FEATURES TO LOOK FOR (AND TO AVOID) IN A POTTY SEAT
There's More Than Meets the Eye
Potty seats (also known as toilet rings and seat reducers) are crucial pieces of potty training equipment. In fact, while there is a great deal of debate about the virtues of potty chairs, almost everyone in the potty training world agrees that potty seats are necessary. What’s more, due to the mismatch between your child’s body size and the typical home toilet, these devices continue to be used for years after your child is potty trained.
Enough said—why not just pick-up any cheapy potty seat and bring it home? Well, there's a surprising amount of complexity found in the humble potty seat. Here’s what we think matters and what we think is best avoided.
Look For - Proper Sizing
If you’re anything like us, you’ve purchased many a potty seat for your child only to find that it simply doesn’t sit quite right on one or more toilets in your home. By this we mean the potty seat is too small and doesn't come into complete contact with the toilet seat on which it rests, or too big and extends beyond the front of the seat. The end result is of course the same—wobbling and slipping. So what gives?
The answer is that there are actually two general types of toilets in the United States: round and elongated. The most obvious difference between the two is that when viewed from the top a round toilet bowl looks like a circle while an elongated toilet bowl looks like an oval. But the differences don’t end there—elongated toilet bowls are also approximately 2 inches longer than round toilet bowls. Making things even more complicated is the fact that there are slight variations in the measurements for round and elongated bowls between manufacturers and even between product lines by the same manufacturer.
While this is all nice to know for plumbers and home remodelers, how does this apply to potty seats? Well, before you purchase a potty seat make sure to check what type of toilet bowl you will be placing it on. Some models of potty seats work great with round toilets and not so great with elongated toilets, while others are the opposite.
As a general rule of thumb, if you have a toilet in a small space or in an older bathroom, it's probably the round variety. Conversely, if you have a larger, newer bathroom, it's likely an elongated toilet.
If you’re lucky, the potty seat manufacturer will specify which types of toilets(s) its potty seats work with. If they’re not so forthcoming (many like to say “works with most types of toilets”), you’ll want to dig a bit deeper and read the consumer reviews.
Look For - Non-slip Liners
There are a number of major manufacturers out there who make surprisingly bad potty seats. These sellers go through the time, effort and expense of licensing graphics and characters from major motion picture studios such as Disney, yet have potty seats with hard plastic bottoms. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand what happens when you place a hard piece of plastic on a hard toilet seat—the result is that the potty seat slips all over the place.
Instead, make sure to go with a potty seat that has a non-slip liner on the bottom. These are not only more secure and comfortable surfaces for your child to sit on, but are also much safer in that they reduce the chance for literal ‘slips’ as your child clambers up a stool and onto the toilet.
Look For - Self-Standing
Unless your child exclusively uses a ‘kids only’ bathroom, you’ll likely often find yourself throwing the potty seat into the corner when YOU need to use the toilet. For this reason, go for a model that is either self-standing or that comes with a storage hook for hanging.
Look For - 'Contoured Tops'
Some potty seats have great 'contoured tops,' while others are nearly flat. We’d suggest going with a model that has a raised front and rear, but relatively flat sides where your child’s legs rest. This arrangement helps to ‘nest’ your child in place and makes for a more comfortable potty experience.
Avoid - 'Cushy Tops'
Avoid potty seats with 'cushy tops' because they tend to be flat (i.e. no contours) and cheaply made. What's more, these models also tend be covered in graphics printed on thin films that peel off during washing. Adding insult to (potential) injury, these same 'cushy top' models also tend to lack non-slip liners.
Avoid - Ribs and Crevices
The underside of your child’s potty seat—surprise, surprise—will get pretty gross. What’s more, it will continue to get pretty gross on a regular basis. For that reason, look for models with as few ribs and crevices as possible. You’ll want a potty seat that is easy and quick to clean because you’ll be cleaning it A LOT.
The good news is that if you go with a contoured seat like we suggest above, these models almost always have fewer ribs and crevices. The reason has to do with the 'science of plastics'—contours add strength to the potty seat that must otherwise be accomplished through the use of ribs or thicker plastic walls.
And while we're on the subject, don't go with a model that has an overly complicated 'pee guard' structure at the front of the potty seat. To put it simply, if you have a boy and he's using the potty seat, some pee WILL get out between the gaps in the seat regardless of the type of guard up front. That being said, we find the most effective options are those with 'deep' pee guards that cover most of the 'gap' between the toilet seat and the toilet bowl.
Avoid - Crazy Designs
Your child's potty seat is something that will likely be found in YOUR bathroom for years to come. For that reason, we'd recommend avoiding cartoonish-themed potty seats that you'll be embarrassed to have out when guests visit. Your child will need the potty chair accessible and visible to avoid accidents and you don't want to purchase a model that you're constantly feeling the need to stow away out of sight.
Our recommendation on this point isn't, however, only about the aesthetics of your bathroom. At One Proud Toddler we're also firm adherents to the idea that potty training equipment shouldn't look like a toy or plaything. Instead, this equipment is for one thing—going to the bathroom. Keeping potty training equipment in the bathroom and distinguishable from toys keeps things cleaner and, in our opinion, leads to better training outcomes.
In Short . . . Don't Cheap It!
As we've mentioned throughout this post, the potty seat is a device that your child will be using day-in-day-out for years. For that reason, it really doesn't make sense to buy a $5 throwaway! There are number of good models on the market for between $10 and $35—spend the extra money and you as well as your child will be the better for it. Happy training!
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