The Whiz Kid
Searching for the best potty chair on the market.
Kid Friendliness: 4
Boon Potty Bench ($29.98)
I was enamored with the Boon at first. It doesn't look like a potty chair; in fact, when it's in the closed position, it looks like a stool. Guess what? It is a stool! The dual stool/potty chair design is undeniably nifty and the stool itself is remarkably sturdy, so your toddler can use it to reach the sink, or you can use it to reach the liquor you keep in the upper cabinet (maybe that's just me). My wife and I stood on it at the same time with no problem other than feeling silly.
As I spent more time with the Boon, however, my ardor began to fade. The Boon has compartments built into either side that are large enough for holding rolls of paper or other toiletries. But the doors are tricky to open and shut. You can't operate them at all when the potty is in stool mode, which I'm certain is a safety feature, but this makes them decidedly less handy. The removable rubber splash guard is an improvement over its plastic counterparts, but because of its placement, it interferes with removing the reservoir. In general, I see little use for splash guards (or deflectors, in potty argot), though apparently others must or they wouldn't be on the potties.
The Boon is low to the ground so you can easily slip it under a bed, and it's probably the best of the lot for taking on trips. Overall, not perfect but not bad.
Kid Friendliness: 7
Safety 1st Jack Potty ($33.65) Just as I was set to love the Boon, I was ready to despise Jack Potty—a potty chair that looks like a slot machine? Has there ever been a worse concept for a children's product? Excluding lawn darts and candy cigarettes?
The Jack Potty has multiple colored lights and a spinning display that features guitar-playing bananas. When the potty has been used successfully, lights flash, buzzers buzz, and a voice offers congratulations. For additional verisimilitude, the potty plays the sound of cascading coins, though no actual money pours out (Version 2.0?). The Jack Potty is the only addiction-themed potty I ran across in my research, and I half-worry that my son will, as an adult, find himself inextricably drawn to casinos, sitting there day after day, glassy eyed, wearing diapers so he doesn't have to leave his machine. Oh, the irony.
I was fully prepared to dismiss Jack Potty as a ridiculous creation worthy of endless derision. And it is. But, I have to say, my son loves it and I can see why. It's the only potty we tested that knows when the kid sits down. Along with the welcome message, the potty encourages kids to try again if they fail to make a deposit. If the kid does follow through, the reaction from the potty is both obnoxious and awesome. I don't want to like it, but I do.
Kid Friendliness: 8
Babybjörn ($18.81) This is hands down, no-kidding-around the best potty chair I've ever seen. It's not as spectacular as Jack Potty, nor as nifty as the Boon, but the design is simple and elegant. It's lightweight, stable, super easy to clean, and the splash-guard is built-in and doubles as a handle for the reservoir. Emptying is a dream. The thing is only two pieces and therefore almost impossible to break. The back of the potty wraps around your toddler so he or she is unlikely to tumble off. The kid can even lean back and rest, which is nice considering that potty time can turn into an extended, dilatory ordeal.
There's no lid to get in the way, no batteries to go dead, no lights or buzzers. My son approves of the Björn, too, and insists on having it next to his bed. Also: cheap! Nineteen bucks. Honestly, just get this one.
Kid Friendliness: 8
Bonus review: Peter Potty Toddler Urinal ($39.00) OK, so this is only going to work for half the toddlers out there, but I feel obliged to mention Peter Potty because it's a minor work of genius. Learning to point is a life skill for the male of the species, and Peter Potty provides important practice (say that 10 times fast). Plus, it really flushes. Push a button at the top and water flows down the urinal and into the plastic drain. Granted, you then have to refill the tank, and your kid may decide that pushing the button is more fun than using the potty. But if that happens, don't fill it up. Problem solved.
In summary: Buy the Björn. Or, if you think your kid will respond to lights, buzzers, and guitar-playing bananas, go with Jack Potty. If you're looking for dual stool action, I suggest the Boon. And if you want to frustrate your child and yourself, by all means choose Cheer for Me!
Tom Bartlett is a writer in Mount Rainier, Md.