By the time my oldest daughter was 3, she seemed ready to potty train but still struggled with knowing exactly when she had to go. When my son turned 2, he walked into my room one night and announced that, “Diapers are yucky, and big boys pee in the potty.” From that day forward, he refused to wear a diaper and consistently used the potty with only an occasional accident.
So when is it the right time to potty train your toddler? If you start too soon, you and your child will be frustrated and the process can last much longer than necessary. Wait too long and you may miss the perfect opportunity.
What my husband and I learned after potty training two toddlers is that they will decide when they are ready to use the potty. As parents, we provided all of the tools.
First, we talked about the potty and going to the bathroom. We bought them fun books on using the potty and read to them without pressuring them. Children are naturally inquisitive and have lots of questions about potties and body functions, so talking about using the potty comes naturally to them.
When our children started to tell us that they had soiled diapers, or even better, when they started to tell us when they were about to soil their diapers, we knew it was time to start potty training in earnest. We placed potty chairs in the bathrooms and encouraged them to come in and sit on the potty and chat with us in the bathroom when we washed our hands or used the bathroom. One of our favorite potty chairs came from Ikea, and we loved it because it is a single-piece chair that is easy to clean and has a built-in splash guard.
In our house, story time often involved one of us sitting on the floor while a little one sat on the potty listening. For an active toddler, just sitting in one place for more than a few seconds can be challenging and takes practice.
During these early stages of potty training, our toddlers would sometimes use the potty and would sometimes not be able to. When they had success, we would celebrate with lots of clapping and occasionally a treat like a sticker or an M&M. These victories were really important learning opportunities because we could reinforce what they did right.
As our children became more and more consistent with using the potty, we would encourage them to wear “big girl” or “big boy” underpants. While cleaning up accidents is not fun, the accidents are also important learning opportunities. Feeling wet or messy teaches toddlers to recognize the signs that they need to use the potty. Letting them help clean themselves and take care of their clothes is another step toward being “big.” We never scolded our little ones for having accidents, but kept encouraging them to keep trying.
Potty learning is an exciting stage of childhood, and marks the end of being a baby and wearing diapers. Make your child’s potty training journey as enjoyable for them as possible, and you will be rewarded.