*Ultimate Potty Training Guide* Everything You Need to Know

Potty Training a Toddler

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably about to embark on a quest to the holy grail of potty training. Don’t panic! Every parent has made it safely through this challenge and lived to tell the tale. Soon you will have some battle-scarred stories of your own (but we promise they will be amusing one day looking back).

And remember, potty training is a journey not a destination. The transition from wearing diapers to using the bathroom like a “big kid” can take up to 1 year to fully complete, and accidents may still occur long after that – especially at night. So let’s get started!

**Things To Know Before Getting Started**

What is the “normal” age for potty training?

Like with any other developmental milestone, every child and family is different, and even if it’s taking longer than you think it “should”, they will eventually get there. So try not to compare your child to others. But in general, children will become fully potty trained somewhere between the age of 2 ½ and 3 ½. Girls typically begin earlier and have a slightly easier time with potty training than boys do.

When do you begin?

You child will most likely begin to show signs of being ready for potty training long before they have the ability to actually accomplish it – even as early as 18 months! Some of these signs include an interest in using the toilet, the ability to communicate when they need to use the bathroom or when they need a diaper change, and being able to follow simple directions. You can begin slowly introducing toileting concepts when you see these readiness signs, but don’t expect a full compliance until much later. And don’t panic if you don’t see any signs of readiness until around age 3.

Other things to keep in mind..

Pick your words carefully: Potty training works best when both mom and dad (as well as any other siblings or caregivers) all use the same terms for toileting concepts. And remember – you’ll be using these in public too so choose wisely!

Don’t forget to teach hygiene: From teaching proper wiping to making sure hands are washed thoroughly, how they go is just as essential to potty training as where they go.

**Tips & Tricks For Potty Training Success**

Make it fun!

Some ways to make your newfound journey of potty training a blast include: sticker charts, candy rewards, milestone celebrations, special shopping trips for character print underwear, etc. The more fun and exciting you can make the potty training journey, the more willing your child will be to participate without kicking and screaming.
Some parents take their child to pick out a special toy to reward them for a successful potty training journey, others throw a party or enjoy a celebratory dinner now that the diapers are gone, and of course every young child enjoys getting to pick out their very first pair of “big kid” underwear!

Set a foundation early on

The best thing you can do is make potty training an integral and normal part of your everyday lives. If you suddenly try to introduce it as a brand new concept to a child who has never before experienced any part of the normal toileting process, they are naturally going to be resistant. But if you’ve been preparing them for months or even years you will have a much easier time.

Some ways you can do this are by having your child accompany you to the restroom (let’s be honest, they probably follow you in there all the time anyway!) and begin to talk to them about some of the terms and steps of using the bathroom. Older toddlers can even start imitating some of the steps such as washing hands. Kids at this age learn best by copying the adults in their lives.

This is where a practice potty can be very helpful. Have your child sit on their potty while they are waiting for you. At first they can be fully clothed, just using it as a chair until they become used to it or more curious about it. Then you can proceed to having them sit on it with their diaper off, and eventually graduate to them hopefully using it at the same time. (In which case you can make a big deal about it for positive reinforcement)

If your child hates sitting still, you could have a special basket with toys and books they are only allowed to look at or play with while sitting on the potty. (Bonus points if you can find a potty training book they enjoy!) The key is just for them to get used to the action of sitting on the potty and eventually using it. Some kids take to this right away and others need much more bribery and coaxing to sit on their potty.

If your child is unusually resistant and nothing is working, take a break and try again in a few weeks or months. If you force it too soon or make it a negative experience, they won’t want to participate. Another great way to introduce toileting concepts is with a potty training doll set, watching children’s videos about potty training, or reading books about potty training.

Try different methods and be flexible

Some kids never enjoy using their own potty chairs and insist on using the real toilet just like mom and dad (and brother or sister). So you may skip past the potty chair altogether and go straight to a children’s potty seat which goes over the existing toilet seat. Since they will likely need to learn how to use one of these anyway for use in public restrooms, it is a good idea to let them use the seat if that’s what works for them.

Some potty chairs even have a detachable potty seat that can also fit your regular toilet, so that your toddler is always sitting on the same seat no matter if they are using their chair or the real toilet.

If you are potty training a boy, you will want to decide which method you’d like to try for #1. Both methods have their challenges at this age, particularly when traveling and using public restrooms. Some families prefer to teach their young sons to go #1 sitting down initially, and teach them how to use the toilet standing up later on. Others would prefer to skip this step and go straight to using the potty like a “big boy”. But if it soon becomes clear they have their own preference, you may have to concede to whatever is working for them.

As we all know, kids can sometimes become very particular about which items they use and won’t use – so if you find a way that works for them to go to the bathroom don’t fight it. Make it as easy for them as possible.
Some kids will prefer one method over another and others can easily switch back and forth depending on which bathroom in the house they are using, or if they are at a relative’s house, traveling, etc. In other words, they may use a potty chair in your home’s main bathroom, a children’s toilet seat in their own personal bathroom next to their room, a folding children’s toilet seat at grandma’s house, and a disposable toilet seat cover on the go! Or you may just choose to buy multiples of their preferred potty method or carry one with you wherever you go.

Each family and each child is going to look different depending on the layout of your home, how often you visit others, how often you travel, the temperament of your child, your family’s budget, etc. Don’t compare your journey to someone else’s or even to the journey of your other children. Let it be what it is. If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it! Your kid will ONLY wear his Spiderman underwear? Insists on using the master bathroom toilet so he can be like daddy? Wants you to carry her princess potty seat with her wherever she goes? Pick your battles and rejoice over no more diapers. You can get past these preferences later.

Have a potty training sit-in

If you’re having difficulty potty training a stubborn yet developmentally ready toddler, you may just need to take a weekend or a week off to focus entirely on “getting it done”. Many parents end up taking this route after dealing with a reluctant but mature enough child who is ready but just isn’t fully complying with the program. Other times, parents are facing a deadline such as a holiday trip or enrollment in preschool or another program that requires potty training.

The easiest way to accomplish this is to commit to staying home for a few days, completely taking away the option of diapers, and possibly also removing clothing for the duration of the training period. Some parents even move the training potty into the living room or whatever room they are in at the time to help eliminate accidents caused by not making it to the bathroom in time. But be prepared – there WILL be accidents. Have towels and cleaning supplies on hand. Hopefully you have hardwood floors. 😉

And remember, if it’s not the right time – it’s not the right time. Your child may not be physically or emotionally ready, or you may be in the middle of a big transition in your life such as an upcoming move. It’s always better to postpone if needed than to force it to happen too soon. If it’s just not working out, you can always try again later!

Potty Training Essentials

The world of potty training supplies can seem overwhelming and intimidating at first, but have no fear – there are just a few products you need to be successful, and a few that would be helpful to have!

  • Potty seat – A small child-sized toilet seat that goes on top of your existing toilet. Some snap on, some screw onto the back of your toilet and can be lifted up when not in use, and others simply sit on top of the seat.
  • Practice potty – A small child-sized toilet that sits on your floor and is perfect for your child to sit on to practice and eventually use. Some even light up, sing a song or make flushing sounds when used.
  • Travel potty or toilet seat – You will most likely need some kind of portable option for travel and errands at first, although some kids skip this step and have no problem sitting on the big toilet seat in public restrooms.
  • New underwear – Often a big motivator for those final stages of potty training!
  • Wipes – Sorry, parents – baby wipes will still be a common sight in your house for quite a while! If your child is resistant to using a product that’s for “babies”, there are different versions branded towards toddlers and potty training you can buy instead.
  • Hand sanitizer – Always helpful when potty training on the go!
    Disposable travel seat covers – Because even grown-ups don’t like sitting directly on a public bathroom toilet seat. Bye, bye germs!
  • Nighttime pull-ups or mattress cover – Depending on your child’s level of nighttime bladder control, you may want to keep a few pull-ups on hand for the overnight hours, or even invest in a waterproof mattress cover.
  • Toilet targets – Boys love these. Enough said!
  • Step stool – Save your back; don’t forget a step stool so they can reach the sink to wash hands on their own. Otherwise there will be a lot of struggling to hold your 30lb child over the sink in your future and no one wants that.

Just remember to begin early, start slowly, have patience, expect accidents and remain flexible. Reaching this developmental milestone is cause for celebration – for both you and your kiddo! So bust out the reward stickers (them) and champagne (you, obviously) and look forward to no more diapers in your future!

Number Two On the Double: Potty Training Hacks from a Mother of Twins

Self-professed germaphobe mom of twins and master in counseling psychology, Cheryl Maguire, at Carolina Parent shares a few tricks she has up her sleeve to transition into toilet training. She has taken some of the error out of the trial and came up with five tricks that work! 

We love this short and sweet bit on a process that can be wrought with frustration and overloaded with information. When you and your potty trainees need it, come back to the basics and leave refreshed! 

  • Materials: get some books and videos with your little one(s) and get to reading and watching!
  • Say Goodbye: just get rid of all diapers, Maguire recommends even overnight ones. This will prevent confusion as to what’s going on, and what the expectations are.
  • Just Have Fun: attitude is half the battle- on parent’s end too! You can get creative and have fun drinks (like a lemonade or fruit juice) and celebrate the entire process from drinking to toilet. Songs are also a fun and funny tool.
  • Preparation is Key: especially when leaving the house. Make sure when possible your child(ren) have used the restroom close to leaving time, and also when possible know your closest bathrooms. Maguire recommends a portable toilet for the car and keeping at least 2 changes of clothes, wipes, trash bags, and towels in the car.
  • Patience is Also Key: you already know your child(ren) will have at least one accident, it’s just part of the whole process! So adjusting your expectations and keeping a flexible time frame will be a huge key to success. There are wide ranges of normal, and just like every step with the little one(s), there does eventually come a day when they “get it” and don’t have another accident.