Friday, 18 August 2017

How to apply for your child's first UK passport from abroad

Whether you're an expat like me or travelling long-term and have a baby while living abroad, the chances are you will probably need to get a passport for your child at some point.

A passport from which country?  Your child's country of birth - which, I suppose, is where you are now - or your native country?  What entitlement does your child have to a passport from either of these countries?  The laws and regulations may vary from one country to the next and could change at any time, so do investigate and don't take anything for granted.

How To Apply For Your Child's First UK Passport From Abroad

My daughter was born in Mexico, I’m British and her dad – my husband – is Mexican.  Because of me, she has the right to a British passport.

I was never sure if she was automatically a British citizen from birth or whether you’re only a citizen once you have the official documents to prove it.  I suspect that may be the case.

My main worry was that, what with immigration regulations becoming ever stricter, at any moment the rules could change.  Perhaps there might come a time when just having a British mother would no longer give her an automatic right to British citizenship.  So I wanted to make sure she had her UK passport as soon as possible, just in case.

How do you go about applying for your child’s first British passport when you live abroad and your child wasn’t born in the UK?  What documents do you need and where do you make the application?

I'm no expert but I thought I’d write here about my experience so hopefully this post will be useful for you too if you’re about to start the whole passport application process or are wondering how to do it.

How To Apply For Your Child's First UK Passport From Abroad

I’m such a procrastinator that it took me TWO YEARS of faffing around to find out how to make the application, what documents we needed and to get those documents together.

It then took about TWO WEEKS from sending our application off to the UK passport office for them to process it and send Emma’s shiny new passport back to us!  I could hardly believe it.  All that time I let it niggle away at the back of my mind and when it came down to it, the whole thing was so quick and simple!

How To Apply For Your Child's First UK Passport From Abroad

So, how do you apply for your child’s first British passport from abroad?

Follow these steps:

1. Check on the website for the procedure for the country you are in and your exact situation – what documents do you need?  How much is the application fee plus the courier fee (for sending you the passport and returning  your documents)?

  • Go to and answer the questions for your child using the drop down menus. This will take you to a page giving information on how long the application will take, the cost of the application and courier fee.  There is a link to the online application form, but first check the supporting documents and guidelines.  In fact, I would advise getting all your documents together and ready to send off as this could take a few weeks, and then filling in the online form.  Once you complete the online application form and make the payment you have a limited time (90 days) to send your supporting documents.
  • Download the Supporting Documents Table  – it’s probably a good idea to print it out and highlight the parts that apply to you as it is a bit confusing just looking at it on screen.
  • Save the page and come back to it when you’re ready to make the application.

2. Take into account how much you will need to spend.  Apart from the online application and courier fee there is also the cost of getting documents certified by a Notary, the cost of translations and passport photos.  Don’t forget you will have to send all the documents by courier to the UK.

3. Get the documents you need certified by a Notary.  In our case it was my daughter’s and my husband’s birth certificates, both Mexican.*  It wasn’t necessary to certify the proof of address documents.

4. Any documents that are not in English need to be translated into English.  I took the certified copies of the two birth certificates and my proof of address documents to be translated.  The translations must be done by an official translator – I searched online and found a list of official translators in Querétaro with their contact details, called as many as possible to ask their prices and went with the cheapest.

5. Get the photos taken.  Check the rules for passport photos  for specific details about what is and isn’t permitted – there are some small differences between children’s and adults’ photos - and make sure the photographer understands.  Print out the guidelines to show the photographer if in doubt.  I didn’t do this and probably confused the photographer with my rambling explanation as the photos I got back were no good at all (a whole section of hair and part of an ear chopped off!) so we had to go and get another set of photos taken, with a different photographer.

6. Decide who your counter-signatory will be.  It could be someone back in the UK or in the country where you are now. You can find comprehensive information about who can and can’t be your counter-signatory at the following link: **

7. Go back to the website and complete the online application form, make the payment, note down your username and password and print it out.

8. Sign your part of the printed form; the counter-signatory has to complete and sign the other half.

9. Double check all the documents – make a list of what you’re including and check them off against the required documents.

10. Send everything via courier service to the address of the passport office in the UK (which is on the form you printed out). You have 90 days from when you made the online payment to get all your papers sent to the passport office.

Then wait…

You can check up on the progress of your application with your username and password from the online application.

You can also call the passport office if you have any doubts – I called them a few times with queries about my documents while I was getting them all together and they were quite helpful.

Passport Office Telephone: +44 (0) 300 222 0000
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm (UK time)
Saturday, Sunday and public holidays, 9am to 5:30pm (UK time)


You should receive two separate courier envelopes; one returning all your documents to you and the other containing the new passport.

In our case, the passport arrived first, only about two or three weeks after sending all the documents, so I was sure the application was being rejected.  I opened the large courier envelope with a sinking feeling and when I saw the shiny new passport inside I could hardly believe it!  I was so relieved and overjoyed!

I very excitedly told Emma, who had just turned three at the time, that now she was British.  She caught my mood but obviously didn’t quite understand the implications and replied, “Yay! I’m not Emma anymore, I’m British!”


Don’t bother contacting your embassy or consulate as the passport application has nothing to do with them so they probably won’t be able to help, or will just refer you to the website.

*Certified Copies

I don’t know about other countries, but at least in Mexico the Notary will give you the option of either getting a certified copy of your documents or getting them “apostilled”.  According to them, the “apostille” is to make your document internationally recognised and is used for international applications.  We only had the certified copies – as specified in the list of documents – so I called the passport office just to be sure.  They told me that the certified copy was fine, they weren’t even sure what an apostille was!  So we just used the certified copies with their official translations and there was no problem with that.


At first I was worried about who I could get to countersign the photos since it has to be someone with ideally a British passport, who has known me (not my daughter) for at least two years, who is not related to me by blood or marriage and is of “good standing in the community” – or a member of one of a long list of professions (which sounds rather antiquated to me, but never mind).  Nobody I know personally here in Mexico fits all of those criteria.  I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to have someone living in the UK countersign, so I phoned the passport office to ask them.  They told me that I could, which solved the problem.  Instead of sending all our documents directly to the Passport Office, I sent them to my parents first, who arranged for one of the neighbours (who does fit all of the above criteria) to countersign the photos.  They then sent everything to the Passport Office.

Proof of address documents

I was originally going to send a bank statement as my proof of address as it was in my name.  Later, when I checked more carefully the information about what could be used as proof of address, bank statements weren’t mentioned.  It does give as an example “A letter sent to you by a central, regional or local government department” so I thought of the water bill, which does come from a local state government department.  It’s in my husband’s name, not mine, but he was part of the application so that was accepted.  I had to go back to the translator and get this extra document translated at the last minute!  Maybe they would have accepted the bank statement but I wanted to be sure.

Marriage certificates

You don’t need to provide a marriage certificate if the passport is for a child born after 2006, so we didn’t.

*  *  *  *

I hope all this information reaches someone who might benefit from it – if you’re reading this and know anybody who is going to start this application process, please pass it on to them.  All the links should also save some time searching for the right pages.

Here is the QUICK REFERENCE CHECKLIST as a brief summary and reminder of the whole process:

1. Check all the information on the website 

2. Investigate and work out how much it will all cost.

3. Get foreign documents certified by a Notary.

4. Get official translations of any documents that are not in English.

5. Get passport photos taken.

6. Make online application and payment.  Make a note of your username and password.

7. Get a countersignatory (who fulfills all the requisites) to sign the back of the photos and complete the second half of the printed out application form.

8. Double-check all documents.

9. Send by courier to the UK Passport Office (address is on the application form you printed out.

How To Apply For Your Child's First UK Passport From Abroad

Please let me know if you found this post useful, or if you have any additional or alternative information!  Maybe you've already been through the whole process and had a completely different experience.  If you have any doubts you can contact me – leave a comment here, send me an email or leave a message on any of my social media platforms and I’ll do my best to help - or just call the Passport Office.

All the best,

Ruth xx

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Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Milestones, Achievements and Adventures of a Partly-Expat Bilingual Family - Spring In Review

What have we been doing with ourselves for the past four months?  Certainly not writing monthly review posts, that's for sure! So now I'm cramming four months' worth into one post, it's going to be a long one.  Be patient, there's a great quote at the end, some gorgeous beaches from our holiday in a beautiful corner of Mexico, a few successes, a few failures and an assortment of funny phrases Emma has said, amongst other things.

Milestones, Achievements and Adventures of a Partly-Expat Bilingual Family - Spring in Review

Weather-wise, spring was mostly sweltering hot, with sunblock essential protection against the potent UV rays of the Queretaro sunshine.  Now that spring is over and we're well into summer, the rainy season is upon us, making a sometimes-welcome change - you really get to appreciate cloudy days here!  When it rains, it's normally in the afternoons and evenings, so I usually get home from work at around 4pm either drenched by the rain or drenched in sweat.


Big Achievement 

Milestones, Achievements and Adventures of a Partly-Expat Bilingual Family - Spring in Review

I'd spent about two years getting together all the documents we needed for Emma's British passport application  - it shouldn't have taken that long, I was just being slow and procrastinating.  Finally, towards the end of March I had everything ready and sent the documents, application form and photos off together and held my breath, waiting to hear if it had been accepted or not.  

I had to send everything to the UK Passport Office, and according to the website it could take up to 90 days to process the application, so I imagined that I would be waiting for some time.  I'll be writing a post soon in more detail about applying for a child's first British passport from abroad.

About two weeks later a DHL envelope arrived at the house.  I knew it had to be something to do with the passport application but thought that it was too soon and they must be rejecting the application for some reason.  So, with a sinking feeling, I opened the envelope ...and inside was Emma's new passport!

I was so relieved and completely over the moon.  I couldn't believe that after all the time it had taken me to get the documents notarised and translated, checking and double-checking that I had all the right paperwork and finally getting round to sending it all off, the application had been processed so quickly and we had Emma's passport in our hands only a fortnight later!

This means that Emma finally has a document to prove that she's a British citizen, which is a huge weight off my mind.


In March we celebrated Emma's third birthday, followed a week later by my 40th.  I still can't quite believe I'm that old!  I decided a positive way to approach it would be to write a post about 40 Things I'm Grateful for at 40.  I thought I would struggle to find 40 things, but in fact it wasn't that difficult, and once I'd written the post I kept thinking of yet more things I was grateful for.  It made me feel good to write it.

Milestones, Achievements and Adventures of a Partly-Expat Bilingual Family - Spring in Review

I felt inspired to compose a letter to Emma for her third birthday, Three Thoughts for my Three-Year-Old.  I absolutely loved writing it.  It's all about what I consider to be the three most important qualities anyone should have, and my wishes for her, for her future.  I'd love to know what you think of it, too.

In April, Emma went on an aeroplane for the first time when we flew from Mexico City to Cancun. It was only a short flight in a small plane but she seemed to enjoy the whole experience of traveling and flying.  She was busy eating m&ms during take off and she spent the flight playing with some beach toys and Dumbo the elephant, and looking out the window.  Seeing the clouds right next to us was fascinating!

Milestones, Achievements and Adventures of a Partly-Expat Bilingual Family - Spring in Review

Emma is about to start a whole new stage of her life.  She will be starting kindergarten in August, after the summer holidays.  In Mexico, kindergarten lasts three years, from ages three to six approximately.

It's going to be a huge step for her as so far she's never been to nursery, daycare or any kind of class.  This will be the first time she'll have to learn to socialise with lots of other children her own age.  She will have to get used to a new routine, going to bed earlier in the evening and getting up earlier in the morning, being away from home, mummy, daddy and grandmother for five hours every day.
I wonder how she'll get on?


Milestones, Achievements and Adventures of a Partly-Expat Bilingual Family - Spring in Review
Hanging out with Auntie Alex.

In the Easter holidays my youngest sister and her husband came to visit us for the first time ever, which was pretty exciting.  It was lovely for Emma to properly get to know them in person as they'd only ever seen and talked to each other via Skype and FaceTime.  I hadn't seen them since our last trip to England almost four years ago.

Milestones, Achievements and Adventures of a Partly-Expat Bilingual Family - Spring in Review
Racing Uncle Jamie across the square.

We stayed in Queretaro for a few days then we all went to Cancun in the second week of the holiday.

It was our first visit to Cancun. What impressed me the most was the colour of the sea.  The city itself was nothing special and the hotel zone was, obviously, all very built-up, full of hotels and luxury apartments.  The beaches, though, are beautiful, with their fine white sand and that stunning aquamarine blue of the Caribbean.

Milestones, Achievements and Adventures of a Partly-Expat Bilingual Family - Spring in Review

Emma had great fun playing in the sand and making sandcastles with her Auntie Alex and Uncle Jamie.  At the first beach we went to she wasn't so keen on going in the sea as the waves were too splashy, but at the other beach she was playing happily in the shallows, jumping waves, splashing, "swimming".  The water was gorgeously warm and felt so relaxing.

Milestones, Achievements and Adventures of a Partly-Expat Bilingual Family - Spring in Review
Emma was enthralled for hours playing with the sand!

We weren't able to travel much further afield.  One day we went to Tulum further down the coast, stopping off briefly at Puerto Aventuras on the way there and discovering a quiet, hidden beach before getting caught in a sudden downpour.

Milestones, Achievements and Adventures of a Partly-Expat Bilingual Family - Spring in Review
Finishing her fast-melting ice lolly before washing her hands in the sea.

Milestones, Achievements and Adventures of a Partly-Expat Bilingual Family - Spring in Review

Tulum is an archaeological site, the ruins of a Mayan seaport city built in the thirteenth century.  Its location on the coast with its own beach makes it all the more impressive.  It was overcast and windy when we were there which gave the grey stone remains a rather moody and solitary feel.

Milestones, Achievements and Adventures of a Partly-Expat Bilingual Family - Spring in Review

On the way back we made a short visit to Playa del Carmen to have dinner and meet up with an old friend who lived there.

On the last day we visited a small seaside town called Puerto Morelos, walked along the beach and built more sandcastles  - the shore was lined with a barrier of seaweed, which certainly made swimming in the sea less inviting.  We strolled down the peer and saw pelicans and shoals of little fish, bizarrely bumped into the parents of an old friend of my husband from San Luis Potosí, then the wind started blowing stronger and stronger, the sky darkened and it began to rain quite heavily.

Milestones, Achievements and Adventures of a Partly-Expat Bilingual Family - Spring in Review
The beach at Puerto Morelos just before the rain came.

Then it was the end of our holiday, time to go back home and say goodbye to my sister and brother-in-law who would continue on their journey and be traveling around the USA and Canada for the next couple of months.

What made it bittersweet was the not knowing how long it will be until we next see each other.

On one of the three long weekends we had in May we spent a couple of days at the ranch where my husband's uncle lives.  We had gone there in February and Emma enjoyed it so much, she kept mentioning it afterwards and saying that she wanted to go to the ranch.

Milestones, Achievements and Adventures of a Partly-Expat Bilingual Family - Spring in Review

It's a great place to relax and just get away from it all - it's also an enforced digital detox as there's no WiFi and usually no mobile data signal!

Me, personally


The past few months have been somewhat frustrating. It's been over a month since I published a post.  I've been lacking time, energy and focus, I think.  I have lots of ideas, I've just been too short of time  - proper time to myself - to write.  And when I do have a little time I'm either too tired and sleepy to do anything or just not focussed enough to make the most of it.  Quite honestly, I've been feeling like a failure.

I hope I can turn this around, find my focus and energy to set some goals and stick to them.  It's a different kind of stressful not getting the time to myself that I need to do things that are important to me.  I have to tell myself that it's not a luxury.

However, I did manage to finally write my potty training post that I'd been planning for ages, Successful Potty Training - How we did it + 5 Essential Tips for Potty Training Success.  I also did a book post, 3 Brilliant Mouse Books for Toddlers and Preschoolers.  My goal for July is to publish two posts a week, so we'll see how that goes!

I'm happy to say I finally got rid of my old header (the one with the parrot which was supposed to be temporary over two years ago).  The header I'm using at the moment is still not the definitive one, but at least it looks better than the old one, in my opinion!


I started off the year so well - as is often the case - aiming to do some yoga practice most days.  Right now, I'm at the point where I'm doing a short yoga practice once a week at the most.  I must do better.

Emma says...

The day Emma's passport arrived I told her excitedly that now she was British.  Her reaction? "Yay! I'm not Emma anymore, I'm British!"

I finally solved a mystery, too.  When Emma was very little, about 18 months old or so, she started saying the word "foo" to mean "small".  I could never understand where Foo had come from as there didn't seem to be any other word in English or Spanish with a similar sound and meaning.  It was funny but rather mysterious.

Then more recently, I noticed she was pronouncing the word "smelly" as "feyi". It occurred to me that she was substituting the "sm" sound that she couldn't pronounce for a "f" sound. And since she couldn't say the "l" sound at the end either, "small" became "foo"! Mystery solved!

She still mixes some English words in when she's talking Spanish, and vice versa.  Here are some recent examples.

We were talking about a new soap here:
Emma: It fells like oranges de adeveras
Me: It smells like real oranges?
Emma: It fells like eel oranges!

Emma: I want manzana juice!
Me: Don't you want apple juice? Or is that the same thing?
Emma: It's the same!

Often, she starts talking to me in Spanish, then she'll pause and think for a second before repeating what she's just told me in English.  I'm so impressed with her translating skills!

And this one: " I'm not full for afters, I'm just full for dinner!" Funny that...the same thing happens to me!

Growing up...

Milestones, Achievements and Adventures of a Partly-Expat Family - Spring in Review

She's becoming so much more independent these days, it's almost scary how quickly she seems to be growing up. I'm so proud of her, though.

She goes up and downstairs by herself, without any accompaniment - she's been doing this for a while now, but the first time was a bit of a surprise a few months ago. Emma was upstairs with her grandmother while I was downstairs in the kitchen then she suddenly walked into the kitchen all by herself.  The other day she even carried her toy shopping trolley down the stairs!  Sometimes I'm torn between wanting to applaud her for trying to do things herself and at the same time wanting to protect her and tell her to be careful.

More recently she's been keen to show how grown up she is by getting on and off the toilet by herself, wiping her own bottom and flushing the toilet.  I do wonder how she'll deal with using the bathroom when she first starts school as it's quite a different situation, not at all the same as being at home.


Perhaps I'm being hard on myself but I know I could try harder, do better.  I seem to be living with a feeling of not being good enough - as a mum, at work, at home and clearly I'm rubbish as a blogger.  However, to counteract this attitude of belittling myself this is the best phrase anyone's said to me recently - even if it was just in a Facebook group!

And it's true - you are awesome. Accept it.

Milestones, Achievements and Adventures of a Partly-Expat Bilingual Family - Spring In Review

Thanks to the lovely Nicole Annette for this phrase and for boosting my self-esteem!  Her journals look truly inspiring, too - check out Journal Junky.

Sparkles at Midnight

Cuddle Fairy


Rhyming with Wine

Monday, 15 May 2017

3 Brilliant Mouse Books for toddlers and preschoolers

Are you looking for a fun and entertaining picture book that will captivate your toddler or preschooler?

Here I have three Brilliant Books to recommend, all with a mouse theme (with maybe a cat and a handful of other animals thrown in).  Mice seem to be popular protagonists for children's books, maybe it's because they're small and cute and sometimes a little bit cheeky so little kids can identify with them!


How to Catch a Mouse

by Philippa Leathers 

Clemmie the cat is an exceptionally good mouse catcher. There are no mice in her house. She's such a fearsome mouse catcher, in fact, that she's never even seen a mouse!
She has a book about how to identify a mouse which tells her all the distinguishing characteristics of a mouse. She keeps getting it wrong though and mistakes other objects in the house for a mouse. The real mouse, meanwhile craftily disguises its tail, nose and ears and creeps around unnoticed by the blissfully unaware Clemmie. Until she is woken from a nap by a strange noise coming from the kitchen. When she comes face to face with a real mouse she has to work out what to do.
The story is complemented by the cute illustrations which somewhat contradict Clemmie's confidence in her mouse-catching skills!  We have fun pointing out where the mouse is on each page and giggling at its peculiar disguises.
This book was a present from my parents for Emma's third birthday and is now a firm favourite for story time.

A New House for Mouse

by Petr Horáček

This book was a present from Emma's Auntie Katy the Christmas before last.  Emma was almost two years old and was immediately fascinated by the story of Little Mouse who finds a delicious apple that is too big to fit in her house and so sets off to find a bigger house for her and her apple.  

The book is full of holes - literally! Each entrance to the animals' homes is an actual hole in the page, so from one side we can look into the den, burrow or cave and from the other side we can see Little Mouse peering in.  That's a lot of fun!

During her quest, Little Mouse comes across many different animal homes, but there just isn't enough room for the animal whose house it is, Little Mouse and her apple to all fit in.  Along the way, she keeps getting hungry and has a nibble of her apple every now and then.  By nightfall, she is very tired, but eventually finds the perfect little home for her and her apple.  I won't spoil the ending for you, but maybe you can guess whose house it is!

This is a beautifully-illustrated, very sweet story and is still one of Emma's favourites.

Little Mouse's Big Breakfast

by Christine Pym

Winter is drawing in, the weather is getting colder and food is scarce for Little Mouse.  One evening, he realises he has nothing to eat for breakfast the next morning.  However, he knows just where to go.  He creeps in through the window of a nearby house to look for some food for his breakfast and finds all sorts of perfect and not-so-perfect goodies in the kitchen; a blueberry, an apple, a jar of cookies, some cheese, a pickle and a cupcake. Then, he spots the most perfect breakfast of all: a sunflower seed!

He tries to carry it all, but it's just too much for a little mouse and everything comes crashing down, attracting the attention of a large black cat.  That's when Little Mouse realises that he could end up being the perfect breakfast!

Will he escape? Will he get any breakfast?  You'll just have to read the story to find out!

This was one of Emma's presents from her grandparents last Christmas and is wonderfully entertaining with eye-catching illustrations.  I wonder if it could also be a moral tale about trying to take on more than you can handle, or even about greediness!  Maybe that wasn't the original intention, but as a grownup that's what springs to mind! 

I hope you've enjoyed my reviews of these three Brilliant Books.  If you've read any of them, let me know your opinions in the comments below.  Do you have any more recommendations for mouse-themed storybooks?  I'd love to hear them!

You may also be interested in reading 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to which means I make a small commission on purchases made from these links.

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Sunday, 7 May 2017

Successful Potty Training - How we did it + 5 Essential Tips for Potty Training Success

Successfully potty training a two-year-old is no small thing.  It's an important milestone, but one that a lot of parents dread, and if you've never done it before it can be rather daunting (I know this is how I felt about it!)

Everyone has a different experience, with ups and downs, but there are some universal tips for potty training success that I think can apply to pretty much everyone.  I've included my 5 essential tips for potty training success at the end of this post.  It may be quite simple advice, but I think it would have helped me take a more relaxed attitude during the potty training process and not worry so much.

It's taken me a while to get round to it, but I thought I'd give some closure to my Potty Training Diaries , a series of posts I wrote while I was potty training my daughter last summer, with an update on her progress since the last post, a brief summary of how it went and some reflection on the whole process in hindsight.  

We started potty training last summer and now, nine months or so later, the whole business of buying nappies, changing nappies (or diapers!), starting with pull-ups and little accidents feels like a distant memory.  Even the potty is a thing of the past.

I definitely don't have a baby anymore.  I can't even call her a toddler; she's a Big Girl, as she keeps telling me herself.

Successful Potty Training How To And 5 Essential Tips for Potty Training Success, Potty Training a Two Year Old, Night time Potty Training, Parenting, Toddler Milestones

The whole potty training experience certainly took a lot longer than the three days I read about in more than a few posts, but it didn't take more than a month to establish the foundations of daytime potty training.  It wasn't completely painless and problem-free (I wasn't expecting it to be, I'm not delusional!), but it wasn't too bad once we'd got over the main obstacle and by the end of the month my Big Girl had definitely "got it" - success!  

Night time training, once we eventually got to it, was - amazingly - completely painless and problem free, 100% dry with not a single accident.  I wasn't expecting it to be that easy at all so I'm very grateful for that!

Before Potty Training 

We bought a potty well before starting potty training, around April or May last year, but I planned to start in my summer holidays in July.  Emma would be 28 months old then, I would be at home for three weeks and we had no plans to travel anywhere, so it would be the ideal time.  I was clueless how to go about it, though.

Before the summer holidays started, I did a bit of research, set up a potty training board on Pinterest and pinned a variety of articles on the topic.  A lot of them claimed it could be done in three days.  I liked the sound of that - get it over with quickly - but was sceptical.  Things don't happen that quickly in my world.  Still, I took away some ideas of how I wanted to go about it:

  • No nappies and no pull-ups, except at night
  • For the first few days set up a "living area" in one part of the house with the potty close by and stay in that area all day
  • Stay at home for the first few days 
  • Give Emma lots of juice to drink and encourage her to sit on the potty frequently 
  • Let her walk around with a bare bottom the first day or two 
  • Use a reward chart with stickers for positive reinforcement and motivation 
  • No negative comments 
Meanwhile, since we bought the potty, Emma's grandmother had been encouraging her to sit on the potty from time to time at a time of day when she usually needed a nappy change to get her used to using the potty.  The rest of the time she was wearing a nappy as usual.  During this time she actually did a wee or poo on the potty a few times, maybe three or four times in about two months.

Our Potty Training Experience 


I bought some stickers, a few pairs of knickers and plenty of juice, I made a sticker chart to stick on the bathroom door and I made sure I had cleaning supplies and a bucket and mop to hand!

You can read about our potty training adventures in more detail in my Potty Training Diary series of posts from that time, starting with Potty Training Diary Days 1 & 2.

Successful Potty Training How To, 5 Essential Tips For Potty Training Success, Potty Training Reward Chart, Potty Training a Two year Old
Emma rearranging the stickers on her reward chart!  Guess I didn't think that one through very well!

Stumbling Blocks

The first few days saw some small successes mixed in with a few accidents, as you might expect.

At first, Emma was spending a long time just sitting on the potty without doing anything.  She was reluctant to get off the potty, but seemed to be holding everything in.

The stickers were a great attraction at first, but the sticker chart soon became redundant as she kept peeling off the stickers that were already on there and moving them around!

The other thing was that we weren't advancing very fast through the chart.  The stickers were of course rewards for doing a wee or poo in the potty, but this was not happening very frequently.  It wasn't that she was having lots of accidents - she had very few of them.  She just wasn't doing ANYTHING!  She also wasn't drinking enough, despite me constantly offering her juice - she would take a little sip and that was it.  She wasn't eating very well either - she's a pretty fussy eater anyway, and it got worse during this time.

The second week of potty training was the most difficult.  It got very worrying when at one point she hadn't done a wee in at least 24 hours and hadn't pooed in two days.  She seemed to be blocking herself, unconsciously holding it all in, which wasn't good at all.  I succumbed to using pull-ups to take her out for walks and I think the exercise combined with the sense of security wearing the pull-ups gave her at least helped her to get it all out - although it was in the pull-ups, but I didn't care at that point.


It did start to get better towards the end of that week.  Emma was beginning to get into a bit of a routine as far as using the potty was concerned.  By the third week of potty training Emma was doing really well and I felt like we'd cracked it (while hoping I wasn't being over-confident!).  

She had a couple of accidents, but the main test came when we had to go to Mexico City.  It's normally a two-and-a-half hour trip, but in reality was three and a half hours due to traffic.  I had decided that it would be easier for Emma to wear pull-ups that weekend, but actually they stayed dry the whole time.  We stayed at relatives' houses and while we were there Emma used the big toilet several times a day, letting me know when she needed to go.  She even used the toilet in a restaurant. I was so proud of her! 

When we got back home after this trip, I noticed that Emma was using the potty more frequently and sitting on it for less time, definitely a sign that she was feeling more comfortable with it.

We kept the pull-ups just for nighttime and used knickers during the day from then on! Those little accidents became very few and far between.

Dry Nights 

Since pretty much mastering daytime training, Emma had continued using pullups at night but more often than not they were still dry in the morning.  Occasionally she would wake up crying in the middle of the night and it would turn out that she needed to use the potty, although she wouldn't tell us as she was more asleep than awake.

So these were clear signs of her readiness for night time training, but still I hesitated and waited longer.  Just to be sure! No point in rushing it, right?

I finally took the plunge somewhere between two and three months after daytime potty training.  We got to the last pull-up in the last pack and I'd decided not to buy any more.  I told Emma she was such a big girl now that she didn't need to wear a pull up at night any longer.  She was quite happy about that and to date she's never had a single accident during the night.  A few rare accidents during the day, yes, but none at night.  I'm pretty amazed at her achievement!

From Potty to Toilet

At around this time, although I don't remember exactly when, Emma made the definitive transition from potty to toilet.  She started using the big toilet occasionally while she was still potty training, but at that time she usually preferred to use the potty.  Of course, she would be fine with using toilets in restaurants or other people's houses when we were out and about, but at home she mostly chose the potty.

Little by little, this preference shifted and it wasn't long before the potty just seemed too small and too inconvenient and Emma stopped using it altogether.  She'd outgrown another phase already.   Later she would say to me, "I don't use the potty anymore.  I'm a big girl; I use the toilet!"  In her eyes, the potty had already been relegated to the realm of baby things.

Toilet conversations!

We've had some funny little conversations with Emma sitting on the toilet.  

She once told me quite seriously, " The daddy is the poo poo, the mummy is the pee pee and the baby is the pun (fart)!"  That really had me in stitches.

Lately, she'll ask me to close the bathroom door.  When I ask her why, she answers, "So they can't see my poo poo!" 

A sure sign that she's finished is when she starts singing at the top of her voice.

Becoming independent

We have a few more things to work on before Emma can use the toilet completely independently.

She can get on and off the toilet by herself but usually she wants to be helped.

She still needs someone to wipe her clean, although occasionally she wants to do it herself. She will need more help and practice to become more autonomous in this.

She can pull her knickers down and up again by herself; the rest of her clothes too if they don't have fastenings, but obviously buttons and zips still pose a problem.

She usually needs help to wash her hands properly; she can reach by standing on a step but it's still tricky to turn the tap on and get soap from the dispenser.  If I let her she spends ages washing her hands and playing that her hands are having a shower!

Anyway, it's all part of a process that takes time, but hopefully the most difficult part is done.

5 Essential Tips for Potty Training Success - your way!

I think these are the most important things to remember, and they can apply to everyone and anyone.

Successful Potty Training How We Did It + 5 Essential Tips for Potty Training Success

1. Timing is everything

So you think your child is ready for potty training, but are you? Make sure the timing is right for everyone involved.  Firstly, are you in the right place and state of mind to tackle this new adventure? If you're having to deal with big upheavals in your life, or family problems or more than usual work stress then this is not the time to start potty training.

If there are a lot of changes going on in your child's life maybe it's best to wait until things settle down a bit.  Adding another big change like potty training to the mix is probably not going to be a recipe for success.

2.  All children are different - and so are all parents.

Therefore, what works for one child - or family - may not necessarily work for another. There are so many different methods, tips and hacks to read about out there and plenty of people willing to give you all sorts of advice, but you can't do it all.  Take what you consider to be the best tips and techniques, try them out, ditch the things that don't work for you or your child, try something new if you need to and find your own way.

3. Don't compare - find support

Again, everybody's different.  Each child develops at his or her own pace, has different reactions in different situations, has different strengths, preferences, dislikes and fears. There's absolutely no point in comparing your child to other children or in comparing yourself to other parents.  Instead, look to others for moral support and advice.  Reading about other parents' experiences of potty training can be helpful, especially if you find they are going through or have been through the same problems you're having.  They can probably give you some useful tips and even just getting a bit of support and encouragement is invaluable.

4. Be flexible - if something's not working, change it!  

Don't feel you have to stick to a particular technique or set of advice just because it worked for someone else.  Don't be afraid to change your approach and even do things you had decided not to do if you find you need to.
You don't have to stick to the plan if the plan's not working for you.

5. No pressure

Don't put too much pressure on yourself or your child to master potty training within a certain timescale.  A deadline is probably not very helpful in most cases. It's a process that takes time and there will probably be advances and setbacks along the way, but don't worry. Your child will be potty-trained sooner or later, and getting stressed isn't going to make it happen any faster.

You can read about how we started potty training in more detail in my Potty Training Diaries, starting here with Potty Training Diaries Days 1 & 2.



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