This week’s local inspirational mom is Stefanie Brown. She is mom of two little girls and wife of Eli. Stefanie and her husband run the website Preschoology. She also writes for Tampa Bay Moms Blog. We chatted with her about her latest project and how she became a businesswoman.
Tell us a little about your background with young children.
I’m a trained school psychologist. Before taking time off to be home with my two little girls, I worked in a preschool, where I led play groups and helped children work on therapy goals. Now I host a blog called Preschoology where I talk about my parenting and professional experiences working with children.
Tell us about your latest exciting news!
About two years ago, my husband Eli, a computer engineer, and I decided we were going to create a mobile app for potty-training. Last month our app, The Potty Show, finally went live in the iTunes App Store! We’re super excited to see what started off as a little idea that we tossed around in our kitchen table talks come to life!
How did you originally start The Potty Show?
When I was working in the preschool, parents would constantly schedule appointments with me looking for help with potty training. One tool I’d always recommend was something called a “social story.” It’s basically a story written from the child’s point of view, used to introduce a new skill. I knew parents were short on time and probably wouldn’t get the chance to write their own social stories for potty-training, so I’d put them together myself – complete with pictures of my student’s faces and personalized text that included their names. I’d spend my weekends sitting on my living room floor with a laminator and a ball of yarn to string the pages together. One day, my techy husband was like . . . “Hey Stef, there’s gotta be a more efficient way to put together your books!” That’s when we started thinking about putting together an electronic version of my social story and creating our own mobile app.
How long did it take to bring your idea of The Potty Show into an actual functioning app? Was it a difficult process to create your own app?
Initially we thought the process of creating our own app would be short, sweet, and easy! We’d higher a developer, pitch them our idea, and be superstars in the app store by the next month! But . . . The process took a little over a year . . . AND what an action packed year it was! In that span, Eli got laid off from an 11-year career on Wall Street. A few months later, our home in NY was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. A few more months and we were relocating for Eli’s new job in Tampa. And then we found out we were expecting our second daughter. Life’s twists and turns delayed the process. But what could’ve been a really challenging time, actually turned out to be a huge blessing! While waiting to transition to his new job, Eli got more time to oversee the technical aspects of building the app. And then just as we got to the nitty gritty of production, our oldest daughter started potty-training! Actually going through the process of potty-training as parents put the app in a whole new light for us. We made so many tweaks and changes based on our own potty-training experience during that time. All the delays we faced really made the app so much better than we had even anticipated.
Have you ever prepped to do something really challenging by envisioning yourself doing it successfully ahead of time? Whether it’s giving a speech, crossing the finish line to that marathon you’ve been training for, or standing up to your condescending boss . . . Envisioning yourself doing that thing ahead of time can really boost your confidence and help you anticipate success. That’s pretty much the concept behind The Potty Show. The Potty Show lets users upload real photos to cartoon images of using the potty so children can “see” themselves be successful before they even sit on a potty.
How old should a child be when a parent first encourages them to use the potty? Are there any signs that can help parents identify when a child is ready?
The truth is that you can start potty-training at whatever age you decide. Biologically speaking, there’s no real start point. In Western culture, of course, a lot of folks start potty-training between the ages of 2 and 3 because they want to get their children ready to attend preschool and schools don’t typically accept children in diapers. But really, deciding when to start should be in response to 1.) The child’s emotional and physical readiness and 2.) What works for the family. The process of potty-training just goes a whole lot more smoothly when children are ready for it and families are in a place where they can offer their full support.
What has been the response to The Potty Show app?
So far I’ve gotten great feedback! My colleagues are thrilled to see my version of a social story gone virtual. And I get a lot of random texts from my parent friends saying things like, “ . . . Just downloaded your app! The kids won’t stop playing with it!” It makes my day when I hear that the Potty Show helped add some fun to the potty training process. I also have a lot of parents say that their kids start repeating the lines of the Potty Show text while using the potty. The lines seem to stick with kids and work well to help them remember the steps.
One thing that took me by surprise was the response I’ve gotten to the app from adults who don’t even have children. There’s this group of users who get a kick out of uploading their faces to the app and then using the automatic Facebook upload button to post screen shots of themselves pictured in the Potty Show. Sometimes they upload the faces of celebrities to the Potty Show too . . . and then title them potty-training related names. My favorites so far have been “Donald Dumps” and “Pee-yonce!” It’s turned into a game to see who can come up with the funniest characters. Pretty funny stuff!
How can a parent get The Potty Show for their child?
If you have an Apple device, you can go to the iTunes App Store and download it there or just follow this link . . .
We hope to have a version of the Potty Show available for Android users shortly.
Parents should also check out the Potty Show website for lots of free resources and printable tools to help with potty-training.
Aside from using The Potty Show app, is there any other advice you can give parents teaching their children to use the bathroom?
The trick is being consistent AND flexible at the same time. Come up with a plan that feels comfortable for your family and stick to it. Do whatever you have to do to stay consistent. Give it a week or two. If your child isn’t making progress, stop, re-evaluate, and try again. Unfortunately, potty-training isn’t a “one size fits all” type of process. So what works for one child won’t necessarily work for the next. Also, do what you can to keep the potty-training process positive, light, and fun. That will go a long way for both parents and children!