Like so many aspects of life with kids, potty training means gear, lots of gear: Potty-seat choices have proliferated, sprouting all manner of bells and whistles.
Many convert like Transformers to serve multiple functions. One has a voice recorder to add a personal message (“Go Jacob!”). Others belt out happy tunes, have cubbies to stash wipes and books, sport their own toilet paper holders, simulate flushing, look like mini-urinals and are decked out as fancy thrones.
There’s one with an iPad holder and another with handlebars that looks like a ride-on toy. Still more can be monogrammed, are round to appear as ladybugs and soccer balls, rock like rocking chairs and, for the design-minded, look like contemporary furniture. And there’s no end to TV, movie and book tie-ins, from Sesame Street to Spongebob.
Basic molded-plastic potties remain popular, high backed or low, in an industry worth more than $50 million in 2011, according to the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, a trade group of companies in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
“People talk about potty training more. Before it was something you just got through,” said Angie Peterson, marketing director for Levels of Discovery, which puts out painted wood potty thrones for up to $83 a pop that include a place to slide in a photo of your little one.
Grandparents are often the buyers of these thrones, she said, and the chairs match the company’s bedroom furniture sets. They come with matching wood seat covers that turn them into regular chairs when training is complete.
Sick of unsightly plastic, but not looking for ornate? The Potty Bench by Boon is sleek and curvy in bright green or aqua against white.
“We wanted to bring cool style and design to parents,” said Ryan Fernandez, co-founder of the company and father of four girls 12 and under.
Narmin Parpia’s RNK Innovations makes potty seats akin to ride-on toys.
“Isn’t it crazy? The idea is to keep the child amused while they’re on there, just to keep them entertained while they sit and wait for things to happen,” she said.
Sales of her company’s Riding Potty Chair increased last year by 5 to 10 percent, she said.
Heidi Murkoff, who wrote the pregnancy bible What to Expect When You’re Expecting, isn’t a huge believer in busy potty chairs.
“Clearly babies have mastered potty proficiency for generations without them,” she said. “They just make the process more fun. But the bottom line: what kind of seat you put that cute little bottom on matters far less than how ready your toddler is to start potty training.”