Potty Train Your Toddler in 3 Days – the Easy Way!
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You made it through the sleepless nights, starting solid foods, and learning to crawl, then walk. Next on the toddler to-do list: potty training.
When our oldest was still in diapers, I didn’t give much thought to the idea of potty training – like, maybe if I didn’t think about it then maybe I wouldn’t actually have to do it. I had absolutely no idea how to potty train a toddler, and I was pretty sure I didn’t want the job. But, since I am the mom and the one home all day with the toddler, I got the job anyway.
Up until just before his second birthday, potty training wasn’t even on my radar. I knew kids potty trained at all different ages, and everyone told me that boys potty trained later than girls (and that they were much harder to train than girls). And that was the extent of my potty training knowledge.
So about 2 months before his second birthday I was talking to a friend, and she mentioned that she was going to start potty training her little guy – which got my wheels spinning on when I would start with my little guy. She said she was going to shoot for having him fully potty trained in 3 days – and I thought she was insane. When I asked her how she was going to do it, she filled me in on all the potty training tips and tricks she had picked up from other mom friends.
I looked into it more later and found that (according to some), just before a toddler’s second birthday is the perfect time to potty train. They’re old enough to be capable of using the bathroom instead of a diaper, and still young enough that they really want to please you – a good combination for potty training! So I opened my calendar and set a date to start.
I was actually not at all confident that potty training a 22 month old in three days would even work, so I hardly told anyone what we were going to attempt. But if there was a chance it could be done, I figured we’d give it a shot – we really had nothing to lose but the diapers. And since Baby #2 was due to arrive a few months later I loved the idea of only having one in diapers.
So here’s what we did:
Armed with advice from all the moms who had gone before us, I narrowed it down and really tried to focus on 2 main things:
- Making it a really positive experience
- Giving him a lot of liquids so he’d have plenty of chances to actually go potty
Toddlers love to play games and have fun, so I wanted to make this fun and exciting for him. It’s important to keep it as positive as you can by not saying they’re bad or naughty for having an accident, and not acting frustrated (it’s ok to be frustrated, as long as you don’t act frustrated!) with them when they miss the bathroom again. Potty training is frustrating. It just is. But they’re learning something new, and it’s up to you to help them and set them up for success – and that starts with your attitude toward it. Be their biggest cheer leader.
Pick a time on your calendar when you can be at home for 3 consecutive days. This may take some planning if you work outside the home or have other kids at home to take care of. Do what you can to clear your schedule for those three days so you can stick close to your potty trainer the whole time he or she is awake. It’s intense, I know. But at the end of the 3 days you will be free of diapers, and it will be worth it!
Once you have your potty training days on the calendar, it’s time to stock up on supplies for the big event. Buy some fun undies that your potty trainer will be excited to wear – I recommend having about 20 pairs on hand. That’s a crazy lot, but the first day you might go through them all and not have a chance to stop for laundry. It’s expensive, but think of all the money you’ll be saving by not buying diapers anymore! I stocked up on a few different sizes of underwear, so once we were finished potty training we didn’t have 20 pairs that were all the same size. This way he could grow into them and it felt less wasteful to me. Do what works for you.
Don’t bother buying any Pull-ups. I think these usually just become a crutch (more for the parent than the toddler) and actually make the potty training process take longer. It’s too easy to reach for one to use instead of underwear, especially if you’ll be out of the house for the day. I think it sends mixed signals to kids that some times they’re a big kid and sometimes they’re a baby, and it’s confusing for them. But that’s just my 2 cents on the topic.
Buy a potty seat and a step stool so your potty trainer can reach the toilet on their own. I’ve never been a fan of the little potty chairs that sit on the floor and have to be emptied and cleaned up after every use. We have always used the style that fits right on the regular toilet seat. Keeps the mess in one place and using the real toilet makes them feel like a big kid. We also got a portable potty seat to take with us when we were out of the house.
You’ll want to have plenty of paper towel, Clorox disinfecting wipes, old towels and carpet cleaner on hand for cleaning up accidents. Get a plastic mattress cover to protect their mattress in case of an accident during a nap or in the night.
The key to potty training in 3 days is to give your little one the chance to use the bathroom a lot. So plan on giving him lots of liquids during the day. Think outside the box and make it fun. You might try:
Anything that will make them run to the bathroom over and over is what you need! We always started our potty training days with lots of milk and water – when he got tired of that we switched to more fun options. We don’t usually do a lot of sweets at our house, so being offered juice, jello and popsicles was an extra special treat that he never turned down.
So, you’ve picked a 3 day stretch of time and put it on your calendar. You bought the undies. You stocked up on potty training supplies and fun, liquid treats.
The day has arrived, and you’re ready. Now here’s what you do:
As soon as your tot wakes up in the morning greet him (or her) with a new pair of fun underwear and a t-shirt. Go easy on yourself and skip the pants – less to clean up later! 🙂 While you’re helping him put on his new undies, tell him what a big kid he is and that he doesn’t need diapers anymore. Have him take his diaper to the garbage and throw it away. (Congratulate yourself, too. You are all done with diapers now – phew!)
You’re going to stick close to his side, so give him something to drink and wait. You might pick a spot to play on the floor that is near a bathroom, or somewhere in your house that isn’t carpeted to make cleaning up accidents easier. Watch your toddler closely. Usually before he starts going potty he will stop what he’s doing or playing with and get very quiet and still. The more you watch and learn his signs, the faster you’ll be able to run him to the bathroom when he starts to go potty.
As soon as he starts going potty in his undies, rush him to the bathroom and say, “Uh oh! Let’s go potty in the toilet!” Sit him on the potty, and give him the chance to finish going potty there. Remember, this is brand new to him, so make sure to keep it positive! If he even gets a little bit in the toilet be sure to celebrate! Tell him how proud you are and what a big boy he is. Call grandma and let him tell her what he did. Let him overhear you tell daddy on the phone how he went on the potty and what a big boy he is. Make his success a big deal. We always celebrated with a small treat like an M&M.
Put on dry underwear, give him something to drink, and start the process over again. It makes for a long day, but when you keep the end goal in mind it really is worth it!
Remind him often during the day to let you know if he has to go potty. This gives him the control (something toddlers like more than candy) and helps him take some of the responsibility for using the bathroom. It also sounds better than asking, “Do you have to go potty???” a hundred times a day. They get annoyed of that pretty quick! Rephrase your question as a subtle reminder so he can be thinking about it and help him take charge of things.
For the most part, your toddler with probably love having you by his side all day – mine did! Make sure to plan some different activities to make things fun for him – and to keep yourself from going stir crazy. Building with blocks, playing with trains, doing puzzles, coloring, & play doh were some of our favorite potty training activities – anything that keeps you close to the bathroom!
Nap time. Potty training doesn’t end at nap time! Lighten up on the fluids about an hour before nap time. Take your toddler potty before you lay him down and encourage him to keep his undies dry while he sleeps. Remind him what a big kid he is and how proud you are of him.
Same goes for bed time. At our house, we start to limit how much the boys drink for 2-3 hours before bedtime. This gives their system time to process what they’ve already had to drink and help them make it through the night dry. We don’t eliminate drinking, but we do limit it. I try to make sure they get all of the water their bodies need during the day so they aren’t as thirsty at bed time.
If you hear him moan in his sleep it could be a sign he has to go potty. Keep the lights dim or turned off and you should be able to quietly take him to the bathroom without him waking up too much. I also got in the practice of taking our boys to the bathroom one more time before I went to bed, between 10:00-11:00. They usually slept right through me taking them potty, and this gave them an extra chance of waking up dry in the morning.
If you follow these steps for 3 consecutive days, you’ll be diaper free before you know it! It’s not always easy or fun, but it’s a huge accomplishment – for both of you! It really is a special time to celebrate what a big kid your baby is becoming.
I am still amazed at how well this potty training process worked with both of our boys!
With our oldest, we finished out day #1 of potty training with 13 accidents. Day #2 he had 5 accidents, and by day #3 he was fully potty trained day and night, and almost never had an accident after that.
I really think the ticket was potty training them when they were still very young. They were both fully potty trained before their second birthdays. Looking back now I see how young that is, and I think it’s even more amazing.
Spend 3 days of one on one time with your toddler in exchange for a fully potty trained big kid. Go for it! You (both!) can do it!!