I was obsessed with potty training. Even when our little one was an infant, I scoured Pinterest for early potty training tips under the age of 18 months. I spent countless hours reading every single post I could get ahold of and a couple books.
Even though I had poured months into reading everything I could find, I still was confused about where to start. There seemed to be SO MANY different ways to potty train. I had a few very important questions:
- When is my child truly ready for potty training? (When is this possible – for real?)
- Where do I start?
- Do I give her rewards or not?
- Can I TRULY potty train my girl in just 3 days?
These questions and many more were answered by an expert: Jamie Glowacki, in her absolutely amazing book: Oh Crap! Potty Training, Everything Modern Parents Need to Know To Do Once And Do It Right. I seriously recommend snatching this book off of Amazon and giving it a read well BEFORE you decide to potty train. She potty trains children as a profession and has been doing it successfully and quickly for over a decade.
Finally having solid answers to those questions, our little one successfully potty trained in three days, ditching the diapers for good before she was 2. And while all the posts, YouTube videos, and books were fantastic, I STILL felt they all left out some holes and tips. I’ve done my best to give you everything you need to know.
Note, this post is Part 1. We’ll go over preparing and what you need to know. In Part 2, we’ll get into the actual Milestones, the structure of potty training and the schedule you’ll need. Both are a necessary read.
How To Potty Train In A Weekend And Be Done!
What type of potty training method do I choose?
Choose the method that works best for your child and your family first. For us personally, I didn’t want to be potty training our child for years. I wanted to go all in for a scheduled period of time (3-4 days) that worked best for our child (when she was physically and mentally capable to be 100% potty trained) and ditch the diapers for good.
Most of all, I knew I didn’t want to put ANY stress or frustration on our child to be potty trained. The best way, for us, was to start when she was physically the right age, have a game plan, buy only what we needed and proverbially burn those diapers (no going back).
When is my child REALLY ready for potty training?
When [to start potty training] is almost more important than how [you potty train]. -Jamie Glowacki, Oh Crap! Potty Training, Everything Modern Parents Need to Know To Do Once And Do It Right
I read in Glowacki’s book that potty training is absolutely the easiest between 20 and 30 months. She goes on to even say that potty training before 20 months is usually “unbelievably” easier than over 30 months! This is because three-year-olds have much more determination for their own “free will”. She ends this point by saying 24-25 months is the best time (though there are exceptions!).
I *had previously* planned to potty train early. I read blog posts of mommies who started training their children at 6 weeks old! But then I read medical posts by doctors saying that children do not even have the capability or muscles to potty train that early and it may be detrimental. I also didn’t want to be “potty training” our child for over a year and a half!
What was best for our child and family was to schedule the time when our child was the appropriate age and have it done!
Signs that your little one is ready to potty train
- Age is between 18 and 30 months at least
- Can ask for basic needs like water when thirsty
- Is capable of throwing a fit in a grocery store because he or she wants something
- Can hold pee and poop when the diaper is off
- Retreats to privacy when pooping
Your child doesn’t have to do all of these things to be ready. The first two are most important: is your child the right age and can they verbally communicate basic essential needs with you? Which means your toddler will be able to learn to say “Pee” or “poop” or “potty”.
However, potty training experts seem to agree that waiting for your child to “give the signals” (that they are ready to be potty trained) is not the way to go. To develop the understanding of going potty, you must begin potty training. It doesn’t work the other way around. Further, you are the amazing mommy (or daddy); your child does not yet know what is best for them in the long run but YOU DO!
In the end, consider how pushing and pressuring your child is wrong but showing them patiently, lovingly and nudging them towards an outcome (you know they are capable of) for the better of their existence, would be the goal.
Where do I start?
1. First, decide that you will be committed and won’t back out.
If you have major doubts, don’t mentally prepare yourself, want to rush through or start without any of the necessities (see below), this will set you and your child up for some serious frustration and failure. This means your child may not even WANT to potty train later because they had a bad experience! Decide to be ALL IN. Throw those diapers away for good (mentally). You, for sure, 100% are going to be done with diapers. Ask yourself, “Am I ready to be done, done with diapers?” Make yourself determined. This is very important for successful potty training!
2. Have a positive attitude. Be patient, patient, patient.
Your child will sense your mood. If you have any fear, major doubt or frustration, the little one will FEEL this and it will not go well. If you find yourself frustrated, hide it, sing a tune and count to 20 or walk to a place where your toddler can’t see you for a minute (like right around a close corner).
3. Throw away any preconceived notions of how long it will take to potty train your child.
It definitely CAN take three days to potty train your child but what if it takes 4 or 7? Heck, it may take just 1 day. Glowacki writes in her book that if you’ve started potty training at the optimal age, it typically takes 7-10 days. However, your child is unique and so is your parenting style. Try your best not to put a cookie cutter mold made of expectations around your child.
4. Set a date where you can block out 3 or 4 solid days fully devoted to potty training (off of work), hopefully with your partner involved.
You could even plan on a Holiday weekend and take off an additional day. Try to plan for 4 solid unworking days. It’s the same idea as preparing to go on a new diet, implementing a brand new exercise routine or getting ready to go on an awesome vacation. You don’t just decide one minute to do it. Get excited. Plan and get ready for this major life change! Your child is transitioning from baby to child and will no longer need diapers. That’s a big deal!
5. Purchase and ready the necessities.
I’ve read that if you already have a potty chair and your little one has used it to play with, then put it away. You’ll want to reintroduce it not as a toy but to be taken seriously for pottying. Which makes sense. If that potty chair has only been used for peeing and pooping, that’s okay. We did buy the BabyBjorn Smart Potty first, which is a smaller version of the BabyBjorn Potty Chair since I had previously intended to potty train super early. We DID have it out and our child DID go pee and poop in it before we started potty training. If your child is under 2, consider the BabyBjorn Smart Potty. If your little one is over the age of 2, check out the BabyBjorn Potty Chair. In the next main section below, we’ll go over basic necessities.
6. Completely clear your calendar of social activities for one week.
By this, I mean don’t plan or obligate yourself to going to Story Time, that class you like to go to with your child or planned play dates etc. If you have time obligations with your child and your little one is needing to poop or pee, you will rush, the child will feel pressured and there will be stress. Neither you nor your child (who is trying hard to do what is being asked of him or her and please you) deserves this!
7. Plan activities to do inside for 3 or 4 days.
Make sure you have activities, basic food, and household necessities. Try to have food in the house because you won’t be going for major grocery runs during days 1-2 at least. So, plan a grocery trip and some meals ahead of time. Stock up on basics like toilet paper too. You don’t want to run out! Now, plan some activities! Go to the dollar store and buy some awesome new toys, create games (Google DIY indoor activities for the age of your child – there are TONS of awesome ones out there!), max out your library card with children’s books, and pick out some educational videos.
Here are a couple things our little one loved to do while potty training (she was just a couple weeks shy of 24 months old).
- Puzzles are THE BEST. We have individual peg puzzles just like these Melissa & Doug Puzzles, plus the shapes, the “things that go” puzzle and the animals. She LOVES puzzles!
- Playing outside for a short time. On day 2, we took a short stroll around the block (after going potty). I like to take one of those dollar store reusable grocery store bags outside with us full of sidewalk chalk (we have this box and love it), bubbles (one of our little one’s favorite things in life), hot wheels, a sippy cup with water, a small snack, a sand bucket with cheapo sand toys from the dollar store and a not-too-large ball (also from the dollar store!).
- Play-doh with cookie cutters and other sensory shapes. Play-doh makes a super fun set you can find here for around $10 (Play-doh included). The most fun thing, when it comes to Play-doh, seems to be cutouts, rolling in patterns and pushing it through a tube. This will captivate our child forever!
- TONS of books! Seriously go to the library, max out your library card and bring a reusable grocery bag with you.
- Dancing & music. Our toddler loves music, things that make music and most of all, dancing. Plan some party time with a fun playlist. Her favorite right now on Spotify is the Trolls soundtrack. It’s awesome and you won’t mind listening to it, unlike other kids songs!
8. Be well rested and ready to potty-train.
Make sure you and your child are rested and ready. If you or your little one were up all night with a cold, reschedule. Try to go to bed early and if you are having issues with your child’s sleep, (we won’t go into detail about that now) I 100% recommend reading Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Weissbluth. It will change your life.
9. Be on the same page with your spouse or other caretakers of your child.
Read over this blog post together, and/or read Jamie Glowacki’s, Oh Crap! book OR have your significant other just read “Dad’s cheat sheet to potty training” in the back of her book on page 263! Whatever it is, just made sure you and your spouse are a team, know all the plays for the game here and are on the same page.
10. Decide on a main location in your home, at least for 1 day (maybe 2).
There will be pee…and maybe poop. You will likely ALSO be peed and pooped on. Wrap up those precious rugs, move the expensive chair out of the room, line the area with towels (if you have carpet) or camp out where you don’t have carpet (if the location is big enough). Have EVERYTHING you need accessible right there. That means your change of clothes, theirs, snacks, activities, the potty training necessities – the works. Watching your toddler like a hawk may sound effortless but shockingly, it can be seriously draining and challenging. Trust me when I say, have everything within a reachable distance. I learned the HARD way.
11. Hype up “the big day” starting about a week prior.
Talk to your child about getting rid of the diapers. Be positive and excited. Be level, calm, confident and happy. I’ve read not to make it a big deal, so the child doesn’t feel pressure. But try your absolute darndest not to show any sort of nerves or negative feelings. If you feel it, your child will definitely pick up on this and may feel this way as well. You can also start talking to your child about how they are growing up and becoming a big kid now!
12. Day 1 of potty training.
Some parents like to make this A BIG DEAL. They do special things, have treats etc. Do what is best for you. We decided to treat it like doing something fun (like saying “we’re going to Story Time today. Are you excited?!) but NOT a giant, crazy out-of-the-norm event. I didn’t want there to be any crazy pressure or suprise. I woke our little girl up, told her in an excited voice that it was potty day, told her how she was going to learn how to be a big girl now and explained how we wouldn’t need diapers except for sleeping anymore (we’ll get to this more later).
What do I really need for potty training? The bare essentials.
At home essentials:
- A guide to help you along, especially during day 2 or when you run into problems. Seriously consider checking out: Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right. It’s the best resource I’ve found on potty training, especially if you are struggling with a complete commitment to potty train or still have major doubts. Glowacki goes over all of this in detail.
- A portable potty sized for your toddler. We LOVE the BabyBjorn Smart Potty. It’s the smaller sized BabyBjorn potty. Our little one is two years old and tall for her age. She uses it because squatting is much better for going #2, plus it still seems to be a good size. The next size up is the BabyBjorn Potty Chair. You could also consider the Summer Infant My Size Potty, though it might not be as easily portable for bringing from room to room while you potty train those first few days.
- Flushable toddler wipes. This is a great transition from using wet-wipes and #2 can be messy, so I wouldn’t skip these. Cottonelle Flushable Toddler Wipes are great.
- Activities. I’d highly recommend grabbing a new toy or two and revealing them one at a time. A trip to the dollar store works wonders! (For more ideas refer to 7. Plan activities to do inside for 3 or 4 days.)
- Underwear. We bought Hanes 2-3T Underwear AND the Gerber potty training kind with a little bit of padding (which was way more pricey). (Hanes ALSO has some super cute Marvel underwear for boys) The Hanes underwear was fantastic and fit great. I was worried the Gerber would be too much like a diaper (because of the extra padding) so I didn’t use them at first. They are baggy, poofy and bunchy anyway. We initially bought a 10-pack of the Hanes 2-3T Underwear for potty training. Again, they fit great and can be easily pulled up and down. Buy two packs of those!
- LOOSE fitting shorts or pants. When we were attempting the Milestone with pants/shorts involved, I made the HUGE mistake of using tights (& bike shorts – that’s all we had!). She had been doing SO great and that day we began having accidents. Tight fitting clothing does not work with potty training those first few days. It’s too much like a diaper! We had to make a run to Walmart and grab a few pairs of Geranimals athletic-type shorts in plain neutral colors. They worked awesome and only cost $2 a piece. We had five pairs and I had to wash them twice during that 3-4 day potty-training bloc, so we had some for her to wear.
- Juice & a sippy cup. To train your toddler, you will need him or her to go pee in order to show them where to pee. In essence, this is the absolute basic and foundation of potty-training. If they don’t go (or don’t need to go very often), it will be a much slower process. Before potty training, we had only given our little once juice once. She got to try a small amount of a wide variety of flavors because we were at a special event. So, I already knew Honest Company’s Grape was a super favorite. She was OBSESSED with it. It’s organic and low in sugar, which is nice. We watered it down, using about 1/3 water. It worked perfectly!
- Treats. We did use “treats” in tandem with having pee or poop in the potty. But these treats were Honest Company Yogurt Bites not chocolate or candy. Our toddler absolutely loves them and they are one of her favorite things. We give them to her on not-too-often special occasions like traveling and mommy doctor visits. When she’d go potty, I’d give her a yogurt bite or two and tell her good job. I’m SO glad we decided to have some sort of treat. I know some parents are against this but she REFUSED to sit on the potty, at first. Telling her, “Please sit on the potty and you will receive a yogurt bite.” Got her ON the potty. I’d tell her, “Thank you” and give her one. She’d ask for more and I let her know that now, I needed to see poop or pee in the potty and she would get more. This led to her immediate acceptance of the potty without a hitch and she didn’t need any more treats to be ON the potty. The same happened for peeing and pooping. At first, I gave them to her in the same fashion but even on the second day, she didn’t need the treats anymore. We ended up using one bag, opening up another and only using a few from there for the entire potty training process.
Leaving home essentials (ESPECIALLY for those first few trips out of the house):
Our first couple outings potty training included public toilets. I nearly tore my hair out as our little girl clutched that icky toilet, almost fell in and…oh the icky. Right when we got home I ordered the 5 things listed below. Now we can go anywhere stress-free and it’s awesome.
- Toddler sized portable potty seat for public toilets. Public toilets are too big and they are icky. The Gimars Folding Toilet Potty Training Seat Cover makes the toilet an appropriate size so your little one won’t fall in. Plus, it folds down nicely! In my book, this is a must have.
- Flushable toilet seat covers. For those seriously icky toilets, we carry around a couple disposable toilet seat covers (these are the ones we purchased) to go under the Gimars Folding Toilet Seat Cover because that cute little plastic owl cover doesn’t cover the entire toilet. Which means that icky public toilet is still grabbable without this cover!
- Flushable toddler wet wipes. Make sure to add some of these to the “diaper” bag (Cottonelle Flushable Toddler Wipes). After a few weeks we started using toilet paper but for #2, these are a necessity.
- Sticky notes to cover the sensor on “auto-flush” toilets. Brillant, right? I can’t take credit. That’s a Pinterest hack right there and it works. We like to grab these from the dollar store.
- Pee pad (for car seat). Just in case, we bought a car seat pee pad. We were traveling a lot the summer we potty trained our little one. But even if we weren’t traveling a lot, I didn’t want our toddler sitting in a wet car seat covered in pee. We purchased this “Piddle Pad” car seat cover off of Amazon and it’s perfect.
- Portable potty stored in the car. You can buy a BabyBjorn Smart Potty to stash in the car on trips or we snatched the smallest kids potty from IKEA (it’s the green one) for like $7. If you don’t have an IKEA nearby, the shipping cost might not make it worth the purchase (might as well buy the BabyBjorn). That first-week potty training, you likely will be pulling over and using your car potty. Additionally, you don’t want to have ZERO access to a bathroom. We’ve been potty training for a month and did a park playdate. Well, there was NO potty! So, I was so glad we had one. We use ours all the time.
Potty training is a SUPER exciting milestone for your family and your toddler. Try to make it fun, stress-free, light, and exciting. Do it entirely for the look of sheer joy on your child’s face when they’ve made progress. Mark your calendar, ready the essentials, prepare mentally and be ALL IN. Have faith in your smart little one and confidence in yourself as a parent. You can do this!
Once you take these steps, you are WELL on your way to potty-training (most likely) in 3 – 4 short days. Most importantly, when you focus solely on the progress no matter how small and stay positive, you will quickly find yourself with a completely potty trained little person, leaving babyhood behind (and those diapers!) for good.