How to Potty-Train a Toddler: Methods, Tips, & Solutions +Printable

Written by Amy Thompson

February 13, 2021

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So you’re interested in potty-training your toddler? Your mom claims you were toilet trained at 18 months, but your mom friend tells you about having a 3 ½-year-old with zero interest in using the potty. 

Then, you google “What is the best age to potty train?” You might read 3 different articles on the best age to potty train a toddler and still get 3 other answers. This is because every child is unique, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. 

“Potty training success hinges on physical, developmental, and behavioral milestones, not age. Many children show signs of being ready for potty training between ages 18 and 24 months. However, others might not be ready until they’re 3 years old. There’s no rush. If you start too early, it might take longer to train your child.” 

MayoClinic 

Signs Your Toddler is Ready to Potty-Train:

  • Bowel movements are on a regular schedule
  • Alerts you when going pee or poop either verbally or by signing
  • Noticeable physical signs: squatting or hiding in a corner, making facial expressions
  • Dislikes dirty diapers
  • Dislikes having dirty hands
  • Shows interest in the potty when family members use it
  • Communicates basic needs & wants: hungry, thirsty, wants a toy

 If a child shows most of these signs, they might be ready! You’ll want to purchase the essential potty training items, prepare your little one for toilet training, and get started. Don’t fret; I’m going to cover everything you need to know.

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How to Potty-Train a toddler: Essential Items

All signs point to your toddler’s toilet-training readiness! Here’s everything you need to know about preparing yourself and your toddler, potty-training methods, tips, timelines, plus common challenges and solutions!

Step one is stocking up on essential toddler potty-training items. 

You have two options for potty-training seats. There’s a stable potty-seat attachment that goes over your existing toilet or the classic standalone toddler potty. You can try one or the other, or pickup both and see which works best! A portable potty seat is valuable for when you’re on the go or traveling.

1. The Potty Chair

This handy Mangohood Potty Training Toilet Seat with Step Stool Ladder goes right over your existing toilet. It folds up for compact, easy storage. Best of all, there’s a step stool built-in with non-slip feet for safety.

2. The Potty Seat

Suppose you’re looking for a traditional on-the-floor potty. In that case, this popular Fisher-Price Sea Me Flush Potty rewards every flush with fun potty sounds, songs, and lights!

3. The Portable Travel Potty

Stay consistent with your potty training routine on the go with this best-selling Folding Travel Potty Seat. This compact portable seat has non-slip suction cups and includes a free travel bag.

Build your little one’s excitement for potty training with this sharp suggestion

“Let them pick out their own underwear and make a big deal of getting rid of the diapers. “

LifeAsMama.com.

4. Reusable Pull-up Underwear

Here’s why reusables are better than disposables:

  • Eco-friendly, less waste in landfills
  • More comfortable on baby’s delicate skin
  • Saves you money

I recommend the BIG ELEPHANT Unisex-Baby Toddler Potty 6 Pack Cotton Pee Training Pants Underwear. The absorbent lining makes these more absorbent than thin regular toddler underwear, which is excellent because accidents happen!

5. Disposable pull-up diapers

If disposables are more your style, Natural Blossom Pull-up Underwear and Potty Training Pants feature cute animals and are super soft and hypoallergenic. Comes in a package you can use as a diaper tote bag

5. Potty Step-Stool 

To encourage proper hygiene and handwashing, get them the Nuby Step Up Stool and keep it within reach near the sink. It has a non-skid top and bottom so your toddler can reach the sink securely.

6. Water-Proof Mattress Liners

For naps and overnight, protect your toddler’s mattress from accidents with the Milliard Quilted, Waterproof Crib, and Toddler Mattress Topper. It’s Hypoallergenic and padded for comfort. Save yourself the hassle of unnecessary laundry!

7. Optional Fun Potty-training items

Animal toddler Potty Training Toilet Color Changing Stickers:

Place the sticker at the bottom of your toddler’s floor potty. When they successfully go in the potty, the sticker magically changes colors!

8. Potty-Training Charts for Toddlers

These are fantastic tools for keeping your toddler motivated and excited about potty training. Each time they try using the potty, they get rewarded by picking a cute sticker and placing it on the chart. If you’d like a free potty reward chart, download my FREE PDF here.

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9. Colored Toilet Water

Here’s an excellent affordable idea:

“You can use some food coloring (blue will change to green with a little pee!)”

LifeAsMama.com

Now that you’re stocked up on essential potty training items, let’s move on to preparing your toddler for this momentous life change!

How to Potty-Train a Toddler: Preparing your Toddler

Next, you’ll want to have a chat with your little big boy or girl, and get them ready for this momentous transition!

Here’s how:

  • Talk about potty training: Tell them, “You’re a BIG kid now, and you can start using the potty just like mommy & daddy!” Watch fun videos and read books together to introduce the subject.
  • Do a practice run: Set them on the potty fully-clothed several times before the day you start: In the morning when they first wake up, before & after snacks, meals, naps, and again at bedtime. 
  • Use baby sign language: Consider teaching them the baby signs for “pee,” “poop,” and “potty.” Check out more baby sign language here.
  • Show them how you use the potty. Yes, let them follow you into the restroom and watch how it’s done like a pro! Talk them through it — step by step.
  • Empty poop diapers into the toilet and let them watch & flush. Explain that this is where pee and poop goes, and they can start putting them directly into the potty like the rest of the family.
  • Help them identify relevant behaviors: When they’re squatting calmly, ask, “are you going to pee or making a poop?” Reassure them this is ok. After all, everybody does this! Helping them pay attention to what their body is telling them is a valuable step in the right direction!

Get Your Toddler Hyped!

I introduced some fun and creative ways to teach my kids about using the potty before starting with creative tools like potty training songs, books, and videos. We continued to use these fantastic resources throughout our potty training journey. Build extra excitement by letting your toddler pick out potty-training underwear featuring their favorite characters. Once toilet training began, we used rewarding potty sticker charts to celebrate their attempts to master the potty!

Potty-Training Songs and Videos

Potty-Training Books 

Potty-Training Chart & Rewards

How to Potty-Train a Toddler: Potty-Training Methods

It’s time to decide on the best potty training method for your big boy or girl! Firstly, it’s typically easiest to start potty training on the weekend, especially for working parents. Secondly, make sure all caregivers (daycare, family members) are on board to help with training. Consistency is paramount in potty training success!

There are a few methods to choose from. See what works best for your toddler. Here’s a quick overview of 2 excellent potty training methods:

Option #1: The 2 Hour Schedule Method: 

Some potty-training experts recommend toilet training on a 2-hour schedule as follows:

“having your child sit on the potty every two hours, whether they have to go or not, including first thing in the morning, before you leave the house, and before naps and bedtime.”

Parents.com

This is an excellent tried and true method that allows your toddler to go at their own pace. Remember, you want to keep your toddler excited about this new milestone, so they want to use the potty.  

  • Set a fun-sounding timer and tell your toddler it’s time to use the potty when it goes off.
  • Put them on the potty for a few minutes bare-bottomed, but don’t force them! 
  • Let them sit for as little or as long as they like 
  • Even if they don’t “go,” praise them for trying, and let them know they can try again later
  • Teach them proper hygiene: wiping with toilet paper (front to back for girls), flushing, and hand washing.
  • Repeat every 2 hours

Here’s an additional potty-training tip for toddler boys:

“For boys, it’s often best to master urination sitting down and then move to standing up after bowel training is complete.”

MayoClinic

For additional tips on the 2-hour method, read MayoClinic’s full post: Potty training: How to get the job done.

Option #2: 3 Day Potty Training

The quickest potty-training method comes from VeryWell Family. I’ve summarized their key points below:

Day 1: 

  • Change your toddler out of their diaper when they wake up 
  • Let them have some naked time. 
  • Put a little potty in the living room or play area for quick access. 
  • Keep a sippy cup available. 
  • Watch for physical signs they need to use the potty (squirming, squatting, holding privates, making faces) and then take them to the potty immediately. 
  • Set a timer for every 20 mins to 1 hour to sit on the potty and have them try to go 
  • Sit on the potty before and after important schedule transitions (snacks, meals, and naps). 
  • Provide feedback like, “You put your pee in the potty; that’s where the pee goes!” 
  • Reward them with a sticker to put on their potty training chart 

Day 2 & Day 3: 

Repeat the same steps from Day 1. Consider Staying Indoors near a bathroom or playing outside close to the toilet, or bringing a little potty outdoors with you.

For more details, check out the full article from VeryWell Family, How to Potty Train Your Child in Just 3 Days.

How to Potty-Train a Toddler for Night Time

Regardless of the potty training method you choose, nighttime potty training takes longer than daytime training.  

“Most children can stay dry at night between ages 5 and 7.” 

MayoClinic

Every child is different, and that’s okay! 

For naps and overnight, you may want to still use diapers and a waterproof mattress pad unless your toddler is waking up dry. 

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5 Simple Steps to Start Using the Potty

Now that both you and your toddler are prepared, let’s get started! Here’s a quick overview of the entire process:

Get your free potty-training reward chart here!

1. Setup potty items in your home

Setup your potty chair or standalone toddler toilet in your bathroom, the potty stool next to the sink, protect your kiddo’s mattress with a waterproof liner, and hang up those super cute potty-training reward charts!

2. Dress in potty-training friendly clothing and underwear or diapers

Good clothing for potty-training is easy for your tyke to pull up and down on their own (or with a little assistance). Dress for success with the pull up underwear or diapers you purchased.

3. Start using your chosen potty-training method

Whether you’ve decided on the tried and true 2-hour method or trying out the 3 day method, let all caregivers know the process so everyone’s on board and ready to support your little one’s journey!

4. Provide Encouragement and Positive Reinforcement

  • Don’t pressure or punish them.
  • Keep them motivated with rewards like stickers and praise.
  • Remain calm and have patience
  • Use emotion neutral words for reinforcing potty behavior (not GOOD or BAD)
  • Celebrate potty training success with a party! -Recommended from Kandoo.com. Head over to How to Throw a Potty Training Party from Kandoo.com

5. Stay Consistent

  • Potty schedules and routines
  • Potty terminology
  • Potty training baby signs
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Top Potty-Training Tips 

  • Choose consistent terms to call pee & poop to avoid confusion.

“Give your child a doll to potty train. They’ll be responsible for teaching their doll how to use the potty. And they’ll also have to encourage their doll if there are any accidents.” —KandooKids.com

  • Be prepared for accidents: Have carpet and floor cleaning products readily available (but safely out of your toddler’s reach)
  • Let them know accidents are okay: When they go in their underwear, say, “Pee and poop go in the potty. That’s okay; next time, we’ll get to the potty sooner.”
  • Use the potty before leaving the house and upon arriving anywhere else.
  • Pack extra clothing and underwear in their diaper bag for outings or daycare

How Long Will Potty-Training Take?

Just like there’s no exact age to start potty training, there’s no set time for how long it will take before your toddler ditches the diapers for good. Every child is different; some pick it up quickly, and others take a little more time. You may experience setbacks during toilet training, and the best you can do is be prepared and practice patience.

According to Kids Health from Nemours, the general timelines are:

Daytime training: “Between 3 to 6 months.” 

Naps and Nighttime Training: “it can take months to even years to master staying dry at night.” 

Remember, every child is different, and these are general guidelines. It may take your toddler less or more time. 

Common Potty-Training Challenges & Solutions

Challenge #1: Toddler isn’t interested in beginning toilet training.

Put potty training on hold, don’t push it. Continue to watch for signs of potty training readiness as described earlier. Revisit the section on getting your toddler excited with fun songs, books, and videos to help with your toddler’s interest.

Challenge #2: Toddler lost interest after using the potty successfully. 

If your toddler was using the potty but lost interest or became a battle, give it a break for a week or so before giving it another shot. Setbacks can happen during times of stress, big family changes like divorce, or moving. 

“The arrival of a new sibling, the start of a new preschool or daycare program, a family move, illness or upset can all cause a toddler to resist a recently established routine.”

–BabyGooRoo.com

Challenge #3: Toddler won’t poop in the potty

If your toddler is only using the potty for urinating but refuses to notify you or poop,  try the following advice from BabyGooRoo.com:

“it’s more preferable to let her use the diaper temporarily than risk her holding it in or refusing to go as she could end up severely constipated. Even though she’s opted not to use the toilet, as soon as she has a bowel movement in the diaper, removing it in the bathroom, emptying the waste into the toilet and encouraging her to flush and wash her hands will help reinforce the bathroom routine. Keep encouraging your toddler to let you know when she feels the need to have a bowel movement so you can offer to accompany her to the toilet if she’s interested.” 

BabyGooRoo

Challenge #4: Fear of the potty

Some toddlers get nervous around the potty or scared because the flushing sound is too loud for their sweet little ears. 

Do your best to talk them through it. Let your little one watch you use the potty and smile when you flush and say, “thank you, potty!” 

It may seem silly at first, but they’ll be much more inclined to give the potty a try if they see it as a friend rather than a frightening foe. If this doesn’t work, you likely need to give it a break and try again in a few weeks. Forcing a frightened toddler to confront the evil potty monster will probably postpone and extend the whole process.

Challenge #5: Using Public Restrooms

Using the potty in unfamiliar places may cause surprising pushback from your toddler, even if they’re otherwise happy to use it at home. Consider buying a portable travel potty seat, and pack it in their diaper bag whenever you leave the house. It’s essential to maintain the training routine, even on-the-go.

Remember that potty training is a process and takes time. Every child is different. Keep at it, and before you know it, your little one will master this task. However, if you still have concerns, talk to your pediatrician.

When to Give it a Break:

  • If using the potty becomes a battle
  • If they aren’t making progress (getting used to the schedule, showing interest, or having difficulty sitting on the potty seat)
  • Try again in a few months or when the toddler begins to show an interest. 
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Potty-Training Can Be Challenging!

Be kind and patient with your toddler and yourself. You’ve done a fantastic job preparing for potty training, starting the process, and keeping your toddler on track. Continue potty training with lots of love and encouragement. Remain consistent in your method or routine, and keep at it momma. You’ve got this!

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  • Amy Thompson

    Hi, I’m Amy! I’m obsessed with getting organized and managing my family life while trying to preserve sanity! I strive to make motherhood as drama-free as possible, and my goal for Drama Free Momma is to help other momma’s do the same. When I’m not blogging, I love traveling, all things Sci-fi, my two dogs, cappuccinos, social justice, planning themed events (it’s like an art form), and creating happy childhood memories for my two beautiful children!

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