Potty training a toddler is one of those necessary stages of childhood that lots of parents dread. But potty training doesn’t have to be difficult. Find out how we did it in under 3 days!
Want to know how to potty train a toddler in less than 3 days? Just think, you could be nappy-free this weekend!
Okay, so here’s the real deal.
We potty trained our toddler, Roo, in under three days.
But Roo is my second baby. And I’m only talking about daytime. I’ll go over nighttime dryness in another post.
Despite Roo being my second child, there’s five years between her and GinGin and I honestly couldn’t remember much about how we potty trained her big sister all those years ago.
What I do remember was feeling that first-time-parent-pressure to potty train as early as possible.
And I remember that was a massive mistake!
GinGin once sat on the potty for over half-an-hour and then stood up and peed everywhere. She clearly wasn’t ready that time.
And I remember attempting the old trick of putting a pair of knickers on underneath GinGin’s nappy, so she would feel the wetness. But that gave her nappy-rash and I definitely wouldn’t recommend it!
Those were the things I remembered about GinGin’s potty training that definitely didn’t work.
But I couldn’t really remember the stages of potty training we went through with GinGin that actually worked.
This blog post is all about Roo’s potty training. And how we managed to get her daytime dry in under three days.
- What Are the Signs That Your Toddler is Ready to Potty Train?
- What Age Should a Child Be Potty Trained?
- Should We Use Pull Ups?
- Should My Toddler Use the Toilet or the Potty?
- What If My Toddler Refuses to Potty Train?
- How To Potty Train a Toddler in Three Days
- What Next?
What Are the Signs That Your Toddler is Ready to Potty Train?
It’s really easy to get sucked into that feeling of fear that your baby isn’t progressing as quickly as other children.
Particularly if you’re a first time parent.
I’m hear to tell you not to compare your baby with anyone else’s. And that includes older siblings if this isn’t your first child.
Every child develops differently. And this is as true about potty training as it is for any other aspect of childhood.
But there are some clear indicators that your toddler is ready to start potty training, regardless of whether they’re 24 or 34 months old.
Signs to look for include:
- Hiding to pee or poop in their nappy
- Telling you when they have done a pee or poop in their nappy
- Trying to remove a wet or soiled nappy
- Going for longer periods of time between each nappy change
- Waking up from nap-time with a dry nappy
- Showing an interest in other family members’ toilet habits
- Able to pull their trousers / leggings up and down by themselves
- Being able (and willing) to act on simple commands
As I said above, every child is different. They may show all of these signs, or just a couple.
So don’t go giving all your unused nappies away the first time your toddler takes their own dirty nappy off!
Look for a combination of these potty training cues.
When you see them regularly over an extended period – maybe even a few weeks – it’s time to start getting things ready for potty training.
What Age Should a Child Be Potty Trained?
There is no magic number for when your child should be potty trained. However most children will be reliably daytime dry by the age of four.
You might find that if you’re planning for your child to go to preschool (the school nursery) after their third birthday, the preschool will say all children must be potty trained before they will be allowed to start.
Technically preschools are not allowed to make this restriction. But, in all likelihood, they won’t have nappy changing facilities available.
So it’s a good idea to aim to potty train your toddler at least a few weeks before they’re due to start preschool.
I wouldn’t worry too much about the odd accident. Preschool teachers will be able to help your child change into clean clothes (so remember to pack a couple of outfits in their bag!)
Can You Potty Train Too Early?
Yes. Quite simply the answer to this question is yes you can potty train too early.
Some toddlers may start showing the signs of being potty ready by 18 months. Others might be closer to their third birthday before they’re ready.
You absolutely cannot force a child to potty train. If they’re not ready, then they’re not ready. And by continuing to try before they’re ready will cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for both you and your little one.
You could actually do more harm than good by insisting on potty training too early.
Read this from a paediatrician on the negative impacts potty training too early can have on your child’s health.
So wait for the cues from your child that we discussed above before you start to potty train your toddler.
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Can You Potty Train a Two Year Old?
Yes. You can. IF they are showing some or all of the signs of being ready to potty train listed above.
Most parents will begin to think about potty training when their toddler is aged around two or two-and-a-half years old.
Just keep in mind that all children are different. Some toddlers will take to the potty quicker the others. It’s not a race.
Try not to focus on the age of your child. Instead think about their readiness for potty training by looking for the signs listed above.
Is Three Too Late to Potty Train?
Nope. No it isn’t.
If your child isn’t showing the signs that they’re ready to start potty training until after their third birthday, then they’re simply not ready.
Don’t force it. And don’t panic. Talk to your health visitor if you’re really worried.
The NHS advises that most children should be reliably dry by the age of four. So they should be potty trained by then.
Children aged four and upwards who still rely on nappies may have underlying mental or physical health issues, so it would be worthwhile having a conversation with a qualified medical professional if this sounds like your child.
Should We Use Pull Ups?
Pull ups are supposed to ease the transition from nappies to big kid pants.
They help get your toddler used to having to pull their pants up and down to use the toilet.
Pull ups are not quite as absorbent as nappies, and so your child is meant to feel some of the wetness before you change them.
They’re supposed to encourage your child to realise when they’ve done a pee, and to recognise the signs that they need the loo.
However, I personally don’t think pull ups are effective at all.
We bought Roo pull ups to use during the couple of weeks before she went through the potty training process.
She just used them like a nappy. It didn’t bother her in the slightest if they were wet.
We had a lot of leaks too.
And using pull ups actually delayed my commitment to potty train my toddler. They made me doubt whether Roo was actually ready.
She was ready!
So it’s totally up to you if you want to try using pull ups. But my advice would be not to.
They’re just a massive waste of money and they’ll make potty training take longer than it needs to.
Should My Toddler Use the Toilet or the Potty?
The end goal of potty training your child is for them to use the toilet.
So I would encourage you to potty train your toddler using the toilet.
You will need a child seat and a step to make it safe.
But we just went with a traditional step and child seat like this one.
Encourage your toddler to sit on the seat.
Help them at first.
You’ll find they’ll soon want to do it by themselves. And that’s fine. Just stay close by and give them lots and lots of praise.
We only have one toilet at home. And it’s upstairs. So we also have a potty downstairs, for those just in case moments.
We use a really simple potty like this one. The important thing is to make sure the potty you choose is non-slip.
If Roo’s busy downstairs, or playing in the garden, and realises she’s desperate to pee she’ll just head to the potty.
Most of the time, though, she will recognise the feeling earlier and ask to go to the toilet upstairs.
Having access to both the potty and the toilet hasn’t confused her at all.
She understands that the potty is just for emergencies. And she knows the toilet is where she should pee and poop.
What If My Toddler Refuses to Potty Train?
It’s not unusual for toddlers to refuse to sit on a potty or the toilet. So if this sounds like your child, don’t worry. You’re not alone.
If your toddler is showing some (or all) of the sign of readiness we discussed earlier, but they still refuse to sit on the potty, then it’s likely they’re scared or anxious of this next big step.
Remember potty training is a major milestone for your toddler.
But it’s your job to make it feel safe and exciting.
I know it can be hard, but try not to make a big deal about them refusing to sit on the potty or toilet.
And definitely do not punish them for having accidents.
The last thing you want is to get into a power struggle with your toddler over potty training. It will make the whole process super-stressful.
And you could end up creating more problems for your child.
If your toddler refuses to sit on the potty, don’t force the issue.
Leave the potty, or child toilet seat and step, within easy reach of your child. And don’t mention it to them again.
Their curiosity will get the better of them. And it’s likely that they want to take control of their own toilet training. So let them take control.
Here is a really great article on toilet training resistance if you need more information from a qualified medical professional.
How To Potty Train a Toddler in Three Days
If you’ve already tried to potty train your toddler without success, you’re probably wondering if it’s actually possible to do it in just three days.
It absolutely is possible! We did, and so can you.
Just so you know, Roo had already sat on the loo a few times before we committed to going nappy free. She’d even done a pee on the loo a couple of times too.
But she’d also shown some toilet training resistance. She would ask for nappies and say she didn’t want to sit on the potty.
Using pull ups wasn’t helping.
There were two crucial things that needed to happen for us to be able to potty train Roo in under three days:
- she needed to be ready
- I needed to be committed to potty training
Yep, Roo’s potty training success was as much to do with my own attitude and commitment as it was hers.
So if you are going to potty train your toddler, you absolutely need to be committed to seeing it through.
Before You Start
Talk to your toddler about learning to use the toilet.
Be excited about it. And talk positively about this next major step in their lives.
Prepare them for the time when they won’t be wearing nappies or pull ups anymore. Try to make this as positive as possible.
Don’t be the one to raise any negatives or fears. But if they mention anything they’re worried about, talk through it with them to reassure them that potty training is a good thing and that you’ll help them.
Next, you’re going to need to get a few things before you start your potty training adventures.
The most important thing you’ll need is time. You need to have a few days where your schedule is pretty much clear.
You’re going to need to focus your time and energy on supporting your toddler as they learn to use the toilet or potty. And you won’t be able to do this effectively if you’re rushing around trying to keep a hectic schedule.
So clear a weekend, or a few days in the holidays, and block that time out for potty training.
The second most important thing you’ll need is patience.
If you’re stressed, anxious, busy, pre-occupied or feeling particularly short-tempered or even hormonal, consider delaying potty training.
Your toddler will pick up on all these negative emotions and connect them with potty training.
So you need to be in the right frame of mind to be both positive and patient with your toddler, especially when they end up having multiple accidents on the first day.
There will be accidents. Probably lots of accidents, especially on the first day of potty training.
So be sure to stock up on paper towels, disinfectant, laundry powder, soap and baby wipes.
You’re also going to need to have plenty of clean outfits for your toddler to change into.
We also took Roo shopping for big girl pants too. I let her choose which knickers she wanted to buy.
This gave her a sense of control, which toddlers love! And it added to her excitement for potty training.
Potty Training Equipment
You can’t potty train a toddler without a potty, a child’s toilet seat and a step.
I like these, but you can choose whichever you like best. Just make sure that the potty you choose is non-slip.
You toddler will potty train far more quickly if they are rewarded for their successes.
Decide on the type of reward you’re going to offer.
Some parents use reward charts, or stickers, to collect for a bigger reward. Something like a day out at the zoo, or a trip to the cinema. There are some really fun sticker charts available on Amazon.
We used sweets because our girls hardly ever have sweets, and they love them, so it was an extra special treat in their eyes.
Top Tip: reward siblings as well as your toddler. This will encourage older brother and sisters to be super-positive during the potty training process too!
Potty Train a Toddler: Day One
When the day you’ve chosen to start potty training arrives you need to be on it as soon as your toddler wakes up.
As soon as they get out of bed give them a snuggle and remind them that they’re not going to wear nappies or pull ups during the daytime anymore.
Reassure them that they’re going to be a big girl or boy today, and being a big kid means no more nappies.
Ask them if they need a pee. Don’t worry if they say no.
Just get them dressed and have breakfast as normal.
Now here’s the important bit. Do not put them in underpants.
Wearing underpants feels too similar to wearing a nappy or pull ups. So just put them in trousers, or leggings, or shorts.
Make sure it’s clothing they can pull up and down by themselves – so no buttons or zips.
Ask them how it feels.
They’ll probably really like the feeling of freedom and being able to move around more easily.
On day one you should prompt your toddler to do a pee every 20-30 minutes.
If they sit on the potty or toilet give them loads of praise and a hug.
And if they actually do use the potty or toilet give them loads of praise, a hug and one of their rewards. Remember to reward siblings too!
Let them see the contents of the potty or toilet and talk about it with them.
Toddlers are curious. They want to learn. And it’s likely this is the first time they’ve seen pee or poop. So naturally they’re going to want to talk about it.
So talk about it with them.
On day one you should be prepared for accidents. Lots of accidents!
They’re not going to like the feeling of wet trousers, and that’s the point.
They need to be able to feel it – I mean really feel it – to know they don’t like it.
Once they’ve had a few accidents, and linked that feeling with pee or poop, they will be more inclined to want to sit on the potty or toilet.
You absolutely must not be angry, or annoyed, or shout or anything other than being kind and caring when your toddler has an accident.
Give them lots of reassurance but don’t be tempted to go back to nappies or pull ups, even if your toddler asks for them.
Get your toddler cleaned up and changed into clean clothes. Ask them to remember the feeling that had just before they had their accident and them give them a cuddle.
Remember to continue to prompt every 20-30 minutes.
At bedtime try one last trip to the toilet and then put them in nappies again.
Talk about what a great job they’ve done today. And say to them that nappies are only for sleepy-time.
That way they will be prepared for no nappies on day two.
Potty Training: Day Two
This is basically a re-run of day one.
So when your toddler wakes in the morning remind them how brilliantly they were at being a big girl or boy yesterday.
Put them in a positive frame of mind straight away. Ask them if they need a pee. If they do, take them to the toilet. If they don’t, just get them dressed.
Remember no underwear!
You’re going to do everything exactly the same as day one.
BUT you’re going to increase the time between your prompts. Extend the time to around every hour, to ninety minutes.
A typical three year old’s bladder gets full after about two hours. So we’re pushing towards the longest amount of time they should go without doing a pee.
Remind them to think about the feeling they had right before any accidents from yesterday and show them again where the potty or toilet is.
Remember we’re going to give lots of praise and a hug for every sit on the potty or toilet.
And we’re going to give lots of praise, a hug and a reward for every pee or poop on the potty. Siblings are rewarded too.
After a couple of hours you should notice that your toddler will either come and tell you they need to pee, or they will just go and sit on the potty or toilet by themselves.
This is where extra praise, bigger hugs and two rewards should be given.
Make them feel really special.
They’re now recognising the feeling of needing to pee or poop and acting on that feeling by themselves.
Your toddler is taking control of their potty training, and that’s a massive step that needs bigger rewards!
It’s worthwhile trying to spend some time outside on day two. Not too far. Just in the garden if you have one.
It’s an added challenge for your toddler who might be nervous about being outdoors without a nappy or pull ups. B confident and reassuring and give them lots of praise.
Again, at bedtime, try one last trip to the loo before putting on their night time nappy.
You might want to explain to them again that nappies are only for sleep-time and give them loads of praise for how well they’ve done today.
Potty Train Toddler: Day Three
By day three your toddler should be in control of their own potty training.
You might find that they’ve stayed dry all night – which is brilliant – but don’t be tempted to try nappy-less nights just yet. One step at a time!
Today you’re only going to prompt your toddler to pee or poop at random times in the day. At times when you think it’s been too long since their last successful trip to the loo.
And you’re going to change when you give rewards.
On day three give lots of praise and hugs when your toddler does a pee on the potty or toilet. But only give them a reward when they do a poop.
You should explain this change to them at the start of the day, so they won’t get upset later on.
Doing this shifts the reward to just doing poops, which can be harder for toddlers to master during potty training.
It will also mean that they don’t continue to expect sweets or treats or rewards every time they do a pee.
Lots of praise and cuddles is enough for a pee by day three. Or you might want to say they can have a reward for every third pee on the toilet. Just not every time.
If your toddler does have an accident today, go back to prompting every hour or so. But do not go back to giving treats for every pee.
At bedtime, as on day two, have one last trip to the toilet before putting on their bedtime nappy.
You can explain to them again that nappies are like pyjamas – so just for sleepy-time.
By day four, you should be confident that your toddler will go to the potty or toilet every time they need to pee or poop. If you’re still not sure, go through the same process as day three.
Your toddler should be reliably dry. But, if you leave the house, remember to take a couple of changes of clothes with you just in case.
I would continue not putting your toddler in underwear for another few days. By then they will have forgotten about daytime nappies or pull ups and be used to peeing and pooping on the toilet.
And that’s it! That’s how you can potty train a toddler in under three days.
If you like this post then you might enjoy these to:
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