Potty training…the two words of parenting that strike fear into the heart of parents around the world. I am here to share with you tips for a successful potty training experience.
Potty training has a bad rap.
And I think this is mainly because there is just too much information out there. From doctors to therapists to well-meaning mother-in-laws, everyone has their own advice to give.
I have just finished up potty training my youngest.
He is the fifth toddler that I have successfully potty trained. I have used the exact same method with all five of my children. And today I am sharing it with you.
Leading Up to Potty Training
Around the age of 18 months, we start putting our children on the potty before bath to see if they need to use the bathroom.
We have always gone straight to the big potty. I did not use a little potty because it was just one more step to add. My kids were put on the big potty from day one and were never scared or traumatized.
They saw me and their older siblings use the big potty so it was also consistent.
By allowing them to try to use the potty before bath, it gave them the initial understanding of the concept.
Warning: Just because your toddler may successfully go to the potty before bathtime, this does not signal that the are ready to potty train. Let me tell you the window of opportunity.
Window of Opportunity
This is the most important part of my potty training method. The window of opportunity.
I have lots of friends ask me the best age to potty train and I cannot give them an answer. There is not an age, but rather a window. In my experience, the best “age” to potty train is during the time between two and two and a half. I do not recommend letting them be much older than 2 and a half because I feel like the toddler becomes defiant and more difficult to train.
In my experience, the best “age” to potty train is during the time between two and two and a half. I do not recommend letting them be much older than 2 and a half because I feel like the toddler becomes defiant and more difficult to train.
Seize the window of opportunity when you notice at least three of these signs:
- Tells you when they are going to the bathroom in their diaper.
- Runs and hides when using the bathroom in their diaper.
- Constantly takes their diaper off.
- Shows lots of interest in using the potty when they see others doing it.
- Is verbal and can communicate with you in their own words that they need to go.
- Talks about the potty or anything associated with the potty.
Immediately upon seeing any three of these signs is when I recommend starting to train.
My youngest did almost all six of these signs three days before Christmas. NOT the ideal time to start, but I seized the window of opportunity. I did not want to miss that window for the best training experience.
Training starts the day before
The day before you want to potty train take your toddler to the store.
Make a big deal out of picking out big boy or big girl underwear, pull-ups if you will use for naptime, and a potty seat if you choose.
Our favorite is the Baby Bjorn Toilet Trainer that goes right over the big potty. Choose some small rewards that are motivating to your toddler.
One of my sons loved little figurines from the dollar store. I picked up a bunch of those and rewarded him the first day with them everytime he used the potty and then used them to reward him for having a bowel movement in the potty.
My most recent potty trained toddler loves gum. A piece of sugar-free gum every time he went to the potty was the motivation he needed. Pick out something that will motivate your little one.
Talk it up all day.
Talk about how he or she will no longer need diapers.
Tomorrow will be the day they learn how to use the potty just like _____ (choose someone they admire or look up to). Be cheerful, encouraging, and excited.
They will pick up on your excitement and join in. This excitement is important for them to learn quickly.
When you put them to bed that night, lay out the new underwear and remind them that as soon as they wake up, they will get to learn how to use the big boy or big girl potty.
As soon as your little one wakes up, take the diaper off and take them to the potty. Even if they kick or scream, stay calm and encouraging.
Each and every time your little ones tries to use the restroom even if they do not succeed, stay upbeat. It is important to not let the frustrating show. Trust me the struggle is real.
If your toddler goes to the bathroom, set a timer for 20 minutes. If they do not go to the bathroom set a timer for 10 minutes.
On the first day, I give a reward for each successful bathroom trip. If they seem to be catching on, then I only start giving rewards every time they have a bowel movement.
I also tell them over and over how proud I am, how big they are, how great they are doing. Clap, sing, dance, announce. Make them proud to be using the potty!
It is important to have them use the underwear and not pull ups. In my experience, toddlers learn faster with underwear. It is ok if you have ten pairs of underwear to wash that first day. Trust me. It will pay off in the long run.
On that first day, I am constantly setting timers: twenty minutes if they went and ten minutes if they did not. I know that sounds excessive, but it really helps to clarify why they are using the potty. It helps to set that brain to bladder connection.
On the second day, you follow the same steps, but feel free to move the timer to 20 minutes if they did not go and 30 if they did.
On the third day, same steps, but you can move the timer to 30 minutes and 40 minutes.
After the third day, it is just a matter of watching for the signs, giving your toddler reminders, and continuing to take them to the potty.
Nap Time and Bed Time
I have always used pull-ups for naps and bed. My kids take a long time to be dry overnight. Bedwetting runs in our family. If you are interested in a bedwetting alarm, check out this guest post by Emily at BedWettingAlarm101. She has all the facts for you.
- Your little one is afraid of the potty: Remind them that it is no big deal. Stay positive and do not let it bother you. It will pass. Stay strong and be persistent on them using the big potty. Do not cave!
- Your little one has a hard time having a bowel movement on the potty: This is common, and my biggest piece of advice would be to use the iPad. When I know my toddler needs to have a bowel movement, I let him sit on the potty with the seat and play or watch a show on the iPad. It takes some toddlers longer than others and having this to entertain him helps him to relax and go to the bathroom.
- I am afraid my toddler will have an accident while we are out and about: This will happen. Always have extra clothes and underwear with you. But it is important to not rely on a pull up. Take them to the bathroom before, when you arrive, before you leave, and you can minimize your toddler having an accident.
Pull-ups has an adorable app that has a timer and a little “game” for them to play after they successfully use the potty.
I have used Sesame Street – Elmo’s Potty Time for all of my toddlers. It seems to work great for us!
There is also a Sesame Street: Let’s Go Potty, Elmo! book.
Stick with it
If I could be with you right now as you start this potty training endeavor, I would remind you to stick with it. Once you start, do not stop. No matter how difficult it is or how exhausted you are, finish training them. It is worth the effort and worth your time.
The best potty training advice is to use the timer, be consistent, and just enjoy the journey.
Congratulations. Let me know if you need any assistance.