need to use any tricks because you waited until they were ready kind of implies that if a parent needs to use tricks, the child isn't ready :)  I'm sorry, I guess my reply sounded antagonistic and I'm not trying to be snotty, it's just really frustrating.  We've tried just putting him in underwear and he's better about peeing in the potty but still poops in them.  We take away toys, etc for hitting and things like that, I'm kind of hesitant to do it for potty training too because I don't want it to lose it's effectiveness as a tool for stopping the hitting. 

I agree that an app probably won't help because from skimming this post, it mostly sounds like stuff we've tried before.  I guess I need to talk to his pediatrician about it - I'm starting to suspect that there is something about going on the potty that actually hurts him, or it's harder for him to go in that position or something because last night we actually got him on the toilet after he went into his corner and said he was pooping, but then after a minute or so, he said he didn't have to go.

Quoting timon95:

for me at that point if my child knew what he/she or were doing and it was more of a power struggle, then instead of rewarding I would begin to take things away. I would also take him/her out of pull-ups during the day (if home all day) and stick them in big boy/girl underwear and only allow pull-ups for bed time. If the child is being that defiant then an Ipad app is most likely not going to help with that. I never said that anyone using things like that is forcing their kids to go on the potty, I did said I waited until they were ready.

Quoting bethany169:

That's great, but what if they're ready and fighting you on it?  DS will be 4 next month, goes pee in the potty when he feels like it but will go in his pull-up if he's playing or just doesn't feel like getting up to the go the bathroom.  When he poops, he goes into a specific corner of his toy room every time.  He knows what he's doing, he's ready and it's just become a power struggle.  We've tried the reward system, the schedule, bribing him with big toys that I know he wants, talking to him about it, pretty much everything short of an iPad app and he just won't do it. 

Not everyone who uses things like this is forcing their kids before they're not ready.

Quoting timon95:

exactly, we had one potty trainingbook and that was it. no videos, apps or anything else. we waited until they were ready to start trying then set up a reward system, schedule, and just went with it.

Quoting sarah824:

We don't have an I-pad, but we probably would not have anyway. We didn't use many tricks to potty train. I waited until they were ready and let them lead the way. 






family car

sarah824
by on Jun. 12, 2012 at 1:25 PM

First, I wasn't saying that using *stuff* was forcing them when they aren't ready.

Being ready is much more about them than their age. Kids this age have very little *control* of their own lives. The only things they can absolutely control is what goes in and how/when/where it comes out. LOL This is why eating and potty training are the biggest struggles with toddlers.

I am not trying to start a huge debate, but if your son is refusing to go on the potty, then he isn't really ready. Take a month off of training and just let him be. Come back to it in a month and you may be surprised at how much easier it is. The stress you are feeling effects him too . JMO

Quoting bethany169:

That's great, but what if they're ready and fighting you on it?  DS will be 4 next month, goes pee in the potty when he feels like it but will go in his pull-up if he's playing or just doesn't feel like getting up to the go the bathroom.  When he poops, he goes into a specific corner of his toy room every time.  He knows what he's doing, he's ready and it's just become a power struggle.  We've tried the reward system, the schedule, bribing him with big toys that I know he wants, talking to him about it, pretty much everything short of an iPad app and he just won't do it. 

Not everyone who uses things like this is forcing their kids before they're not ready.

Quoting timon95:

exactly, we had one potty trainingbook and that was it. no videos, apps or anything else. we waited until they were ready to start trying then set up a reward system, schedule, and just went with it.

Quoting sarah824:

We don't have an I-pad, but we probably would not have anyway. We didn't use many tricks to potty train. I waited until they were ready and let them lead the way. 


 

 

bethany169
by Bethany on Jun. 12, 2012 at 4:57 PM

Well, he's gonna have to be ready here soon 'cause I'm pretty sure they won't change a diaper at pre-K in the fall LOL  And honestly, I get the whole control over their lives thing - my mom and I talk about that A LOT and I really do my best to let him make a lot of his own decisions, from food and clothes to whether we swim or go to the park, etc.  I give him as much control as I possibly can--obviously, when we're driving by the airport and he says he wants to get on an airplane and go see his grandparents, I have to tell him no :)  But in general, I try to give him choices whenever I can. 

We've also taken a lot of breaks from trying to potty train - he's been peeing in the potty off and on for over a year now, and I even held back on doing anything about potty training while I was pregnant with DD because I figured he would just regress when she was born.   I don't know exactly how long any of the breaks have been (and I know your point wasn't that it needs to be exactly a month) but we've gone more than a couple weeks at times where I don't say a word about changing a poopy pull-up or encouraging him to go in the potty or anything.  He pitches a fit when I have to wipe him off and I have to clean his penis at which point I will say that if he would go in the potty, I wouldn't have to touch his penis, but that's it, I don't say anything else about it.

I guess I can't argue with the whole "if he's refusing to go in the potty, he isn't ready" logic, but it just doesn't make sense to me that he isn't ready when he *does* go sometimes, KWIM?

 

 

Quoting sarah824:

First, I wasn't saying that using *stuff* was forcing them when they aren't ready.

Being ready is much more about them than their age. Kids this age have very little *control* of their own lives. The only things they can absolutely control is what goes in and how/when/where it comes out. LOL This is why eating and potty training are the biggest struggles with toddlers.

I am not trying to start a huge debate, but if your son is refusing to go on the potty, then he isn't really ready. Take a month off of training and just let him be. Come back to it in a month and you may be surprised at how much easier it is. The stress you are feeling effects him too . JMO

Quoting bethany169:

That's great, but what if they're ready and fighting you on it?  DS will be 4 next month, goes pee in the potty when he feels like it but will go in his pull-up if he's playing or just doesn't feel like getting up to the go the bathroom.  When he poops, he goes into a specific corner of his toy room every time.  He knows what he's doing, he's ready and it's just become a power struggle.  We've tried the reward system, the schedule, bribing him with big toys that I know he wants, talking to him about it, pretty much everything short of an iPad app and he just won't do it. 

Not everyone who uses things like this is forcing their kids before they're not ready.

Quoting timon95:

exactly, we had one potty trainingbook and that was it. no videos, apps or anything else. we waited until they were ready to start trying then set up a reward system, schedule, and just went with it.

Quoting sarah824:

We don't have an I-pad, but we probably would not have anyway. We didn't use many tricks to potty train. I waited until they were ready and let them lead the way. 


 

 


sarah824
by on Jun. 12, 2012 at 7:02 PM

Yeah, pre-k may have issues with the diaper thing. :-) Sorry to hear about the struggles you are having. It sounds like you have tried everything to no avail. We went through it with DD, but she was not even 2 and the daycare provider starting trying while I was working full time. I quit working when she was almost 2-1/2 and stopped trying until she was closer to 3 and she suddenly got it. Good luck to you and DS.  

Quoting bethany169:

Well, he's gonna have to be ready here soon 'cause I'm pretty sure they won't change a diaper at pre-K in the fall LOL  And honestly, I get the whole control over their lives thing - my mom and I talk about that A LOT and I really do my best to let him make a lot of his own decisions, from food and clothes to whether we swim or go to the park, etc.  I give him as much control as I possibly can--obviously, when we're driving by the airport and he says he wants to get on an airplane and go see his grandparents, I have to tell him no :)  But in general, I try to give him choices whenever I can. 

We've also taken a lot of breaks from trying to potty train - he's been peeing in the potty off and on for over a year now, and I even held back on doing anything about potty training while I was pregnant with DD because I figured he would just regress when she was born.   I don't know exactly how long any of the breaks have been (and I know your point wasn't that it needs to be exactly a month) but we've gone more than a couple weeks at times where I don't say a word about changing a poopy pull-up or encouraging him to go in the potty or anything.  He pitches a fit when I have to wipe him off and I have to clean his penis at which point I will say that if he would go in the potty, I wouldn't have to touch his penis, but that's it, I don't say anything else about it.

I guess I can't argue with the whole "if he's refusing to go in the potty, he isn't ready" logic, but it just doesn't make sense to me that he isn't ready when he *does* go sometimes, KWIM?

 

 

Quoting sarah824:

First, I wasn't saying that using *stuff* was forcing them when they aren't ready.

Being ready is much more about them than their age. Kids this age have very little *control* of their own lives. The only things they can absolutely control is what goes in and how/when/where it comes out. LOL This is why eating and potty training are the biggest struggles with toddlers.

I am not trying to start a huge debate, but if your son is refusing to go on the potty, then he isn't really ready. Take a month off of training and just let him be. Come back to it in a month and you may be surprised at how much easier it is. The stress you are feeling effects him too . JMO

Quoting bethany169:

That's great, but what if they're ready and fighting you on it?  DS will be 4 next month, goes pee in the potty when he feels like it but will go in his pull-up if he's playing or just doesn't feel like getting up to the go the bathroom.  When he poops, he goes into a specific corner of his toy room every time.  He knows what he's doing, he's ready and it's just become a power struggle.  We've tried the reward system, the schedule, bribing him with big toys that I know he wants, talking to him about it, pretty much everything short of an iPad app and he just won't do it. 

Not everyone who uses things like this is forcing their kids before they're not ready.

Quoting timon95:

exactly, we had one potty trainingbook and that was it. no videos, apps or anything else. we waited until they were ready to start trying then set up a reward system, schedule, and just went with it.

Quoting sarah824:

We don't have an I-pad, but we probably would not have anyway. We didn't use many tricks to potty train. I waited until they were ready and let them lead the way. 


 

 

 

 

NicholasMama608
by Sarah on Jun. 14, 2012 at 6:48 PM

DS woudn't have been interested in an app.  He needed instant reward to potty train.

Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

close Join now to connect to
other members!
Connect with Facebook or Sign Up Using Email

Already Joined? LOG IN