Potty training 101

This is my second time potty training. My first time, I potty trained my oldest son at about two years and three months. I read a couple articles online and gave it a go. We had a few messes, but he caught on fast and was fully trained in two or three days. I thought the second time would be just as simple. Everyone told me that the second child is easier because the older one can help and be an example. But this wasn’t the case for us! I tried around the same time with our youngest son, but he just wasn’t ready. I also realized that I should have done more planning ahead.

We had mess after mess after mess. And after days of cleaning everything we own, including both couch covers and rug, I threw in the towel and put the diaper back on. It was clear he wasn’t ready, and I was losing my good humor.

So here we are several months later for round two. I was more tactical this time around and we had much better success. This is what worked for us after I learned from my mistakes:

Training potties and stool

1. Practice.

Get a training potty well ahead of when you want to actually potty train. Introduce your little one to the new potty and ask if he would like to try. Don’t push it if he’s not interested. Having it in the bathroom early gives him a chance to practice and get used to the idea of going in a toilet.

Both my boys started on the training potty and then graduated to a training seat/ring on the toilet, sometimes alternating back and forth. The padded training seat works well especially if your child is small, so he doesn’t feel like he will fall in.

A side note for boys: We started with sitting down and when they became potty pros, they started going standing up. I don’t even recall teaching my oldest to go standing. I think he saw a friend do it and wanted to try too! It wasn’t terribly messy, but I’d hold off until after the training period.

Pictured: Prince Lionheart training seat  |  Fisher Price training potty  |  Mommy’s Helper froggie stool


Potty training 101 - step by step from a real mom

2. Is he ready?

Can he stay dry for a couple hours? Does he want you to change his diaper after he’s wet? Does he give warning before he goes number two? Or ask to use the potty? I don’t think there’s any set list to determine readiness, but believe me, it’s not worth giving it your all if he’s not ready. Do not compare your experience to your friend’s who potty trained her daughter at 18 months. As you very well know, each child is different. Some aren’t ready until after their third birthday.


Plan ahead for potty training

3. Plan ahead.

Plan in advance when you will potty train so you can spend time talking about it to him and plan your schedule to be at home for a few days (the more, the better). You can get some pull-ups for nighttime, treats, and let him pick out big boy underpants.

Potty training checklist

Here are some things to consider getting before you start potty training:

  • potty books or shows
  • small training potty
  • training seat for toilet
  • underwear or training pants (we used five pair the first day, get a couple packs)
  • pull-ups for naps and nighttime
  • treats/stickers/toys (depending on what the child is most interested in)
  • stool
  • loop timer app


Aqueduck Faucet Extender for little hands that can't reach

4. Talk it up.

Explain what’s going on over and over in advance. Talk about how she gets to wear big girl underwear, use toilet paper, wash her hands, and flush. Make it a fun thing.

Pictured: Aqueduck faucet extender


Potty training tv shows to watch on Amazon Prime or Netflix | House Mix

5. Watch a kids’ TV show about potty training.

We have a few potty books, but a couple TV shows seemed to get him more excited about trying. My suggestion is to watch or at least listen to the show when it’s on so you can sing the jingles or interact with him if he tries to recreate one of the scenarios.

Here are some potty episodes you can watch if you have an Amazon Prime or Netflix account:

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

My guy’s favorite by far was Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Prince Wednesday Goes to the Potty/Daniel Goes to the Potty. It’s cute. It has a little jingle the boys like to sing. It’s on Netflix (episode 10) and Amazon Prime (season 2, episode 1).

Blues Clues

Blue’s Clues Morning Music has all the potty essentials. It’s kind of ridiculous to watch as an adult, but kids like it — and that’s who we’re trying to convince all of this is a good idea! It’s on Amazon (season 5, episode 27).

Special Agent Oso

Special Agent Oso takes on mission Potty Royale and helps a preschooler learn to go potty in last half of the episode. They sing and take kids through the steps. It’s available on Netflix (season 2, episode 34).

Peg + Cat

Peg + Cat’s The Potty Problem/The Butter Problem takes us through the six steps of using the potty when Big Mouth monster keeps going on the carpet. This one is probably for kids over age two and a half. It’s on Amazon, but it’s not included with Prime and costs $1.99 (season 3, episode 4).

Dinosaur Train

The second half of this Dinosaur Train episode is about poop and is appropriately named Dinosaur Poop! (and I didn’t add the exclamation). I guess everyone has to do it, so if a dinosaur can get my son talking about going poopy, I’m ok with that. The downside to this episode is that the poop focus is not on the toilet … because they’re dinosaurs. It’s on Amazon (season 2, episode 2), but it looks like that episode is no longer available on Netflix.


Here are some popular DVD choices. (Also available through Netflix on DVD.)



Potty proofing the living room for potty training

6. Mess-proof what you can.

Do you like my living room makeover? After our unsuccessful, very messy first try, I was proactive this time. I rolled back the rugs in our main living space and covered the couches in towels. This might sound a bit dramatic, but I was relieved I had done it when he had accidents in those spaces!

Keep cleaning products and towels on hand and ready to go.


Big boy underpants

7. Replace diapers with big girl/boy underwear.

Show him that the diapers aren’t on the changing table anymore because he gets to wear his new big boy underwear — or be naked, which is a big incentive for some!

I know some people have their little one give their diapers away to a baby or throw them out, but I held onto mine for naps and nighttime. Some kids stay dry during sleep time after getting the hang of potty training, but most kids still have nighttime accidents.

You could also get rid of diapers and advertise new pull-ups, which are a a bit less diaper-like (but FYI they’re also not as absorbent for 12 hours overnight).

Pictured: Gerber training pants (they have light padding for accidental drips)


Potty training books and shows

8. Go potty!

It’s time! You planned. You explained. Diapers are gone and undies are out. Explain the process one more time and remind her that she gets a treat after she goes.

Make up a little jingle or steal one from one of the shows to get her excited about heading to the bathroom. We sing “pee pee in the potty” to the tune of a conga line dance every time we make our way to the toilet. Pretty awesome, I know.

Finally, all those times you were followed into the bathroom pay off, as now he’s had plenty of examples! This is it, there’s no looking back now.


Treats for potty training

9. Make a big deal and give a treat.

Give lots and lots of praise and cheerlead after each visit to the potty. Give praise for dry undies too! Keep talking about what a great job he’s doing throughout the day.

You can give a little treat (something like a sticker or piece of candy) after he goes each time. Then maybe offer something a little bigger for number two, like a cookie or small toy, because this is a bigger struggle.

I also gave him a treat when he sat down but didn’t have to go, just to encourage him to continue sitting on the potty. Big brother got a treat too when he helped show his brother how to go or offered support.

You might have to get a little more creative on day two or three when he’s losing interest or getting frustrated. Switch treats, offer a different prize, allow him to watch his favorite show, or offer to do an activity he loves after he goes.

(In our case, I noticed my kids developed mild rashes from candies with food dye. We switched to stickers and marshmallows and the rashes faded away.)


The first day of potty training, set the timer and take him the the bathroom every 30 minutes

10. Set the timer every 30 minutes.

This is the key to fewer accidents I was missing the first time! The first day, set the timer and take her the the bathroom every 30 minutes, whether she says she has to go or not.

When you turn the timer off, just go ahead and reset it for another 30 minutes so you don’t forget. Otherwise, you will forget, only to be reminded by a little puddle on the floor. I used a free QuickTimer app that allows you to set a loop timer.

I continued to use the 30-minute timer throughout the second day. By the third day he wasn’t having as many accidents, so I set the timer for 45 minutes. On the fourth day I set the timer for 1 hour, but he started tell me when had to go. Hallelujah! It can be tedious, but the timer works because he’ll get plenty of practice and you’ll both feel encouraged with fewer accidents!

You can give her more water throughout the day than normal so she’ll have to go potty more frequently in order to get the hang of it.


Talk about how she gets to wear big girl underwear and use toilet paper and flush. Make it a fun thing.

11. Give it time and listen to your child.

It will take some time for him to recognize the urge to go to the bathroom and get to the toilet in time. After all, he’s been able to go whenever and wherever he wanted in his handy dandy diaper since he was born. Lots of moms say something clicks for kids sometime on the third day. But, of course, it can take longer. It took about four days in our case.

It’s also important to listen to your child. There are lots of variables here, depending on personalities. Do stickers or something sweet motivate him? Is his new big boy underwear or the opportunity to be naked a bigger incentive? (For mine, it depended on the day. But I will say, when he was naked, he was able to use his little potty by himself, without assistance pulling his undies down.)

I also learned that my son didn’t want to be asked right after waking up if he had to potty. For whatever reason, this made him refuse to go. I had learn to give him a few minutes before inundating him with more potty talk.


Be mentally prepared for messes during potty training

12. Pray for patience.

It’s messy. It’s gross. And it’s frustrating. Be mentally prepared for accidents and know that it’s going to happen. Don’t get visibly angry with your child, instead build her up to go in the potty next time. You can ask if she has any more pee pee and encourage her to get on the potty after an accident anyway.

It helps to start the day off with a devotional and spend some time in prayer to keep your focus positive! It’ll come in handy when you’re waiting half an hour for peanut to poop.


Potty training with easy instructions, checklists, real journal and Netflix and Amazon kid shows

A word about poop

While we’re on the pleasant subject, I should note that poop takes them longer to get the hang of. It can take up to a week or so to really get the hang of it and recognize the urge in advance.

What helps:

  • Pay attention to the time of day he goes regularly.
  • Be aware of any grunting, straining noises, or stinkers!
  • Take notice if he goes behind a curtain or hides someplace to do his business.
  • Try not to make it seem like sitting in the bathroom waiting for him to poop is the last thing you want to be doing. Sing a song, read books, ask him questions. Try to make it entertaining.
  • Know at some point you will be cleaning poo out of pants. It will happen, so keep your cool.


Going out of the house

  • After you’ve been home a few days and it’s finally time to go out, be prepared. Bring a plastic bag, wipes, underwear, change of clothes, and even another pair of shoes (where the stream comes to a stop and puddles!).
  • Leave the house as soon as you can after she goes potty to maximize time.
  • You might choose to take your training seat in the beginning.
  • Ask her often if she has to go, or if it has been awhile, just take her to the potty anyway.
  • Make your first trips short and build up.
  • Try to avoid slipping back into the pull-up.


Our potty journal

Keep track of how many accidents you have and hopefully you’ll see decrease each day — even if it’s just a little. Here’s how ours went:

  • Day 1: (timer 30 min) 4 potty accidents, refused to go number two.
  • Day 2: (timer 30 min) 3 potty accidents and 2 small poop accidents. I’m thinking he’s not getting it.
  • Day 3: (timer 45 min) 3 potty accidents. He went poo poo in the potty by himself! But then did another poo beside the potty — almost made it. Two of the potty accidents were at the very end of the day, like he was losing steam as he got tired. We definitely have progress, but I still don’t think it’s “clicked.”
  • Day 4: (timer 1 hour) No potty accidents! He started telling me when he had to go! Finally. He’s starting to get it. A poop in the potty too. I still ask him if he has to go, but so far he’s doing very good.


This time around was a finally success for us! He got the hang of going potty on the fourth day and we’re only using diapers for nighttime.

My biggest mistake the first time was failing to see he wasn’t ready. After seeing that he really was ready this time, the key points for me were keeping the timer going, planning ahead, being consistent, and staying positive.

Do you have any tips of your own? What was your experience?

Potty training with step by step instructions, checklists, real journal and Netflix and Amazon instant kid shows

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3 thoughts on “Potty training 101

  1. i love this post. Thank you for sharing your experience. My son Leonardo is not ready at all and he just turned three 2 weeks ago. I was pregnant last year with our now 8 month old and i heard not to train while your pregnant. I think he might have been more ready cause he told me once that he had to go. I’ve been potty training on and off and he just won’t tell me. He’ll sit there with poop and itch his but and crotch until he has a rash from the poop. it’s hard for me to tell he went cause it doesn’t smell anymore. I’m just sick of diapers and my patience is wearing thin but i have to do this before september. That’s when Pre-K 3 starts and they want me to start by then. how can i get him to tell me he has to go or even to tell me he pooped? does he have to be naked or in underwear to feel it?

  2. Hi Rosalia. I’m sorry to hear about the poop issue. It really does test your patience, doesn’t it? I didn’t have as much experience with the #2 issue as much as the wetting the pants issue, so I’m not sure I have the answers :( I love the Berkeley Parents Network for these kinds of subjective questions, though, for real answers from parents. Here is a link to a similar thread: Child Won’t Poop in the Toliet. Hope it helps. I’m sure it will resolve soon. I’m saying a prayer for you both! xo

  3. This is just what I needed! My baby is turning three in just 3 weeks. Learned a lot! Love your BLOG!!!!!

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