Now that we’ve successfully potty trained Caroline and tried a few different tactics, I thought it was important to document the best potty training method that we could come up with.
This method is easy. It is 10 steps that are super easy to be consistent with. This potty training method will yield great results, and do so quickly.
I do not think that methods such as the 3 day potty training method work well. It think they have some flaws. I’ll discuss our best potty training method and tips below.
As we went through our potty training journey, I also logged all of our details (minute by minute) on these daily pages:
We’ve learned a lot now that Caroline is officially potty trained, so I wanted to go back through and write down our full method so we remember for next time and share our best practices for other parents.
Since we made some tweaks along the way, I figured that putting together a nice concise list of what we learned to work best, would be a great way to summarize our journey!
To start with, I want to say that you need to plan. Have some activities planned for at home and just have fun with potty training.
You want everyone, including yourself, to be engaged throughout the day so it goes by fast! We did simple activities like putting pipe cleaners into a colander, and taping a toilet paper roll to the wall and dropping in pompoms. Easy and lots of fun!
The Best Potty Training Method in 10 EASY Steps
By early I mean as soon as your baby is sitting (5/6 months old). We did this and it made actual potty training at 18 months so much easier!
Plus, due to this genius idea from my husband, she ended up poop trained before we even started our official potty training!
If you are past this age, don’t worry. Just continue on with the method below.
2. Potty train between 18-20 months-
From our experience thus far, and from reading others’ accounts as well…this seems to be the sweet spot for potty training early. You’ll be happy to have it out of the way!
Again, if you are already past this stage and age, don’t stress! You can still follow the steps below very easily and see good results!
3. Use a regular toilet with a potty seat attachment (or just hold your child on the toilet)-
Using a regular toilet with a potty seat will eliminate the need to transition to the regular toilet later. It also eliminates the mess of cleaning a separate potty, and ensures that your child’s transition to using the public restroom will be MUCH easier.
This potty seat is our favorite. It stands up on the floor next to the toilet, has handles for your child to hold onto, and isn’t fixed to the regular seat!
4. Have your child wear underwear-
I was going to use the naked baby approach at first, but quickly decided against it. I don’t want to train my child to use the potty while naked. I want my child to train under “normal” circumstances. This is just one more “transition” to eliminate and start from the beginning.
Your child needs to get a feel for underwear. This also gave a visual to me and my daughter to see if she’d had any accidents- no matter how small.
We did “dry underwear checks” every 15/20 minutes. She knew what that meant and by the third day she was patting her underwear to check if she was dry.
She’d say “YAY” and she’d get a treat for dry underwear (see below for information on treats)!
Pick underwear that they’ll be excited about (we bought boy underwear for our daughter because they had dogs on them and she LOVES dogs). Picking out big kid underwear is a treat from the start and really gets them excited!
Get them excited about it starting on day 1 and every day after! Tell your child “you get to wear underwear like a big girl/boy! Like Mama and Daddy!”.
5. Place on toilet at regular intervals to begin-
When starting out, place your child on the toilet every 20-30 minutes. Gradually work your way up to 1 hour intervals.
This will give your child a feeling of success and will allow for a lot of positive reinforcement. I did this for about 4 days. Then I started to place her on the toilet for events only (before eating, before a nap, before an outing, and before bed)- the rest was left up to her.
More accidents will start to happen, but it will resolve quickly as they catch on to what it feels like to have to go.
6. Leave on toilet for 5-10 minutes-
Babies are used to peeing little amounts, all of the time, whenever they’d like to. Just because your child has stopped peeing, doesn’t mean they are done!
This step is key to having success. Wait it out a bit (5-10 minutes) to make sure there isn’t more to come. As they get used to the toilet (hopefully you’ve done step 1), they will take bigger pees and be done faster.
Give your child something to look at to keep them on for this long. We used books and just kept a stack in each bathroom that we were using.
If they aren’t used to the toilet yet, consider giving a treat (see step 7) simply for sitting on the toilet!
7. Positive reinforcement-
Give your child a reward for every little success. Start by rewarding for sitting on the toilet. Then reward for peeing, pooping, and asking to go. Reward for dry underwear throughout the day. We started with just a sticker chart. This was not nearly motivating enough.
We then combined that sticker chart with a treat (Cocoa Puffs). They are small and have lots of vitamins and minerals LOL (but they actually do). Adding in a treat like this made a world of difference in the motivation level! We also use lots of praise, clapping, high fives, etc.
Sticker charts are a great way to keep track of progress. I suggest coupling the use of a sticker charts with your treat system that was mentioned above. Eventually you’ll phase out the treats. I had removed treats completely by day 6.
8. Expect accidents-
Your child is learning something new. So, just like with learning how to use a fork or ride a bike, there will be accidents. It is ok.
Just say “uh oh” and remind them that pee/poop only goes in the toilet.
When they do have an accident, rush them to the toilet to finish. Make sure to do step 6 and leave your child on the potty for several minutes to ensure that they’ve finished.
9. Go out on short trips-
- Day 1 stay home all day.
- Day 2 put pants on so your child starts to learn what it feels like to wear clothing with no diaper, and go outside at home for your outing (no car rides yet).
- Day 3 take a quick car ride and have a quick outing to a store (no more than 30 minutes).
- Day 4 take a slightly longer outing. Goal is by day 7 you are doing life as you usually do.
10. Always have your child pee before you leave the house-
This is a rule in our house now. We all try to go potty before we leave the house. Again, this sets you up for success. We still do this at age three. You just never know if there will be a bathroom available, and if so, what the state of that bathroom will be. We make it a family practice to just go before we leave.
Potty training twins? Check out this post by Team Cartwright for some insight!
Why was this the best potty training method?
It’s realistic for one.
Two, we don’t have anything to re-train. Using this method, your child will already be using the regular toilet, be used to regular underwear, and will be able to go anywhere.
This potty training method sets you up for realistic success. You aren’t let down when, in 3 days, your child isn’t fully potty trained. The reality is that potty training takes longer. This method is a 7 day method. But guess what? There are still occasional accidents after that. Not many. But as with anything, there are regressions.
If you are expecting a method to be magic and potty train your child in 3 days and then be accident free, you are not going to be happy with your results. This method gives you realistic, achievable, and quick results.
Notes about Potty Training:
Stock up on essentials before starting-
Save Potty Training for Naps and Bedtime for a LATER date!
For these, it is important to wait until they are ready so they have success. Wait until they are having dry diapers most of the time, or close to dry.
Then, have them wear underwear with a pull up over it. The underwear will give them the feeling of wetness (which they won’t like), and the pull ups will save you from cleaning the sheets too often.
Don’t use pull ups or training pants for outings or during awake time.
This will only delay your success. Use pull ups for naps and night, but nothing more. Let the accidents happen in regular underwear so they feel it. Do not go back to diapers or pull ups at any time. Stay the course and stay in underwear for the best success!
Potty Training Materials
- Introduce the toilet early
- Potty train between 18-20 months
- Use a regular toilet not a separate one
- Have your child wear underwear (provides visual for even small accidents)
- Place on toilet in regular intervals
- Leave on toilet for 5-10 minutes
- Use positive reinforcement
- Expect accidents as a part of the learning curve
- Go out on short trips
- Always have your child pee before leaving the house
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Late Potty Training
While I advocate for early potty training, I fully believe that you need to potty train when YOU are ready. This mom is an advocate of late potty training. Check out her post!