It’s funny.  As parents we want our kiddos to grow up, become independent and continue on to be contributing members of society.  That is, until it’s easier for us to not let them grow up and become independent.  Parenting is hard, as is growing up.  It’s a painful process for us all, potty training included, which is why I hope you will find this Potty Training guide as helpful as it can be.

I knew when I found out I was pregnant with our second, that I had a few things on my checklist to accomplish with our son before our new addition arrived.  The first was moving him out of a crib into a big boy bed since we ultimately are having to use the crib for our new baby girl.  The second was swim lessons over the summer.  The third, and most important, was to potty train him before his baby sister arrived.  I had a rule in my mind that I didn’t want to pay for diapers for more than one child at one time.

The first two things on our list happened quickly and easily without much effort, but the third loomed in the balance as the summer started to come to a close.  We had travel plans, daycare plans and life plans that always seemed to “get in the way” of starting the actual task of potty training our two and a half year old.  After looking at the calendar, I finally found about a 5 day window that I could commit to being 100% “in it to win it”.  No big plans, just me, the toddler and the potty.

I will honestly say, the whole thing went and has continued to go very, very well.  I have heard many success stories, but also many horror stories. I can say from experience that I wholeheartedly believe that every child is different, interest is different than readiness and taking the time to do prep work ahead of time is invaluable.  

Top 10 tips that helped us during our adventures in potty training


1.  Do lots of prep work (for you and your kiddo)!

We did a lot of  work prior to actually starting the process of potty training.  I found a potty at Goodwill waaaaaaay back when for about $3.  Everett was maybe 15 months old and I just put it in the bathroom so he could see it.  He could walk and was starting to build his vocabulary, saying quite a few words at this point and we just incorporated the word “potty” in our nightly bathroom routine.  When he got a little older we just incorporated sitting on the potty for a few seconds before getting in the bathtub to start building familiarity.  We would also let him watch us go the potty so he started to gain an understanding of what the process looked like.


I also started ordering/buying a few potty books around this time.  We didn’t read them every day, but we did start incorporating them more and more as he got older and more interested.

Watch a snippet of the video here!

As far as videos go, I know Potty Time with Elmo is a favorite among a lot of moms and toddlers during the prep time, but we found great success with Daniel Tiger.  Our son looooves Daniel Tiger and when we found a potty episode we downloaded it on the iPad for our summer trip (knowing that we were going to start potty training soon after our return).  He loved it and I think it really helped.

Personally, I also loved reading other blogs of moms who had been through the potty training process (which is one of the reasons why I am writing this one).  I am all about real world experiences, what worked, what didn’t and what could have been better. Here are some of the ones I read leading up to “the big day”.

I would also recommend calling on some your own momma friends that have been through the trenches and ask them for their advice.  Thankfully I have some really great friends that were more than willing to be upfront and honest.

2.  Let them pick out their own new underwear.


 I know my little guy is very much into being independent. Everything is “I can do it.”, “Can I do it myself?”, “No, I don’t need help!”. So letting him pick out his own underwear was right up his ally. We made a special trip to Target 2 days before we were going to say buh-bye to diapers so he could pick them out. He was so excited when we got home, he wanted to look at each pair individually and immediately asked to put them on.  Thomas the Train was the pick and are still his favorites.

3.  Move the potty into your most frequently used hang out areas in the house (in the beginning). 

The first couple of days we had the potty in our family room. This is like command central in our house and where we spend most of our time when we are at home. That way, when we would practice going on the timer every 20 minutes to start (Day 1) or anytime he said he needed the potty it was literally a stone’s throw away. After a couple of days of training, and once he got better and better at telling us in enough time that he had to go, I moved it into the actual bathroom.  However, hands down, having the potty so close in proximity to where we were was a savior in the beginning and offered great opportunity for successes vs. failures/accidents.  I would even move it into the kitchen during meal times…the potty literally followed us wherever we went.


4.  Live in underwear only.

Once we actually started the process, when we were at home during potty training boot camp, Everett was in underwear only.  Not only was he SO CUTE in his undies, but it was easy to pull them down and not have to mess with two layers when I heard the “I need to potty!” call.  Again, setting yourself and your kiddo up for success vs. failure is key in the process (in my opinion).

5.  Offer incentives, prizes or treats for progress.

I know there are many mixed opinions on this topic.  Some people say to offer no incentives and attack potty training as an expectation, others believe in non-edible incentives and discourage the use of food as a “prize”, and some parents say use whatever you deem appropriate.  I say, know your kid, know what words for said kid and make your own decision.

The first day I had a table full of “prizes”, both edible and non-edible.  Here’s the thing.  I don’t go to work for free, I expect something in return, eh hem, a paycheck.  So I am not above offering a reward when my little guy is working hard (in the beginning, before it is considered an expectation).  He loves candy; so bite sized candy was right up his ally and worked well during days 1 and 2.  During those times every time he did anything in the potty we would celebrate with a treat.  As he got better at it, he had to do more to get a treat (make it to the potty WITH dry underwear, no drips for example).  The treats weren’t always just a given, it definitely got harder and harder to earn them as the process progressed.

6.  Move the potty in the bathroom.

We moved the potty into the real bathroom around day 3-4.  Everett was still living in underwear, but had the process down enough to be able to tell us in enough time that he had to go. He still would run to the bathroom, but could make it in time and was so proud of himself.  We made this a big deal and treated it like the next step in actually becoming a “big boy” since mommy and daddy don’t use the potty in the family room, he shouldn’t either.

7.  Venture out into the world of public restrooms (but have your sanitizer ready!) and teach the importance of hand washing.

We ventured out for a few (short) trips out and about after the first day.  We actually went to lunch the second day of potty training and made it there and back without any accidents.  The key to public appearances is trying to go to the potty right before you leave, and asking when you get to the store.  I would limit your time at first to increments of 45 minutes to an hour and then lengthen your trips as your kiddo gets better and better at telling you when he/she has to go.


Everett loved/loves going into public restrooms and seeing the differences in all of them (in all of the different stores/restaurants we frequent).  He also loves the acoustics and hearing his echo, so he’s always game when it comes to using a public restroom.  He’s also obsessed with washing his hands and has to sing his ABCs when lathering (I taught him to do that so he would at least spend a decent amount of time getting the suds going before sticking them under water and washing nothing).


8.  Nap time and Nighttime 

I must say that this was the scariest part for me.  We kept Everett in diapers for the first week of naptime and would talk to him before naptime about keeping his diaper dry and would praise him immensely when he woke up with a dry diaper.  We celebrated (usually with a popsicle) and tried naptime with underwear after about 5-7 days of consistently dry diapers.

Nighttime took a little longer, but we went with the same approach.  We also told him that if he woke up in the middle of the night and had to go he could call for us and we would come and help him.  He did this a few times (even when he was still in his diaper) and it worked well.  We tried sleeping in underwear at night about 2 weeks after initially potty training him during the day and after about a week of dry diapers.  He didn’t want to be in diapers at all anymore which helped out immensely.


9. Wherever you go, the potty goes.

I have to tell you that I swore I was not going to be that mom.  The one that carries the potty in the back of her car.  But I was, and still am at times.  Here’s the thing.  If you are going to one store and then back home, you probably will be fine.  But we found ourselves going on long road trips (2+ hours) and places like the beach with no public restrooms.  Soooo, again, when it comes to setting your kiddo up for success, take the potty.  You won’t be sorry.



10.  Get ready for accidents.

They will happen.  They will happen juuuuust when you think your little one has got it down pat.  Small regressions are normal and natural.  We continue to talk to Everett anytime they do happen, which for the most part isn’t much these days.  We have turned on the Daniel Tiger Goes to the Bathroom as a refresher and offered incentives again when we feel like they’re needed.  A little ice cream for a dry bed in the morning doesn’t sound like a bad deal to me…and doesn’t to him either, especially if I don’t have to change the sheets.


Just remember, potty training is a process that will become a habit…but it takes time.  Know your kiddo, decided if they are ready and be sure to celebrate EVERY little thing.  Always do your best to be consistent, patient and loving and everything else will fall into place. Best of luck to all of you mommas out there who are about to tackle this crazy ride of a beast!




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