Has ANYTHING ever been more Googled than “how to potty train a toddler?!” I feel like being pregnant, working, building a house and being a toddler mom makes for a realllllly hectic life already so the idea of adding potty training to the mix seemed really daunting for the longest time, but in hindsight, I had nothing to worry about. Once I mentally prepared myself, I carved-out a long weekend while Tim was away and we had no plans and Leni was potty-trained in just TWO DAYS and has barely had an accident since. I will admit that there are few things more humbling than potty-training a toddler, but when it’s done, it’s a pretty great feeling and Leni is SO proud of being a big girl (she wants to show everyone her undies… we’re still working on that ha), my heart could just melt.
This is one of those situations where timing is everything. I wasn’t in a huge rush to teach her because diapers are actually super convenient when you’re constantly on-the-go like us, but knowing that our baby boy is coming in a few short months, I definitely wanted her to be potty trained well before that so I don’t have two babes in diapers at once. It seems like there are two mind-sets for potty training: do it super early (like 16+ months) and get them slowly used to it over a few months wearing pull-ups during the day as they begin to understand, or rip off the band-aid and go cold turkey on diapers when they’re old enough to fully understand the concept and never look back. I knew right away that I was on Team Cold Turkey because I do NOT have time (or patience) to have Leni partly potty trained for months, as cool as it is to have your 18 month old out of diapers (kudos to those parents with Super Babies!!). So, I decided to wait until she showed interest and could communicate enough where she understands what she’s supposed to do. In saying that, I’m sure there are a lot of genius babies who are 100% potty trained at like 6 months or something so I am not discrediting that, but that was definitely not in Leni’s cards.
I’m not an expert by any means, but since I have successfully potty-trained one human, I feel like that makes me credible enough to blog about it… right? So ready or not, here are my TOP 10 TIPS for Potty Training your toddler:
Tip 1: Commit to at least 3 days at home with no plans. The biggest issue when finding a good time to potty-train Leni was finding three days in a row where we could stay home. I’m not going to lie, the first two days can be kind of rough. Accidents, clean-ups, constantttttly running to the potty but making sure we didn’t have any car rides or distractions definitely made it easier to focus on the task at hand.
Tip 2: Make a “Potty Chart”! I drew mine by hand but I attached an example at the bottom of the blog in case you want to print this! Basically every time Leni pees on the potty, she gets to put a sticker on one of the spots in the chart and once she gets to the end of the chart, she gets to pick out a prize from a bowl. She also got a single M&M along with the sticker and it was like she won the jackpot.
Tip 3: Get ALL the treats. I try to save bribes for special occasions when I really need Leni to listen, but in this case, I basically bought-out Target with all the Moana/Elsa/bracelets/bubble wands/stickers I could find to get Leni excited about using the potty. I kept a bowl on the counter and if she reached the end of her potty chart (see below!) it was prize time. I also got her a BUNCH of “big girl undies” from Target with her favorite Disney Characters on them and she loves choosing out which pair she wants to wear.
Tip 4: Drink, drink, drink: If your toddler isn’t drinking enough fluids, they won’t need to use the potty as often and it will take that much longer for them to get the hang of it. So I gave Leni all sorts of juices that she doesn’t normally get so she was well-hydrated and had lots of potty opportunities.
Tip 5: Skip the potty and go straight for the grown-up toilet. Honestly, this is a personal preference but the idea of constantly cleaning out a small potty for months/years makes me want to gag, so I invested in a step stool (ummm how cute is this!?) for Leni to reach the toilet on her own, plus this potty seat so she feels more secure and taught her to use the toilet right from the start. She loves to flush it and I don’t have to wipe potty bowls 24-7 so it’s a win-win all around.
Tip 6: Get a car potty. Although I don’t believe in potties (refer to Tip #5) I do think there’s a time and a place for them. I have this car potty that stays in the trunk of my car and it’s used on long car trips, at our build-site or when we’re somewhere where the public toilets are just too gross to handle Leni touching everything. Since she’s used to the normal toilet at home, she had no problem using this one when we’re on the go.
Tip 7: Get waterproof pads. My friend told me about these and although Leni has yet to have an accident on them, they are good for peace of mind. During the first few days of potty training, I put these under Leni if she was sitting on the couch or on the carpet just in case she had an accident. I still put one under her in her carseat because it’s a lot easier to switch these out than to wash her entire car seat if she pees in it while I’m driving.
Tip 8: Be patient, supportive and give yourself (and your toddler) some grace. This tip doesn’t need much of an explanation but potty training Leni on my own was exhausting. It takes a lot of energy and patience and enthusiasm (yay, let’s do another potty dance!) and frustration but I kept reminding myself that this is brand new to Leni and we’re both doing the best we can. Deep breaths, mama.
Tip 9: Set a timer for every 30 minutes. For the first three days, I set my iPhone timer to go off every 30 minutes and whenever it rang, Leni knew it was time to try to use the potty. 30 minutes comes quick, so this timer was a great reminder for both of us if we were busy doing something else. After three days, I stopped using the timer but I kept reminding her to go and after a week or so, I barely had to ask her anymore because she tells me when it’s time.
Tip 10: Drink wine. I don’t actually have a 10th tip, so this seemed like an appropriate way to end the tips because you better believe you will want a big glass of something after tackling this!
After talking to some of my experienced mama friends and combining all of their best tips and tricks into a solid plan (because mamas: this is not one of those parenting things we can go into blindly) I feel like the potty-training season of my life went as smoothly as it could have! Leni still wears a pull-up for her naps and during the night–but during the day, my big girl is killing it and that’s a challenge that I will tackle some other time.
My sweet mama friend, Erin, also recently started a blog and I have a ton of respect for her expert parenting so I am a regular on her site. She is a nurse, a mama of three amazing kiddos and one of the sweetest, Christ-loving people on earth. She was a huge help when it came to potty-training questions, so if you want to check out her potty training blog, click here! I also linked some other products to start your potty-training journey below.
When did you potty train your littles, or are you still waiting to start?! Share with us all below–I really hope to make this website a great place for everyone reading it to make their lives a bit better and easier, and who needs that more than parents or caregivers?!
(Photo credit to my girl, Jennifer Wilson Photography!)