Heidi Murkoff, who wrote the pregnancy bible "What to Expect When You're Expecting" that now anchors a franchise and website offering parenting advice, isn't a huge believer in busy potty chairs.
"Bells and whistles, and musical potty seats, are never necessary. 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."
There's not a one-size-fits-all approach to potty training gear, even within families, but some basic choices in seat type exist.
There's the standalone, which has to be dumped and cleaned, or an insert for the adult potty that makes the hole smaller and potentially less foreboding. Both have pros and cons, Murkoff said.
Make sure a seat for the big potty doesn't slide around too much or have pinch points, especially if it's a fold-up type intended for on-the-go use. Handles and a stepstool come in handy for extra security and push-power. Inserts sometimes have dials to adjust for fit.
If you choose a freestanding potty, make sure it's sturdy enough not to tip over or slosh too much, advises Whattoexpect.com. Consider crevices that will have to be cleaned.
Also consider a splash guard that fits in the front for boys. Prioritize features: Do you need one that doubles as a travel potty? Do you plan on restricting training to a small bathroom?
In any case, take your tot shopping with you for a potty to build excitement, Murkoff said.
Meg Atkinson in Minneapolis is a rare breed of parent. She got the job done with her 2.5-year-old daughter in two days without any type of special potty, beyond a travel version she keeps in her car. There have been a few accidents but nothing out of the ordinary for a new recruit.
"We went cold turkey," said Atkinson, who also has a 9-month-old. "We didn't want to deal with any kind of special seat. It was straight to the big potty and big girl undies. So far, so good."