How to Potty Train your Toddler

By Emi

We potty trained Superman right at two and a half years. He was ready, but just as importantly, I was ready. After a couple months of committing to start potty training, just to delay it another week, I was finally done with toddler diapers, and with a baby in the picture, I was ready to cut down on the cost and the hassle. Superman seemed ready to be a bit more independent too. We started the process, though, almost nine months before this. I shall explain, but first…

A shopping list of what you will need:

  • A training potty like this one:

(We love it because the seat pops off and can then be used on the big potty when he was ready for that transition)

  • A travel potty like this one:

(We love it because it is reasonably priced, folds up small, is light and practical. You can use this thing ANYWHERE… for more details check it out on amazon)

  • Underwear and, if you’re using them, easy-ups.
  • A little basket and collection of books to look at while trying to go. (You can probably put this together from things you already have around the house)
  • A car seat protector like this:

    (for those “i couldn’t wait” accidents)



Getting Ready:

Photo Jun 30, 8 58 16 PM

Step 1: Buy a training potty. Buy it way before you have the intention of actually potty training. Let it sit somewhere in the bathroom if there is room. Encourage your kiddo to sit on it. Make it fun! Talk about the potty, let them see you go (may be weird but it’s good for them to see the process) and act it out with toys (we used to put his stuffed animals on his training potty). The first step is all about not being afraid of the object. I used to even bribe him to sit on it the first couple of times. It’s a strange adjustment for these little guys, but if Superman sat, especially without his diaper on, it was a big deal! He was a little timid about the idea at first.

Step 2. Talk it up. Just a couple of weeks before we really started we talked about the potty A LOT. We acted out going to the potty with Superman’s doll house, we talked about how he was a big boy. This also gave me a few weeks to put it off. For weeks I said “we are going to start potty training tomorrow!” And I constantly came up with an excuse not to. But after a couple of weeks of talking about it Superman showed me he was ready,
using Step 3.

Step 3: Practice sitting. We used the “ease into it” method. I would ask Superman if he wanted to sit, he would always say no, but I would somehow convince him to sit anyway, even if for just a few seconds. Then one day, after weeks of procrastination on my part to make a real grown-up commitment to potty training, Superman peed on the potty!! What!? I was thrilled, and probably did a pretty fabulous happy dance right there in the bathroom. Superman was proud of himself, and ready.

Step 4: Buy the underwear! Before you can make the real “potty training” leap you have to buy underwear, and this should be a fun shopping trip. Skip the online stores and go to a store nearby where your tot can really see what they are buying and take it home immediately. We let Superman see all his choices and let him pick two sets. (Take home and wash before using 😉 )

Step 5: It begins! Ready? Of course not, we never are for those next big steps but here is the thing about potty training, you have to just start, and don’t look back. If you hesitate, give up or give in, it will be a much longer process for you. SO when you are all ready talk it up again the night before, and commit to the long haul starting the next day. One of the best things I read on the subject was not to go backwards – if your tot is in a diaper they will use it. So stick to your guns. When you’re ready to start put the diapers away for good!

The three days of potty training: 

Photo Jun 30, 8 55 59 PM

Day One: The Messy day. 

  • Start the day right, straight to the potty after your tot wakes, and straight into the underwear of their choosing. This is gonna be a long day, so get your coffee!
  • Take your tot to sit and try to use the potty every 20-30 minutes. That is just a starting place, some kids might need more often. For Superman I found it needed to be every 20 minutes to avoid accidents. Every time I waited 30, he peed in his underwear. But 30 might work for you- you will figure it out pretty quick.
  • Get a notebook or scrap paper and keep track of when your tot did or did not go when they sat, and note when they had accidents. That’s the best way to figure out how often they need reminders.
  • Continue this all day. Getting them to sit every 20-30 minutes and noting accidents. And there WILL be accidents, but hang in there. Don’t throw in the towel, just grab it and clean up that mess! Every time your tot has an accident they need to sit on the potty. The tough part here is you need to make sure they understand accidents aren’t ok. Don’t yell, but show them you are disappointed. Remind them they need to pee (or poop) on the potty, not in their pants anymore and escort them straight to the potty to try to go again. If they don’t need to, that’s fine, let them up, but make sure you start the timer again for the next  20-30 minute sit-and-try. For me, it was important that I used language like “oh no” when accidents happened. We used words so that Superman understood accidents needed to be avoided as soon as he could help it. They need to tell you they need to go before it happens.
  • Nighttime training is more difficult (typically) than daytime. We tried doing nap and bedtime in underwear, but he would wake himself up having wet the bed… then he would have a hard time getting back to sleep, so for us we went with easy-ups. After about 6 months he didn’t always need them for nap time. We are taking our time with nighttime, since sleep is another thing we struggle with… so for now easy ups at night work for us.

Day Two: The “ah-ha” day.

  • You will be amazed how quick these kiddos catch on to the idea. I found (as have friends) that by midday of day two our kids really caught on to the idea. We still had accidents, but now Superman was telling me he felt like he needed to go! Usually not with enough time to get him to the potty though (picture me lifting him and running him through the house to the potty, pee dripping… it’s funny now but wasn’t really at the time).
  • Rewards! By day two we started having some successes, so I made sure to reinforce that with sweet treats. Some people say not to, but for us it was the way to go. I kept a container in the bathroom with candy that he could pick from when he managed to tell me before having an accident. He got m&m’s for peeing and an Oreo if he pooped.
  • Some people’s tots have trouble with pooping on the potty. I was very conscious of this being a problem but Superman did fine with it. I was always paying really close attention to when he was trying to poop, having had experience there with him being in diapers… parents you know that look… well keep an eye out for that. I managed to catch it Day Two before he actually went and rushed him to the potty. By that time he really needed to go, so went on the potty without complaint. Worked for us!

Day Three: The light at the end of the tunnel – day.

  • By day three things should be getting much better. You will still have accidents (and you will for months to come too by the way) but by now your tot should get the idea, and be telling you before they need to go, even if they are a little late sometimes. By this point you’ll be glad you stuck it out. There is still work to be done, but by now you should be seeing a lot of improvement!
  • From here on out, just keep it up. You will hopefully be in tune with their rhythm of how long they can really hold it, thanks to your notes. Ask them to sit before there is an accident, or they will tell you they need to go. But remember it’s team work for the first few months. You still need to remind them to try to go throughout the day especially before you get in the car.

General Tips: 

  • Praise Praise Praise!
    Don’t forget to make a BIG DEAL out of it when they go on the potty, especially if they told you they had to go!! You being proud is the best reward they can get! (besides Oreos).
  • Don’t forget, they’ll forget!
    You will need to continue to remind them to go for months to come, especially if they are doing something they are really enjoying. They will still forget to tell you sometimes
  • Going when out and about:
    We take our travel potty everywhere, even if it’s just in the car. We used this same potty in our second bathroom so that he got used to using that one in our own home. They might need some time to get used to going in a plastic bag. It probably feels weird, but once they get used to it this thing is a life saver when you are on the road or somewhere out.
  • Transitioning to a big potty:
    This can be scary for some kids. Just ease into it. We got Superman excited about it by inviting him to go “like mom and dad do”. He loved sitting on the big potty like the grownups. Peeing is another issue… maybe the hubby will do a guest post on that one since I told him it was his territory!

Good luck, and try not to stress about it! There will be messes, but they will learn so much in such a short time!! It will make you proud! If you have any questions or further advice of what worked for you, post it below!

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