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8 Tips to Potty Training a Toddler

April 9, 2017

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There are two days during the week where I must leave the house with my daughter.  There’s Wednesday, where we go to Toddler Class in the morning, and Sunday, where we go to church.  I read a lot of books, blog posts, and magazine articles on potty training a toddler.  Most seem to support a three-day training regime where you have your child butt-naked the first day, wearing underwear the next, and then go out with pants on and say you have successfully potty trained your toddler.  They also warn not to go back to using diapers once you have started training.  Something about your toddler figuring out they can go back to diapers if they make you annoyed enough.

I have attempted potty training my daughter three separate times using this three-day training regime and failed each time because inevitably, a Sunday or a Wednesday will come around and I’d have to leave the house with my daughter in a diaper.  The “experts” recommend waiting a couple months before starting again.  I made it one of my goals in March to successfully potty train my daughter during Spring Break where I could have the whole week, starting Monday, to devote to potty training.  Of course, life happens, and we didn’t start until Thursday, despite having no Toddler Class that Wednesday.

This time, I didn’t give up and did it the way I felt was right and on day 10, we had gone one full day without any accidents!  My daughter is 28 months old and I can see a diaper-free future ahead of me.  Now, here are the things I’ve learned from our potty training adventures and wish other parents have told me.

Things to Know Before Potty Training a Toddler

I read a lot about how you should have you toddler choose the potty and don’t let it become a toy.  Vice versa, some would say you should let your toddler get used to seeing it around and sit in it.  I want to emphasize to you that there is no one right way.  Potty training a toddler seems like it is a daunting task mainly because you have to actively teach your child to use the potty and your child will have to learn to use the potty.

  1. Your child is ready for potty training when she is able to sing the ABC song.  I’ve read long lists of “signs that your toddler is ready to be potty trained” and they get pretty long.  I would find three or four signs that fit my child, a couple that might be true, and the rest not related to my kid at all.  I had a hard time deciding if the time was right or not.  Our pediatrician gave us a simple way to decide.  If your child can sing the entire ABC song, your child is developmentally ready to learn.
  2. Buy a simple potty chair.  

    This affordable potty chair from Summer Infant is highly recommended by many parents I know and I would have bought one if I hadn’t already bought a musical one.  I bought a fancy musical potty chair and regretted it as soon as we actually started potty training.  This chair (pictured in first Instagram photo at top) plays a musical fanfare whenever one pees or poops into the potty.  It might be the weight pushing the container down that triggers it.  Anyway, the first day where she peed in the potty, the musical fanfare played and it scared her.  Terrified her.  I found out potty training is scary for little ones.  Simple potty chairs that are easy to use and easy to clean are best.  No music and no lid.  Pee shield is up to you, but be aware that if your child tries to sit on the potty chair and ends up sitting on the pee shield, the pain could discourage her from trying to use the potty on her own again.
  3. Potty training a toddler is not a race.  Try not to compare with other toddlers.  I actually knew of several parents who potty trained their kid at 18 months or so and I felt the pressure!  Wait until your toddler is ready (ABC song!) and you are ready.  This is a joint operation.

Tips for Heading Outside the Home

Once your toddler has the hang of things and knows that peeing in underwear and peeing in pants both result in uncomfortable wetness, you might feel ready to venture outside the home.  Our first outing was to get groceries.  Then, we tried going to church.  Here are some tips that are helpful when taking a potty training toddler outside of the home.

  1. Try to encourage your toddler to use the potty before leaving the house.  It’s easier when you know your toddler is leaving the house on a fairly empty bladder.  Keep your first few outings short.  Less than an hour is ideal.  Right now, our longest has been two hours for church.
  2. Don’t stress if your toddler doesn’t go before you have to leave.  Just trust that your toddler is learning her body signals and will tell you when she has to go.  Hopefully she’ll signal with a fair amount of time before release.
  3. Bring along an extra pair of underwear, pants, and socks.  You’ll also want a plastic bag to hold soiled pants and underwear in.  Bring along post-its to cover the sensor for automatic flushes.  You don’t want that scaring your toddler while she’s trying an adult toilet in some strange, new place.
  4. The safe way to protect a car seat differs by manufacturer.  Frankly, it is unsafe to place anything between toddler and the car seat that didn’t come with the car seat.  I know of two car seat brands that provide products to protect the car seat from potty training accidents and have been tested for safety, but I do not own one.  As such, I do not use anything and hope for the best.  If a potty training accident occurs, wash the car seat fabric according to directions in the manual.  You do not want to compromise the safety of your child because you don’t want to clean up an accident in the car seat.  Disclaimer: I am not a certified car seat technician, so I recommend taking your questions to the Car Seat for the Littles Facebook Group.  There’s a separate group for the folks in the UK, since the laws are different.
  5. Bring the potty chair with you, if you can.  At least, bring it along in the beginning until your toddler can handle using an adult toilet at home.  Then, she will be able to handle the ones outside of the home better.  There are portable potty seats you can purchase, too, if you plan on keeping one in your car, stroller, or diaper bag.  Since our potty chair is rather clunky, I’m considering bringing around a potty seat you insert on top of the adult toilet.



I hope these tips are helpful.  Good luck on your own potty training a toddler adventure!  If you enjoyed this post, I recommend reading 5 Simple Rules for a Clean Home and 10 Toddler Rules You Must Follow.  I’m currently working on a Spring Cleaning inspired series and will be going through what to toss and how to organize each major room in your home.  Subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date with the Spring Cleaning series.

Leave a comment and share what you found useful in your potty training adventure.  Any advice on getting a toddler to poop in the potty chair?

  • Excellent tips! Sound like you have reasonable expectations, too. With my son, he defied every book, tip, and schedule I tried. With my daughter, I don’t even remember trying. I think she did it herself, LOL! #globalblogging

  • I’m sure these tips will come in handy when my little girl’s old enough, particularly the ABC one! #GlobalBlogging

  • The post it idea is great. My son has recently become scared of loud noises. We have started but haven’t really gone for it. We are in today, we might see how it goes.

    • Paula

      Oh, it’s an exciting time! Good luck, Addison 🤗

  • Oh boy, I’m pinning this one.. I need to start training in a few months… ARG… I am so not looking forward to it to be honest! Great advice though! That Elmo book looks adorable!! Thanks for sharing with us! #globalblogging

    • Paula

      Hi Jacqui! The Elmo book is pretty fun and distracting for toddlers since there’s a whole bunch of flaps to lift and play with. Nice way to keep them seated on the potty! Good luck potty training 🙂

      • Thanks 😊😊.. I think I’m going to pop onto Amazon immediately 😁

  • Brilliant tips! I could’ve done with this when I was potty training my son! To be fair, we still have some issues now! #globalblogging

  • Thank you for sharing your tips with us on #ablogginggoodtime 🎉

  • Great tips, I’d never heard of the abc song test. My son was potty trained at 2 and it went like a dream, he was practically dry on a night anyway all by himself so he was definitely ready, he was also talking in full sentences by then too. My daughter will be three in August and we still haven’t started with her. She will use the toilet (with a child seat on) for a poo and has done for months but she has no interest in doing a wee on there. Her speech is also way behind her brothers, but this last month or two she seems to have come on leaps and bounds and is stringing words together and seems eager to learn more so we have bought our last ever box of nappies and when they are gone that’s it, no turning back 😬

    • Paula

      Haha that last box always seems to become empty sooner than you know it. Good luck! My daughter turns three in November and we’re not using full sentences yet, either, but we’re a bilingual home so I don’t worry too much about it.

      I should give my daughter more practice using the potty seat, but her feet don’t reach the step stool yet when she’s on the toilet.

  • We actually did the 3 day boot camp method with our 3rd child and it worked SO well! We didn’t do a naked day, though. It was all underpants. I think it’s fantastic, though you do really have to stay home for 3 days. Our son even went straight to underpants at night. We never had to do pull-ups! With his older sisters, we did NOT do this method. It was slow and painful. SO painful. They had accidents for the longest time! (As you might be able to guess, I’m a pretty huge advocate of the 3 day method!)

    • Paula

      That’s awesome, Nicole! And welcome back to blogging btw~ so, how old was your son? We still haven’t done night training. Any advice on how to go about it?

      And I agree about the long way being a painful and slow process, but it must be my daughter’s personality. She was so hesitant to release into the potty chair, so as soon as we overcame that hurdle, it’s been pretty smooth sailing!

      • Oh that’s great! He was almost 3. We just started putting him to bed in underwear and for the first few nights, I woke him up around 10:00 to go potty. That was it. I really think it was the boot camp method along with its expectation that the kid takes himself to the potty that did it.

  • These are great tips ! When I was potty training my first , he pretty much did it on his own and decided he was done with diapers and wanted big boy underwear… With my second the key was just a lot of patience 🙂

    • Paula

      Thanks! I agree! Patience is very important for potty training. I think it helped us finally succeed this time around. There were times when she had to stay seated for 40 minutes before anything happened🤔

  • Returning with #TheListLinky x

  • Oh potty training! Potty training my son at 20 months was surprisingly *easy* I say easy because he picked up on it quicky. I’m not looking forward to potty training my daughter. She’s more stubborn.

    • Paula

      Ah good luck! I hope your son can help encourage his sister as needed!

  • onesagemama

    This is such good advice. My little is seventeen months and I get asked often when I plan to potty train. I always just expected I would know when we should start trying (waking up in a dry diaper more often, having the awareness of being wet and the like). Using the ABC guideline is a great idea. I definitely feel more confident about not rushing her. Thanks! Xx

    • Paula

      Yup, no rush with potty training! At the right time, it’ll be done within a few weeks. Good luck in your future potty training adventure! It’s an exciting time haha.

  • livewellplaytogether

    These are great tips! i am not ready to potty train my son yet, but I know we will be there soon enough so this was a helpful read!

  • Natalie | Surviving life’s hurdles

    These are some really good tips which I’ll definitely come back to. It’s hard to not feel the pressure to start too soon, I just try to remember that all children develop differently. My son is 2 and a half and I can tell he still isn’t ready yet so trying to make it happen now would probably be a painful experience for all involved! #TheListLinky

    • Paula

      Oh, yes…I started my attempts at potty training too early in hindsight. Would have saved myself from a lot of stress if I waited until the right time for my daughter. Good luck potty training your son when it’s his turn!

  • This is a great post, full of very realistic and practical advice! We went through the whole potty training process last summer, my daughter was also 28 months old then and seemed ready (I’ve never taught her the abc song, though!) I wrote a series of posts at the time chronicling the process with probably too much detail and I’m currently in the middle of writing a kind of overview of how it all went, with the benefit of hindsight. It actually took about three weeks in all til I felt confident enough to say she was daytime potty trained. There were some tough moments but she did pretty well overall. However, I’m glad that stage is over! #TheListLinky

    • Paula

      Me, too! It’s so nice not having to deal with dirty diapers anymore. We’re currently working on pulling down pants and back up again by herself. Afterwards, there’s the transition to using the adult toilet (as a toddler) and night training. Is your daughter night trained by now? I’m trying to figure out when I can start attempting that.

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