“Is my toddler ready to potty train?”
“How do I know when to start?”
“How do you even potty train?”
These are such common questions from parents of toddlers! The desperate need to be done with diapers combined with the fear of the unknown when it comes to potty training often times deters parents from attempting to potty train their toddlers.
I trained both of my girls a few months before their 3rd birthday’s. They were both “ready” and wanted to be potty trained.
Know the Signs of Being Ready to Potty Train
There are a few universal signs that a child is ready to start potty training.
- Telling you that they have used the bathroom right after they have gone in their diaper.
- Following you to the bathroom and asking what you are doing. Showing a genuine. interest in all things that go on in the bathroom.
- Mimicking you and acting like they are “going potty”.
- Constantly taking off their diaper.
Once your toddler starts showing signs of being ready to potty train, you are set to start training them!
I am an avid believer in the 3-day method. I trained both of our girls using this method.
Once you decide that it is time to start potty training your toddler, it is time to start preparing for it! First, you want to take your kiddo to the store and let them pick out their very own “big boy/girl underwear”. Make a really big deal about this and really talk it up so that they get excited to wear them.
Once you have the underwear and you are ready to start block out 3 days to stay home and not go anywhere. We always do this on a weekend and usually around a holiday so that it is a 3-day weekend.
First thing in the morning when your little one wakes up, get them dressed for the day and put on the new underwear that you bought the day before. You want to again make a really big deal about the fact that they are wearing their new underwear and how much of a “big boy/girl” they are now that they are wearing underwear.
Make sure to tell them that they need to keep their underwear “clean and dry”. Use this phase exactly because toddlers generally understand the difference between clean vs. dirty and wet vs. dry. I would go a step further and say, “make sure you keep Moana clean and try” (or whatever character is on the underwear that they are wearing at the time.
Some great phrases to use are:
- You are such a big boy/girl now!
- Great job keeping your underwear clean and dry!
- I’m so proud of you for keeping your underwear clean and dry!
You want to do try to push the fluids a lot on Day One to give your little one plenty of chances to use the potty. Be prepared for a good amount of accidents on the first day. I actually bought two packs of underwear in anticipation for all the accidents that can happen on the first day. Between both of the girls, we averaged about 8 accidents on the first day.
Set a timer in your phone for 15 minutes. Every 15 minutes ask your little one if they need to go potty and encourage them to “just try” if they tell you that they don’t need to go. Continue to do this every 15 minutes for the entire day. It will get tiring and redundant on your part, but the consistency of going every 15 minutes will really drill the idea of going potty in the bathroom into your toddler’s mind.
Accidents are bound to happen, and you should be prepared for that. You need to keep your cool when accidents to happen. It is part of the process and not something that your little one should “get in trouble” for. Just keep a calm voice, take them to the bathroom and go through all the motions, even if they don’t actually have to relieve themselves any more. Going through the motions will still reinforce the process for when they do use the potty.
I am a strong believer in “once the diapers are off, they are off for good.”
I did not put diapers or pull-ups back on the girls for nap time or bedtime. With Isabella, she “got it” right away and never had any night time accidents. Ellie on the other hand continues to have night time accidents a couple times a week (although she’s only been fully potty trained for about 3 weeks now).
If your little one has night time accidents, I recommend putting a regular bath towel down over their sheets so that you can just pull the towel off in the middle of the night and lay a new one down instead of having to change all of the sheets on the bed. If the towel is thick enough, it won’t leak through to the sheets.
Again, just like day one, get them fully dressed with regular underwear on. Do all of the same things as Day One – pushing fluids, asking if they need to go potty every 15 minutes, telling them to keep their underwear clean and dry.
There are different reward systems that work well for potty training.
With Isabella, a sticker chart was the way to go! She loved being able to put a sticker on the chart next to the potty every time she went potty. When she filled up the sheet, she got a treat. It was a great motivator for her.
With Ellie, we used the candy as a reward after every time she went potty. Ellie was not impressed by stickers and therefore not a good motivator for her to want to go potty. But candy? That was a different story! This girl loves candy, so she was more than willing to try to go potty every 15 minutes if it meant that she got an M&M after she went.
Accidents were much fewer on Day Two, but still, there were accidents. Same as Day One, stay calm and don’t get mad when the accidents happen. Just take them through the actions in the bathroom every time and keep on asking them every 15 minutes if they need to go potty.
Just like Night One, I kept my girls in underwear for sleeping.
By Day Three, your kiddo should have going potty down pretty well. Day Three I will prompt less and wait for them to come tell me that they need to go potty. You want them to learn to be aware of their body and when they feel the urge to go potty.
Some kids take longer than 3 days to be fully potty trained, and some kids get it quicker. My oldest got it by the afternoon of Day Two, whereas our little one took almost a full week to get it.
The biggest thing that you have to be is consistent. If you are not consistent in every aspect those first three days, it will take longer for your little one to be fully potty trained.
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