Ooh boy. I feel like I’m opening a can of worms here, but this has been highly requested since we started potty training Sam (a year ago!) and now that we have just potty trained Sophie, sooooo. Here is a little post on potty training. Just some tips and tricks that have worked for us, I like to call it my version of the 3 day potty training method. I hope you find something in here useful, if you’re planning on starting this big scary momentous event yourself. ;) Or just are looking for some pointers that maybe you haven’t tried before, if you’re feeling stuck. Whatever the case may be, my wish is that you leave with something useful and helpful! :)
NUMBER 1 PIECE OF ADVICE
OKAY. So you’re ready to start potty training. First piece of advice? Actually be really ready for potty training. And I don’t mean YOU, I mean your child. My number one piece of advice is to wait until YOUR CHILD is ready!!! Never ever compare to others’ timelines. Every child is different and there is no point at all in rushing it or pushing them when they simply aren’t ready. Sophie and Sam both were showing signs for a while: pulling at their diaper (and taking it off!) and showing interest in the potty (with our second this was easier and quicker because Sam was already potty trained- it helped to have that model)!
Do not push your kid and definitely don’t make it a negative experience! Keep it all positive!!! And if you think your child SHOULD be ready by now (whatever age they may be) and they scream on the way to the toilet and go stiff when you try to put them on and want nothing to do with it, please do not force it. Just say, okay. We tried. Let’s take a break and try again in a month or so.
To start I’d get a few potty books (our favorites are THIS ONE and THIS ONE) and start reading about the potty and get her interested in it. Get a little cover to put on your big toilet (we have one for upstairs and one for downstairs and got them from Ikea, but THIS ONE is similar!). We also have step stools for each toilet (just something simple like THIS ONE is great) so they can get up and down themselves. This helps with independence and making them confident that they can do it themselves! Which is the ultimate goal- not needing us to remind them to go and also to put them on and off of the potty. We also got a little potty (THIS ONE!) that we would leave in the bathroom and Sophie would sit on (just to pretend at first) when we were potty training Sam. This got her comfortable with it, and also made her feel not left out when her big brother was getting all of the attention! For beginning potty training, we leave the potty in our living room, or will take it outside with us so it’s always nearby and to set them up for success!
Obviously, both are not necessary, do whatever works for you with your budget/space/etc. This is what works for us!
Another thing that helped leading up to starting, was getting THIS BABY DOLL. Playing with her and putting her on the potty (she even pees if you put water in her!) helped make it fun! This wasn’t as helpful for Sam, as he didn’t show much interest in her, but Sophie loved putting all of her dolls and stuffed animals on the potty.
And of course, stock up on cute and fun undies that your kids will be excited about wearing! Whatever their favorite cartoon (My Little Pony, Peppa Pig) is or animal or shapes, truck, you name it. GET THOSE! Then they will be excited about wearing them! Our favorites are from Old Navy and Hannah Andersson (these are the best we’ve found for softness- especially great if your kid has any sort of sensory issues/sensitivities).
Also, get your cleaning supplies and old towels out and ready. Cuz ya know. Accidents WILL happen, no matter how advanced and perfect your child is. ;)
LET’S TALK BRIBES
Or “potty treats” is a nicer way to put it. ;) But I like to call a spade a spade, and they are absolutely bribes. “You get a candy if you go on the potty!” works really well with my kids and I’m assuming most kids would feel the same. We give an m&m for pee and a gummy bear (or lollipop or chocolate, something even more desirable) for #2 on the potty. This works great for us! Some people do Skittles, some don’t do food at all and instead go the sticker route or toy, etc. For us, our kids’ most preferred prizes are food-related, and can’t say I blame them. They got it from their mama. :) Also, the whole sticker chart thing just didn’t click with either of our kids, I think they’re too young to really comprehend or care at all about that, plus it seemed like a lot more work for us, haha. To each their own. Find the highest preferred items and the thing that will be the most rewarding for your child, and do that. Zero judgment. This also goes for just getting kids to stay on the potty long enough to actually go. With Sam especially, this was huge. We had a basket that stayed in the bathroom with his favorite highly-preferred toys (Magnatiles, Play-doh, Water Wow (so awesome and no mess!), bouncy balls, a show on a tablet works great too, etc), whatever it took to keep him occupied until he had a success! This is especially great for kids who need that extra push to go potty. For Sophie, this wasn’t necessary, as she knows when she needs to go and will tell us! For Sam, it was much more of a challenge. All kids are different, and you be the judge with what you need to get those successes!
We give a small treat (one m&m usually) every time they go on the potty, and make a HUGE deal about it- throw a party!!! Get EXCITED! Another big reinforcer for both of my kids is praise! They feed off of it, and I’m not one to hold back! Also, with accidents, don’t make a big deal about it at all. Just stay very monotone and neutral, take them to the potty, have them take their own wet clothes off and throw in the hamper (there’s that independence I talked about earlier, so important!), and say “We pee pee on the potty” and “yuck” at the wet clothes so they correlate accidents with being yucky and uncomfortable, but so you don’t make it a bad/negative experience. And also don’t give too much attention to it, because some kids will definitely wet themselves for attention, and this is not a behavior we want to be reinforcing!
We did a 3 day intense potty training with Sam, spent lots of time in undies and in the bathroom (literally the entire first day we didn’t leave the bathroom until he had I think 5 successes in a row with no accidents, which took a LONG time!) and didn’t leave the house. It suuuucked to be honest, but he’s also nonverbal and is on the autism spectrum, so it was different for him. Much harder. But WE DID IT! It took a long time (much longer than the typical child, yes, with lots of accidents even months after starting), but he is now fully potty trained! HALLELUJAH!!! And accidents are extremely rare, just like any child. There is hope! For my special needs mamas, I’m talking to you: YOU CAN DO IT. Your child CAN do it. Ask your ABA provider for support during this time- they are trained in this and SO good at what they do! Just keep at it, stay consistent, and you will see so much improvement! It’s amazing!
For Sophie, I had all of this previous knowledge of how we did it with Sam, and I knew going in that it would be quite different, but I still implemented a lot of what we knew in how we potty trained her. It just wasn’t quite as intense. And that’s okay! Know your child, know what level they’re at and go from there.
MODIFIED 3 DAY POTTY TRAINING METHOD
Try to start on a long weekend, if possible. Carve out 3 solid days where you have nowhere to be and no plans, since you will be spending the whole time at home! I feel like this is key!
The night before starting, we had her throw her diapers in the garbage and we sang “Bye bye diapers, bye bye diapers, bye bye diapers, I don’t need you anymore!” Sounds silly, but it’s what we did with Sam too and I think it helped click a little that we’re a BIG KID now and don’t need diapers (diapers are now only for sleeping- naps and bedtime, potty training for sleep is a whole other hurdle we haven’t attempted yet), from here on out NO diapers (or pull ups! Which is just a glorified diaper!) during the daytime. ONLY undies!
And when you are ready to venture out into the world again (for Sam, we were very strict and stayed home those first 3 days, going NO WHERE, with Sophie we were more lax and actually made the mistake of leaving to the park on day 2- NOT recommended and we quickly turned around and went back home- and then again on day 3 just for a quick hour-long snack trip which was great), I recommend THIS PORTABLE POTTY. It can stand on it’s own with collapsible legs, has bags you can attach to it and discard of easily, and can also be used as a cover for public toilets! So good! Every single one of my mama friends has this, that’s how you know it’s good. Mom-Approved.
As soon as your little one wakes up, make a big deal about going to the potty! Make it fun! Sing a song! Say, “Oh you’re such a big kid now! Time to go on the potty and wear undies!” Keep it all positive. That morning, instead of changing their diaper like you’re used to, you’ll now just throw away their diaper from the night before and sit them on the potty first thing! If they don’t go, it’s no big deal. At least you introduced the routine and they tried! Praise them for trying! Heck, praise them for simply sitting on the potty! YAY!
This is where the fun begins. Take your kid to the potty every 30-40 minutes or so. Always make it fun and sing a song (that always helps my kids, anyway!) “Let’s go to the potty!” This is the day where you will be pushing the liquids all day long. Apple juice is your friend today. Pro tip: water it down! Less sugar that way. The key is to give them lots of opportunities for success! So lots of liquids (and salty snacks in between to make them thirsty- they will be LOVING this, trust me!) and always being in close proximity to the bathroom! We painted, played with our favorite water beads, watched some cartoons, had dance parties, read books, played with play-doh, ALL OF THE THINGS to keep her occupied and have fun and keep her mind off of the fact that we were staying home all day. ;) It worked, too! No complaints from her! And yes, there were a few accidents, but all in all, it was a successful day, with way more successes than accidents! She even self-initiated once, which was HUGE! And she was dang proud of herself every time she had a success! So was I.
Here’s a sample of our Potty Training data sheet, something I learned from potty training Sam, thank you ABA therapists and your obsession with tracking data! I can’t NOT do it now! ;) This helps so much with tracking progress and getting a sense of your child’s rough potty “schedule.” For us, we saw a theme right away that told us we should try to take her every 40 minutes or so.
Repeat day one. Wake up, throw away diaper, sit on potty. Push some liquids. Try to go every 30-40 minutes. We made the mistake of feeling cocky (and #cabinfever took over) and ventured to the playground. Mistake, and she had an accident, totally OUR fault. Poor thing was NOT ready for that! So, I strongly urge you to stay home again! Try to stay home all 3 days if you can! This really sets your kid up for success! There’s the added anxiety of using a foreign potty in a foreign place if you’re not at home, which is unnecessary stress for the beginning stages of potty training, on everyone! Today she told me “I have to go pee pee” and then DID! BIG party for that one! Today was also the day she held her pee for quite some time. And definitely waited until her diaper during nap to go. Which was a bit discouraging, but hey, it happens. Only one accident all day was a success! Remember to stay consistent!
This is kind of a magic day! I feel like this was the day she gained confidence in herself, and I began asking HER if she needed to go. Keep at it, and trust your child (if you feel they are ready to be trusted, otherwise keep bringing them on a schedule) to let you know if they need to go.
Day four is when we continued with our daily routine. I ventured to my workout group with Sophie in tow and simply asked her periodically if she needed to go potty. Some kids, again, this won’t work and you’ll need to give them a timer and say “In one minute we’re going to go potty!” Setting an actual timer on your phone is a great visual for them, too. We had no accidents! Woo! And she got a special new toy when we got home for an awesome weekend and great start to our week! One thing we always do as part of our daily routines, is we take our kids to the potty at every transition: before a meal, after a meal, before leaving the house, upon coming back home, before bath, after bath, before bed. This has been a really great way to help their bodies fall into a natural rhythm and again- to set them up for success! For Sam especially, he thrives on routine, and this helps him so much!
PHEW! Did you make it through all of that? If you did, I applaud you! And I hope you feel just a little more ready to tackle this whole potty training thing. YOU’VE GOT THIS!!