How to Potty Train your Veggie Tot

Okay, so here’s the deal: Quite frankly, I would happily have left my Veggie Tots in nappies until they turned around and said, “You know what, Ma? I think it’s about time I gave these things up. The other kids at Varsity are starting to look at me funny. Hey, pass me another beer?”

I don’t want to wrench their childhoods away from them and instill major anal retention issues for which their future wives will probably curse me. But more than that, I just don’t want to have to deal with the practicalities of racing against time and target practice.

Predictably, common sense and societal pressure prevailed, and I embarked on the journey so many brave parents have trod before – looking carefully where I stepped, of course!

Potty training: The Early Days

Things you might find useful:

  • A potty or a toilet insert

Toilets are made for big tooshies, not baby ones. Not all children take delight in sinking their gossamer bottoms into the big bowl,  trying to “touch the wet” (my eldest does, but he also likes plain, cold spaghetti and sleeps with an electronic car toy).

Make the toilet experience as comfortable as you can for your tot by using a potty (designed for little bums) or fitting a tot-sized  seat onto your toilet. (There are a range of these available in baby shops.) A low stool or a pile of old phonebooks may also be  handy in helping your tot reach the seat, if your insert does not have a step built into it.

  • Leave your phone in the living room

Toilet training – especially in the early days – needs your complete and undivided attention. Besides, do you really want to be the  parent who says, “Sure, I’d love to see that movie. How about 5pm tom– no, sweetheart, put the toilet brush down. I said hands  out of the toilet! I said HANDS OUT! Dammit, Carla, I’m going to have to call you back”?

  • Stickers

Cute little ones for wees and big, shiny ones for poos. Make a big deal about the stickers, using them as incentives and positive  reinforcement (remember, it’s only a bribe if it encourages unethical conduct!)

Stickers can go right onto the deserving child’s freshly-washed hands, but sticker charts are useful too. A simple weekly calendar  grid with seven columns (for the days of the week) and enough rows for your child’s toilet habits (or toilet attempts) should do.  This can help the toilet trainee see the cumulative effects of his/her successes in all their colourful glory, motivating them on to  improve their bowel control in order to acquire more, more, andMORE stickers (because these are the values we attempt to instill  in our children, I know… but when needs must…)

  • Books

Keep a selection of stories in the bathroom to entertain and calm your toddler while s/he gets used to sitting on the loo. A soft  towel or a cushion for you can also make a big difference to overall comfort levels. Books that deal with toilet training are  particularly apt. Bookstores and online stores like Amazon stock plenty of books on the subject aimed at our target audience (see  link below).

Veggie Tot’s favourite Potty books

The Potty Caddy Book by Rachel Gordon and William Spivak M.D. (part of a kit including a sticker chart, toilet targets and your very  own portable bog-roll dispenser)

Who’s in the Loo? by Jeanne Willis and Adrian Reynolds



What are your child’s favourite potty books? Please feel free to leave a comment below!

  • Games

“This little piggy”, “Round and round the garden” and “Pat-a-cake” (or any creative adaptation of the bar games of your youth) will  help to pass the time while waiting for your tot to get down to business.

Even mundane activities can be turned into exciting games: my three-year-old likes playing peek-a-boo in the bathroom mirror,  and turning the tap on and off to wash his hands. These are used as bargaining chips and rewards for good toilet behaviour.

  • Alcohol

This one is for parents only, but by golly you’ll be glad to have it in the kit sometimes!

Now even younger brother (one and a half) wants in on the action!

The Bottom Line (wow, that never gets old!)

Every attempt at using the toilet should be lauded – nay, celebrated. Even if nothing happens, offer a sticker, song and dance, and lots of kisses. Try to be consistent and pray to the potty gods that they keep Junior on the right track.

Further resources:

Here’s a link to an article on how to toilet train your tot by personal example.

Here’s a link to some of Amazon’s popular potty training books for tots.

Jam Every Other Day

I’ve been reading Jam Every Other Day by Emmaleen Kriel. It’s a crazy but true story of how a young woman raised seven children in the Cape (and later in Knysna) on little more than love and good intentions.


It’s a very personal story. There are dark moments where I questioned her motivations and decisions. There are points where I totally disagreed with her approach. There are passages that made me cry for her circumstances, whether chosen or not. But the underlying feeling that runs through the book is a relentless commitment and an uncompromising love for her children.


Because Kriel struggled to provide her large brood with the material things most children have come to expect, she had to be resourceful: “[I had to] be creative, opportunistic, daring, enthusiastic, show them they could be those things too. What else could I give them?”


She explains: “We felt our children should dare to be different. Life could be fun, challenging and exciting, free of imposed conventions or desires. We had to teach them to listen to their inner voice, develop their skills, discover their worth and give the best of what they had. Consumerism would confuse them. Innovation was all I had to give them.”


It’s really gotten me thinking about how I am raising my own two kids. Thankfully we are currently able to provide them with all of their material needs. But they need so much more. I can feed them and clothe them and even send them to a good school, but my duty as a parent is to give them confidence and values; to nurture their ingenuity and their dreams.


Kriel paints an oftentimes idyllic picture of her children’s upbringing on a smallholding in Constantia, where their lack of material possessions seemed to have no bearing on their capacity for adventure and development. Or maybe it made a positive impact. Children have very simple needs, really.


It kind of reminds me of that Winnie the Pooh sketch where Pooh gives Eeyore a honey pot, but he’s eaten all the honey, and Piglet gives Eeyore a balloon, but he popped it along the way. The reader expects Eeyore to sigh and be glum (well, given his track record perhaps we can be forgiven!). But Eeyore is so excited to have a Pot to put things in and Something to put in a Pot that he is “as happy as could be”.


And at the end of the day, isn’t that what we want for our children – to be “as happy as could be”?




I think this book is well worth a read for the lessons we can take as parents today, as well as the rollicking tales that give it its unique character. Anyone else reading anything good at the moment?

things mothers are too scared to say


I’m a HUGE Joanne Fedler fan. The woman writes like she’s dipped her pen in poetry instead of ink.


I’ve just finished Secret Mothers’ Business and since this her most maternally focused book, I thought it would be a good angle for today’s post.


This fast-flowing volume details the discussions and dynamics between eight very different women, who all happen to be mothers. Unhingingly honest at times, the text is based on actual conversations (although identifying characteristics and scenarios have been fictionalized to protect individuals).


It’s quite an uncomfortable book to read. Secret Mothers’ Business seems to aim to represent the entire spectrum of mothering styles, so no matter where you stand, you will take serious objection to some of the things said.


It touches on every contentious topic from breastfeeding to ADHD, smacking and bribery, nannies, abortion, blended families, breast cancer, Prozac and postnatal depression.


But what struck me about this book is that it has the courage to say things that many mothers are too scared to say. The epigraph sums it up:


“This book is dedicated to all mothers everywhere.

Whenever you feel like a bad mother,

and utterly alone – you’re not.

You’re not.”


Veggietots is about preserving the planet, but it’s also about connecting to nature – the earth’s, and our own. It’s about building a community. And no-one has more need of community than mothers. We need to create safe spaces to speak about the things that scare us, that thrill us, that inspire us and that keep us up at night.


While it’s not a substitute for conversation with real women and particularly fellow moms, Secret Mothers’ Business will give you plenty to chew over, and may even shed new light on some of the mothering issues you thought you had in the bag. Read it. Then call your friends.
So, any books changed your life lately?

appreciating our gifts

On a Maria Housden kick, so I went back and read her first book, Hannah’s Gift.


Wow. This is one of the most moving and powerful books I’ve read in a very long time. The book records the family’s experience during last year of her daughter Hannah’s life, as she succumbs to an aggressive and terminal cancer.


As I turned the pages, I cried and I cried. But I also smiled. And I felt a warmth and connection to the family through the writer’s honesty. There were points when I damn-near hugged the book.


I am in awe of her strength as a mother, and pray that I will never be in a situation where I need to live up to it.


This book is immensely sad, yet it is uplifting. One of the strongest messages for me was that it should never take something tragic like an illness to make us wake up and appreciate our children and the special places they have in our lives.


I’ve actually just returned from a weekend conference for work, and I am so overwhelmed with joy to see my kids again that I have to keep holding back the tears.


Hannah’s gift is an appreciation of life and all that comes with it. Read this book. It’s an important reminder that all our children are precious gifts.

what kind of mom do i want to be?

Reading Unravelled by Maria Housden. In this memoir, she is struggling to live up to the expectations of wifedom and motherhood that she, her husband, and society impose on her. She is beginning to realize that maybe, just maybe, she isn’t capable of doing and being everything that is expected of her.


As she blows off housework to take her kids to the pond, she asks herself, “If you can only do some things well, why not start with what matters most?”


I think that line is worth repeating. “If you can only do some things well, why not start with what matters most?”


It’s a good question, and it’s made me think about the ways in which it applies to my own life.


Do I want my grown-up children to say: “My mom’s house was always spotless, and we never ran out of bread or milk.”


Or would I rather they said: “We seldom had clean socks and often had cereal for dinner. But Mom always had time for stories and airplane rides on her knees.”


A good question indeed.

What do you hope your grown-up kids will say about you?