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If you’re reading this, it must be THAT time. You’re wondering, “What is the best age for potty training?” or maybe even “Is my toddler ready for potty training?” and scouring the internet for potty training tips. Alternatively, maybe you’ve even starting and finding yourself in the middle of the dreaded potty training problems! I’ve been there – twice! I have to admit; even I turned to the internet when my second was about ready to get advice because I didn’t remember all the details from the last time. There’s no shame in it! I’m here to share with you what I’ve learned through my two very different experiences and give you some very REALISTIC advice so that you can toilet train your toddler without losing all your hair!
In this post, I’ll answer some common questions based on my experiences and mom-research.
- What’s the best age for potty training?
- When is my toddler ready for potty training?
- How do I potty train my toddler quickly?
- How do I take my potty training toddler outside?
So… let’s get started!
What’s the best age to start potty training?
In some ways, this is a super easy question to answer. The answer is… There is NO set age to start potty training! Seriously.
Some will say that girls are ready to toilet train sooner than boys, but as all moms of multiple kids know without a doubt… ALL kids are different! Generally, they are ready between 2 and 3 ¼ or even 4. Okay…so let’s move on to the real question…
How do I know if my toddler is ready to potty train?
Your kid is ready to start potty training when he or she is ready. When is that?
- First – They should be able to go a few hours without wetting their diaper… Not a fluke, but consistently. So if your little one is going say, 3-4 hours… he or she might be ready.
- Second – They should recognize the signs of needing to go. This could be as simple as a potty dance or unusual activity just before they wet or poop in their diaper. Some kids like to be alone and will leave the room, others will shift in place to get more comfortable, and some will start to do a little dance. If you catch them doing this, they could be ready!
- Third (but by no means least important) – They should dislike being in a dirty diaper and want you to change their diaper!
If they are doing all three of these, then there’s a very good chance that they are ready.
Are they sleeping through the night without wetting their diaper? Well… they are almost DEFINITELY ready!
How do I potty train my toddler?
Starting on the potty training path can be daunting. There is so much information out there (not to mention unsolicited advice) that it can be really hard to actually decide on a method. When my second was ready, I didn’t know where to start even though I had been through it once before. That’s what prompted me to write this… I want to share my experience with you in hopes that you’ll benefit from it!
I won’t bore you with research or statistics… just my own experience. (Want to skip past my story? Scroll down to “So what’s the morale of the story?” below!)
So let’s start with my first son. His daycare wanted him to be potty trained by the summer after he turned two. That would have made him 2 ½!! He was NOT ready. I spent hours with him in the bathroom reading him books, we covered an entire stool in stickers (in some cases the sticker overlapped significant even!), and he spent hours running around the house without a diaper on which meant lots of laundry. Needless to say, this was incredibly stressful and time consuming. In the end, HE decided when he was ready. Once he had made that decision, he was potty trained nearly the same day.
With my second, I did tons of research and determined he was ready but I couldn’t remember HOW to potty train him. Luckily, my husband reminded me of the experience and I decided on a hands off approach this time. I showed him what to do, where to go, told him to ask me etc… but I never forced him. I never spent time with him in the bathroom while he sat on the potty etc. He too decided when he was ready and it was nearly an immediate switch.
Now I’ll point out that he was in daycare at the time and they were telling him to go to the potty every few hours but they would constantly tell me that he had no interest and would only sit for MAYBE 3 or 4 seconds at most. I told them not to force it and they didn’t.
So what’s the morale of the story?
1. Don’t force your kid even if they are ready.
2. Show them what needs to happen and how to do it. For example “This is where I go pee pee” and “If you need to go pee pee come get me and bring me here so I can help you” etc.
They will need reminders so once they begin showing signs of interest in using the toilet, ask them every hour or two if they want to try it out. If they say no, don’t force the issue. Just ask them again in a few hours.
They need to feel safe
If they show interest but seem afraid of the potty (let’s face it, sitting on a big hole filled with water is kind of odd right?), then let them see you use it whenever you can. You can also buy them a seat adapter that they really like or even a little potty seat.
Types of Toilet Seats
Both my boys disliked the mini-toilets at first though they loved them as a toy! So test it out and see what they prefer.
We use a seat just like this and love it because it’s super easy to clean, easy to move from bathroom to bathroom, and comes in tons of fun designs (which helps get your toddler interested in the potty!):
We used to have this one which my first son loved to sit on and play with. Once he learned to use the potty though, he preferred the potty training seat shown above more:
For outside we use this and it’s amazing! It’s super sturdy, easy to clean, compact, and comes in a plastic pouch that you can keep and store it in!
TIP: When using the folding seat outside, ALWAYS put the paper liner UNDER the potty seat. This way, your travel potty seat doesn’t get dirty and you can put it right back in the plastic case it comes in. Otherwise, you don’t even want to think about how gross it will get! Ugh…
If liners, aren’t a common thing in the toilets you use outside of the house, you can also buy these! They are really convenient and probably better than the paper ones anyway! I used to keep a pack in my car just in case!
Many methods say that you should have your little one walk around the house without a diaper on and feed them tons of water so that they have to go often. The theory is that this will then give you many opportunities to take them to the potty.
The problem with this is that your little one may become uncomfortable from all the drinking. Add to that walking around without a diaper which may be a weird sensation to begin with, and also taking them to a potty seat they may be scared of… and you can see how they might actually become afraid of potty training!
If your little one needs a little help needing to pee, you can definitely offer them as much water as they might want, but please don’t over encourage it! That said, once you decide to take them outside for the first time, you may want to avoid water for an hour or so before hand.
So what does this all mean? What’s a good method?
The best method is to follow your little one’s cues while also teaching them along the way.
- Look for signs that they are ready AND interested then…
- Show them how to use the potty and how to tell you that they are ready.
- Determine what they prefer – small training-toilet or a potty seat adapter.
- Try out not wearing a diaper at all or wearing underpants. See what they are most comfortable with and go with that. I stress though… ONLY do this when they have started to show interest. By this I mean that they are asking questions or have already asked to try going potty. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself doing loads of extra laundry or worse.
- Ask them every so often if they need to use the potty.
- Make water available and easy within reach when they are not wearing a diaper or in their underpants but don’t over encourage it.
Try this for a day and if they don’t ask to go to the potty multiple times that day, take a break and consider it again in a week. Don’t do this multiple days in a row if they don’t actively try to use the potty. You’ll save yourself a lot of headache!
When do I stop putting my kid in diapers?
Let’s say your little one has started to use the potty while at home but may not be consistant. That’s okay!
Once your little one has begun to really show interest and can ask to go potty with enough time to successfully get to the potty, it’s time to stop wearing diapers in the house.
Some kids like the warmth of a wet diaper and it can be comforting. Otherwise will just see the diaper as a crutch and decide the potty is optional. In my experience, it has been best to drop the diaper (while at home) once they show active interest and are somewhat successful. They will have one or two accidents though, so hang out somewhere that won’t get too ruined by the accident. Once the accident occurs, don’t freak out, don’t make a big fuss. Just take them to the potty, strip them down and let them sit for a moment while you clean up. Chances are that they won’t like the experience but the way you handle it will ensure that they aren’t afraid of it.
What about pull-ups?
I personally prefer to avoid pull-ups during the “potty training stage” as much as possible. This is because they likely feel just like a diaper! I think it’s good for the kids to feel the different sensations and know that when they are wearing underpants they need to use the potty. The pull-up kind of confuses things.
That said, not every kid will go from 100% diapers to 100% underwear in one day or even one weekend. Wearing diapers again or a pull-up is kind of inevitable. I think it’s best to be consistent though as much as possible. For us, we did 100% underwear at home and pull-ups when out of the house for the first 3 days and after that during long car rides and at night.
When and how do I take my potty training toddler outside?
Once your toddler is pretty good about telling you when he or she needs to go potty… and then consistently gets to the potty in time to use the toilet, it’s time to start venturing outside.
Restrict (within reason) fluids for about an hour before you go out and then make sure to ask them if they need to potty before leaving the house.
Have them in underpants (not pull-ups) and then go for a walk or a short car ride. Don’t make this a long trip, maybe an hour max.
The next time you go out, do the same thing but stay out a bit longer. I’d suggest doing this maybe 4 times before you REALLY go out for the day. This way you know that they can handle it.
Once you’re ready to really go outside with them for an extended period of time, you should go fully prepared! You should have:
- Folding potty seat and liners (liners are optional)
- FULL change of clothes to include socks
- A ziplock bag to carry dirty/wet clothes home in
Then, as you go about your day, keep track of where the nearest bathroom is and how long it’s been since your kid last used the potty. You’ll want to ask them anytime you pass a bathroom if they need to go. You may also want to take them into one and show them around so that they aren’t intimidated by it. I know my son, for example, is really scared of the loud hand dryers so I tried to find bathrooms that don’t have them in the beginning.
Eventually you won’t need to keep reminding them so often but it’s good to do this for the first few weeks.
I also suggest keeping a change of clothes with you for the next few months. If you don’t want to carry them around, then keep them in your trunk. Accidents will be VERY few and far between but it’s better safe than sorry right?
Alright! So there are my tips and what I’ve learned from my own experiences, research and other moms. I hope you found this really helpful! If you’ve got questions or more tips to share, please comment below! I’d love to hear from you!
Since you have a toddler, you might like this post on Toddler Sleep Regression! Check it out!