Recognizing your child’s readiness for potty training will help the process go smoothly. In terms of method, do whatever feels right for your family.
Potty training is one of the major developmental milestones your toddler will go through, and, as always, every kid is different.
Lots of parents think potty training will be done in one weekend, and they end up frustrated when it takes longer.
But it’s completely normal for it to take a few weeks to stay dry throughout the day, and even longer (like months, or even years) for overnight dryness.
So what works best when it comes to potty training?
No matter which method you choose, the keys to success are patience, praise, and following your peanut’s lead.
What do you need to know about how to potty train?
Here’s our ultimate guide.
In this article: 📝
- When to start potty training
- How to start potty training
- What is the best age to start potty training?
- What are the stages of potty training?
- What is the 3-day potty training method?
- When should I start potty training my girl?
- Potty training boys
When to start potty training
When to potty train is all about looking for signs of developmental readiness, rather than just reaching a certain age.
Avoid starting potty training at the same time as any big transition, like moving, changing childcare providers, or welcoming a new baby into the family, as this can cause regressions.
Signs of readiness include:
- Being interested in others using the toilet.
- Showing discomfort at wearing a wet or dirty diaper, and asking for a diaper change when they’re dirty.
- Staying dry for longer periods throughout the day.
- Hiding to poop in their diaper.
- Being able to follow simple instructions.
- Being able to pull down their clothes and diaper, and pull them up again.
- Wanting to wear big kid underwear.
➡️ Learn more on when to start potty training
How to start potty training
Involve your child in choosing their potty or potty seat, and get them used to sitting on it, even while they’re clothed.
You might want to put a potty in the bathroom so they can sit on it while you use the toilet.
Alternatively, you might want to put the potty closer to where they spend their time, like in the living room or playroom.
If you see signs of them needing to use the potty, like squatting or grabbing at their diaper, whip off their diaper and place them on the potty.
You can also offer them the chance to sit on the potty at regular intervals, like after they’ve had a nap or meal.
If you use reward systems elsewhere in their routine, you can use a similar system here, by offering stickers or treats when they successfully use the potty.
But if this isn’t your parenting vibe, don’t feel pressured to do it here.
Lots of praise or high-fives, and not making a fuss when accidents happen, can be enough emotional support to encourage your little one through potty training.
It’s all about going at your child’s pace, that’s where you’ll see the most effective potty training results (it’s scientifically proven!).
➡️ Learn more on how to start potty training
What is the best age to start potty training?
If you’re wondering what’s the best potty training age, there’s no straight answer.
Usually, your child will be ready at some point between 18 months and 2.5 years — or sometimes closer to three years of age.
Rushing the decision to start potty training can backfire, so it’s not something to push before they’re ready.
But interestingly, according to this study, many parents start potty training because their child’s off to nursery, rather than because they’re showing signs of readiness.
You can introduce the idea of potty training early, but intensive potty training before they’re showing signs of readiness could mean the whole thing takes longer than expected.
What are the stages of potty training?
Everybody’s different, of course, but the stages of potty training often look like this:
- Showing signs of readiness
- Introducing the potty through books or songs
- Sitting on the potty
- Using the potty sometimes
- Using the potty exclusively
- Using the big toilet
- Using public toilets
- Nighttime dryness
Of course, it’s not always a linear process, so there can be some sideways or even backward steps along the way, and it could take weeks or months.
It’s all normal.
In fact, your family’s potty training “stages” might look more like this:
- Excitement — no more diaper changes!!!
- Frustration — another half an hour spent sitting on the bathroom floor singing the poop song…
- Wine — to get through the mountain of peed-on laundry. Sigh.
- Self-doubt — surely other moms are doing a better job?! (Spoiler: they’re not.)
- Pride — we did it! My baby’s all grown up! 😍
What is the 3-day potty training method?
An intensive 3-day approach is a popular method, based on the book by Brandi Brucks, for families who want those diapers gone now, or for busy working families.
It requires staying home for three days straight and getting all caregivers on board, but it can have impressive results.
- Plan three days where you can stay home the whole time. Many parents choose a long holiday weekend.
- In the lead-up, show your toddler how many diapers they have left, and let them know that after all those diapers are gone, there won’t be anymore.
- Decide ahead of time whether you’re going to continue with diapers or pull-ups for naps and overnight, or whether you’re going to go cold turkey. This could depend on your child’s age, how much you really want to get rid of diapers, and if your child regularly wakes up dry from nighttime or a nap.
- Day 1 — it’s up to you whether you put them into big kid undies or have a naked day around the house. Every 20 minutes (set a timer), say “it’s time to sit on the potty.” Even if they don’t go every time, praise them for sitting on the potty.
- Day 2 and 3 — much the same as day one. You may choose to stay home or venture out somewhere very casual and close to home. Accidents will happen, but try not to make a big deal out of it, and keep offering the potty at regular intervals. Potty reminders at regular points in your day – i.e. as soon as they wake up, before and after meals, before bathtime, and before bed – will help them learn that using the potty is part of your everyday routine.
- After the three days are up, they should be mostly staying dry. If they’re heading back to childcare, tell your care provider the routine, and ask them to continue it.
When should I start potty training my girl?
What age to potty train girls is much the same as for boys.
You’ll want to look for the same signs of readiness.
Generally, anywhere from 2 years old is pretty typical.
Potty training boys
There’s no avoiding the subject, boys do have more equipment to deal with when it comes to potty training.
To make it simpler, start potty training boys with them sitting down to pee.
Once they’ve got that nailed, they can move on to standing up when they’re ready.
That’s it, our ultimate guide to potty training!
Want to swap more potty training tips with other moms who have been there (or are right there with you now)?