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We’re taking advantage of being home while self-distancing and using the time in to cross a major milestone off the list: POTTY TRAINING! If you’ve ever wondered how to tell if your child is ready, or when to start potty training, I’ve got you covered! Answering 20 of the questions I got on Instagram about potty training below.
Back story: Emmy just turned three. She’s our third child, so she has two older siblings to emulate. She was probably ready to toilet train around age 2.5, but since I was dealing with a difficult pregnancy, I wasn’t quite ready.
We started potty training on Saturday morning and, as of writing this at 8:30pm on Monday, she had ONE pee accident right after she put on undies on Saturday AM. No accidents since, even a successful toilet poop.
I’m pleasantly surprised AND I’m not an expert at potty training but there are a few things you can do while potty training your toddler to set yourselves up for success!
I know people who have success with potty training their kids using ALL kinds of methods and at a variety of ages. This is just what’s worked for us :).
Here are my potty training secrets + tips for success!
1 // How do you know when your child is ready for potty training – when to start?
My biggest best and most important tip is this… wait until your child is 110% ready to potty train. So what does being ready to potty train even mean?! When to start potty training?
It’s not an age thing – so only you know if your child is ready at 18 months or 2.5 years or whenever.
Some signs of potty training readiness:
- They can tell when they have peed or pooped. If your child comes to you after peeing in her diaper and tells you that she’s wet or goes to a special hiding place to poop in her diaper, she knows what is going on with her body.
- The ability to pull underwear up or down. Even better if they can pull up their own pants but they definitely have to be ready to manipulate underwear.
- Your child has less wet diapers – this means that he/she is starting to ‘hold it’ (aka have control over their bladder)
- They wake up dry from a nap or in the morning. When your child wakes up dry from a nap, it’s a great time to see if they want to sit on the potty!
- They take an interest in the toilet or in others using the toilet. If they want to sit on it, or flush for you, or want to watch you pee (kids are weird), those are all signs of interest and that they may be heading towards potty training!
2 // How do you get them excited about potty training?
The one thing we do, regardless of the child, is to REALLLLLY play up the fact that going pee and poop on the big potty is a BIG KID thing to do. We talk about all the big kid things they do (amend based on your child) – stuff like, you sleep in a big bed! You sit at a big chair at the dinner table. Only big kids eat ice cream, you’re so big! Blah blah blah.
Choose whatever is going to appeal most to your child. If it’s saying ‘oh Mickey/Dora/Spiderman/insert character here pees on the potty, you can be like them!’, do it. If it’s encouraging them to imitate their older sibling or dad or whoever, use that as motivation.
3 // How many days do you block out for potty training?
A weekend – and if 2 days isn’t enough, then I personally think that the child might not be ready. It’s never taken longer than this because I wait until my kids are VERY ready – see question 1 ;).
4 // Do you follow any certain potty training method?
I don’t! I’ve heard good things about Oh Crap Potty Training but I haven’t followed it.
5 // What are your must-have potty training supplies?
As far as prep and supplies go I always make sure that I have a waterproof sheet on hand both for Bed and for whatever areas of the house you need them in, plenty of underwear so that when there are accidents you aren’t constantly running the wash or run out of underwear. I don’t get any special training underwear I just buy a pack of whatever character underwear I know my child will love. Some people recommend taking the child with you to the store to pick out his or her own big kid underwear which is a pretty good idea. While you are there you definitely want to grab some kind of reward.
Waterproof Portable Liner – I LOVE this for all kinds of parenting magic! They can be used on twin sized mattresses to make them waterproof (no crunching at all!) and I use them on the couch or any surface the potty trainer wants to sit on. I also use these when any of my kids is sick so there’s not vomit all over the couch or their bed. // shop it here
Portable Detachable Toddler Toilet Seat – this sits on top of a regular toilet seat – love that it can be removed easily and has handles so your toddler can easily balance. And it’s SUPER affordable! // shop it here
I’ve heard of people using/keeping a portable potty in their car for those EMERGENCIES but I’ve never done it and haven’t had any major issues. I do travel with a spare change of clothes for each of my kids, however. // shop it here
6 // Do you make them sit on the potty in intervals?
Yes, but not super strictly! I just ask, ‘do you have to go potty?’ whenever I think about it – generally every 10 minutes because I’m paranoid someone will pee somewhere ;).
Another tip that was sent to me is to set the timer with Alexa for every 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, you tell your child she or he needs to try to go potty. That way you are not asking them and it’s not you driving the situation – it’s Alexa. The bonus is that this technique does give some regularity to the routine and gives them a LOT of attempts.
Another idea is to buy a special toy (this would be a good one!) that can only be played with while your child sits on the potty. A fun idea to get them to actually take the time to sit and WANT to try.
7 // What about rewards/bribes to use the potty?
I’m ALL ABOUT giving a reward/motivation/bribe to get the potty train rolling.
For some kids, sticker charts are magic. For others, candy is a motivator.
I like to give something different for 1. sitting on the potty 2. successfully peeing on the potty and 3. successfully pooping on the potty. I generally up the reward, too. For example, sitting on the potty = 1 M&M. Peeing = a small cookie. Pooping = a sucker.
We stop using a reward once they have a full day of success. I give warning before bed, ‘since you’re big and you diid such a great job using the potty today, tomorrow all the cookies will be gone and you’ll just go on the potty without a treat’ and that usually does the trick.
Also – no matter what the bribe or reward – ALWAYS CELEBRATE a success! Cheering, clapping, smiling, a loud ‘I’m SO proud of you!!!!’ are always required.
8 // Naked or undies? Any special undies?
I personally do undies, because that’s how they’ll ultimately be living life. I don’t buy special ‘training pants’ undies or Pull-Ups, but I do buy special character underwear that my kids will be excited about. Emmy is WAY into Frozen so Anna and Elsa it was.
Pro tip: look for undies with a character on the FRONT, versus an overall pattern. This makes it easier for kids to know which side is the front versus which side is the back.
9 // Do you make them drink more fluids?
I don’t push extra fluids but I know that some people do, which theoretically makes your child have to go potty more often, thus giving them more chances to practice and be successful.
10 // Do you day and night train simultaneously?
I don’t! I’ve always day trained and then night trained once they start waking up with dry diapers. For one of my kids, that meant waiting til age 5 – I was in NO RUSH to night train because nighttime accidents are not a thing I wanted to worry about and LOTS of kids aren’t nighttime ready until well into elementary school. To me, day and night training are, quite literally, night and day :).
11 // Diaper or Pull-Up during nap or undies? How do you explain it to them?
For naps, I’ve done it both ways and it just depends on your child and the likelihood they’ll wake up dry. This time, with Emmy, I feel really confident that she’s got it down. My other kids, I’ve diapered for naps until they woke up dry several days in a row. I just tell them that we only wear diapers/Pull Ups for sleep and no one has ever really fought me on it.
12 // How do you master night training?
This has also been different for each of my kids. When they wake up dry in a diaper 3 days in a row, we let them try to go without a diaper, in undies, to bed.
We make them go potty before bed and, for Coop, we also do a ‘sleep pee’, which is when we get them out of bed before we go to bed (usually around 10 or 11pm) and have them potty. They go 99% of the time and NEVER wake up, so it’s worth it.
13 // Do you have them sit on the potty to practice before actually training?
I don’t make a specific effort to do this but it wouldn’t hurt! See question 1 regarding readiness.
14 // What about a child you KNOW is ready but is just incredibly stubborn?
Honestly, I would try to wait until it was his or her idea – there’s no forcing a stubborn kid but when it’s THEIR choice and THEY’RE in control, they’re more likely to take charge.
15 // What about fear of pooping/waiting to poop until there’s a diaper on?
This isn’t super uncommon – but it is super frustrating. I’m not an expert on this but this article has a lot of great info – basically, your child likely associates pooping on the potty with pain and thus, avoids it. Tips to get them to go in the potty include relieving constipation (you’re going for ‘soft serve’) and allowing them to poop in a diaper IN the bathroom – the process is kind of crazy but I’d try anything to get rid of the diapers once I knew my child was really ready. Another article linked here.
16 // Are boys harder to train? Do you do anything different to potty train a boy?
I wouldn’t say boys are harder, it definitely depends on the child’s willingness to go and their general level of stubbornness!
17 // Boy potty tips so they don’t pee everywhere?
I’ve seen cute stickers you can put in the toilet bowl to teach them to aim, I’ve heard of using a Cheerio in the toilet for the same reason, and I have friends who have taught their boys to saddle the toilet seat facing the tank to pee sitting towards the back of it.
I personally taught Cooper to sit on the seat like normal and point it down, which worked.
18 // If you had twins would you do them at the same time or separately?
If they were both showing signs of readiness, YES! If both weren’t showing signs of readiness at the same time, I wouldn’t. I’d either wait on training or just train them separately.
19 // How do I get them to go when they have to go and not wait until the last minute?
Ugh the distraction is REAL! There’s a Daniel Tiger episode about this and I’ll forever sing the song. Beyond that, I just watch them like a hawk for any ‘dancing’ or holding it (literally) and remind them to go.
20 // Do you use a little potty or a toilet adjuster seat or just a regular seat?
I personally never want to clean out a mini potty so never bought one :).