The Wonders Of The Potty Sign

See potty signs demonstrated in the video below.

There comes a time, when babies suddenly sign like crazy!

If you’ve used baby sign language before, you’ll know what I mean. For months it’s just ‘milk’ and ‘mummy’ then out of the blue it’s ‘horse’, ‘butterfly’, ‘fox’, ‘spider’ and umpteen other things that you didn’t realise held such prominence in your toddler’s life.

And, if you’re lucky, one of them will be ‘potty‘ and it will be an absolute game changer for your approach to pottying.

For my kids, the potty sign clicked between 11 and 14 months old, and marked the start of independent pottying. It can change your life too – but only if you get involved. Don’t worry, it’s very easy to get started…

You need to introduce a potty sign, and you need to use it consistently.

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But what’s the Best Potty Sign To Use?

The Born Ready Chest Slap, Of Course!

(90 second video showing several potty signs including chest slap, makaton, American Sign Language ASL and British Sign Language BSL)

There are several major sign languages, each with a different potty sign, but my favourite is the Born Ready Chest Slap! (Give two quick slaps on your chest with a flat hand.) Watch the 90 second video above for a demonstration of that sign, as well as the Makaton, ASL (American sign language), and BSL (British sign language) potty signs, and a couple of others to boot.

I’m a big fan of the chest slap. As far as pottying goes, we didn’t have much call to be understood beyond a small circle of friends and family, so we had no need to stick with a major language. Far better to choose a sign that fit our needs perfectly (i.e. used major muscle groups (easy to do before 12 months old), used one hand, and made a noise). You need to be consistent in your signing, so you might as well start out with a sign that works really well for tiny children.

How Toddlers Use A Potty Sign: Four Phases

Once you’ve chosen a potty sign, you need to use it yourself (of course). But you also need to understand how your toddler will pick it up and use it. They’ll pass through four distinct phases, and if you don’t recognise them, you’re setting yourself up for a frustrating experience…

Luckily, I explain everything in this video, so you’ll be clued up, chilled out and able to enjoy the ride.

(I mean it about the phases – understanding the learning process makes all the difference to your patience and expectations. When you recognise each phase for the milestone it is, you’ll stop fretting and enjoy yourself! It’s well worth 5 minutes of your time.)

How to Get Started with Baby (or toddler) signing

If you’ve never tried baby signing, or you’re worried that now you have a toddler you’re too late to get started, this blog post and short video are especially for you! It’s never ‘too late’ to start signing. Start now! There’s a great deal of pleasure to be had.


Did you enjoy signing with your baby? Did you use the potty sign? One of those shown in the video or something else? Let me know in the comments and I’ll join in the conversation.

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The Comments: Your Turn!

You know more people read the comments than the article, right? Get stuck in!

  1. Up till now I used the BSL sign (hand in a “fist” and waving) and used a clap on the chest for “done/finished”. My daughter is 5.5months, and I do it more or less consistently since she was 2,5m.

    I like your arguments for your born ready sign and I’m considering switching. I’m sure she can pick it up and forgive the change.
    So here’s that question: Did you introduce a “done/finished” sign?

    It’s also so good to hear that you used the same sign for all the different words associated with potty/toilet. We mix three languages in our house and I never knew if I would confuse her more or less if I throw in a sign on top of all of that too…

    1. Hi Ewa, Good to hear that you’re signing already!

      We used the makaton done/finished/all-gone sign but rarely around pottying. I didn’t have any trouble knowing when my children were finished because they had instinctive ways to tell me. So I’d say “have you finished?” and they would either stand up, or resolutely stay put. From very tiny they either ‘helped’ me move them out of position, or resisted to say they weren’t finished yet. They use the ‘finished’ sign in conversation elsewhere, so were capable of that, but never used it on a potty.

      So, it’s entirely up to you 😀

      If you’d like to use a sign, this is the sign we used for finished/all gone.

      YouTube: Baby signing: finished/all done/all gone

      As for languages, wouldn’t the sign unite the spoken languages? When you sign with babies, you always say the word while making the sign, so once they use the sign, you can use different languages over the top and the underlying meaning should still be very clear. What do you think?

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