8 Potty-Training Tips From Parents Who’ve Been There
Words Barbara Brody
Freaking out about potty training? Relax. We asked parents who’ve survived the challenge to share their best tips on when to start potty training, and how to get your kid ready.
What’s your worst fear about potty training? If you answered “poop everywhere,” you’re in excellent company. Most parents freak out about the mess that’s bound to happen when they start potty training their toddler. But here’s a little-known fact among first-time parents: Getting your kid to want to go anywhere near the toilet can be even more challenging than cleaning up the mess on the floor.
The good news: Pretty soon, you’ll forget about all that, and your little one will be happily running off to the toilet to show off her new skill. In the meantime, while she’s training, carry wipes and clean-up essentials with you on all your adventures with your little one. We asked seasoned parents for their best potty-training tips and strategies, so you can stress less about finally ditching the diapers.
Make It Fun
“When we started potty training, I set the ‘Playtime’ alarm on my iPhone to go off every 10 minutes over a two-hour block. I’d let my son play while naked from the waist down, and whenever the alarm would go off, I’d say, ‘Oh! Time to sit on the potty!’ We also read books like Joanna Cole’s ‘My Big Boy Potty.’ (There’s a girl version, too.) Even if he just got one drop into the potty and the rest on the floor, I’d clap and cheer, give him a cookie or call Grandma. Sometimes I’d even take a picture; he loved that! With my oldest kid, I made his potty seat move up and down as I told him, in my best Muppet voice, that the toilet was hungry or thirsty. It was a friend’s idea, and although I thought it was super weird at first, guess what? It worked like a charm.”
—Jen, mom of three boys
Go Big With Rewards
“With my oldest, candy worked as a reward. But training my second son was harder, especially when it was time to go number two. So we went to the toy store, and I let him pick out anything he wanted, with a max price tag of $25—a big toy for him. He chose a marble track, and we kept it on the counter, unopened, as an incentive. We told him he could open and play with it after he successfully pooped in the potty five times in a row. It took a couple of weeks, but he eventually got his marble track.”
—Steph, mom of two boys (potty trained) and one girl (training soon!)
Don’t Be Afraid to Take Charge
“Some people swear by letting the kids lead, but for me, parent-led training was the way to go. In the beginning, I just put my kids on the toilet at regular intervals—before breakfast, before getting dressed, an hour after breakfast. As they got better at it, I lengthened the intervals. They eventually learned to tell me when they needed to go, but at first, tying potty training to our schedule helped cut out the battles. Whenever one of my boys was reluctant to go, I’d offer to race him to the bathroom… and most of the time it worked!”
—Carrie, mom of two boys
Take It Outside
“If you can, start potty training in the summer. That way you can spend lots of time outdoors, and accidents aren’t as big a deal. A portable potty definitely helps. But whenever you start, really commit to going through with it. If you keep stopping and starting, you’ll end up expending a lot more energy than you need to. And while you’re training, it’s best to skip the pull-ups. We made the mistake of using pull-ups in the middle of the process so our toddler wouldn’t pee inside, in my mom’s nice house, when we were visiting but that set him back. He just started going in the pull-up instead of in the potty.”
—Lauren, mom of two boys and one girl
Be Prepared Wherever You Go
“When your kid is new to the potty, you have to be prepared at all times. I got the 2-in-1 Go Potty for Travel, and it’s been really useful. We take it to parks all the time, and if she ever has to go I can set up an instant potty behind a tree. Carrying it with me has made me less afraid that she’d have an accident at an inconvenient time; I even took it with us on a trip to Europe since it’s so small and travel-friendly.”
—Heather, mom of one girl
Have a Bathroom Singalong
“For kids who are having a hard time with pooping, one of my tricks is to sing a song. One time we’d just finished watching ‘Frozen,’ and my son thought it was hilarious to sing ‘Let it go! Let it go! Let the poop overflow!’ while sitting on the toilet. I’m not sure if it actually helped, but he amused himself thoroughly and made us all laugh.”
—Steph, mom of two boys and one girl
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Celebrate Underwear Day
“When my sons started showing signs that they were actually ready to be trained, I told them Underwear Day was coming. We picked a three-day weekend—with my youngest, it was Labor Day weekend—and got him involved in shopping for underwear with his favorite character on it. When it was time for Underwear Day (or really, Underwear Weekend), we stayed home and let him run around in just a T-shirt and underwear. It made it easier for him to get to the bathroom in time to not deal with pants, and he was able to feel wet. From that point on, we only used diapers at night and nap time.”
—Amy, mom of two boys
Trust That It Will Happen
“I wasn’t quite sure when to start potty training, so we warmed up our daughter for about nine months before we began. She showed signs of interest, so we’d encourage her to sit on the potty chair, but she still wore diapers for a while. For a long time, I resisted doing the “three-day method”—where you let kids run around the house without diapers for three days until they get used to using the potty—because I dreaded having to clean up accidents. I finally decided we had to try it that upcoming weekend. The night before, my daughter decided on her own that she wanted to wear ‘big girl underwear.’ I was so nervous it was going to be a terrible night for both of us, but amazingly she made it through the night dry—and we never looked back. I guess we both knew it was time.”
—Heather, mom of one girl
Ready to embark on the potty-training adventure? Check out OXO’s selection of potty chairs and seats to get you started.
For an added incentive, download and print the below Potty Champ Chart and add a check mark or sticker to the corresponding bubble every time your little ones takes another step toward being a Potty Champ: