An Overview of Potty Training

Is your toddler ready to potty train? While most parents are thrilled to move on to the diaper-free stage of their child’s life, potty training isn’t as simple as showing your toddler where to sit and how to flush.

Potty training is a major milestone for toddlers and there are typically bumps along the way. Before you dive into potty training, make sure your toddler is actually ready. It will save both you and your child a lot of frustrations.

Once you’ve determined it’s time to train, arm yourself with the essentials, then determine a potty training plan of attack.

When Will My Toddler Be Ready?

Many parents choose to potty train a child at a specific age, such as 18 months or two years old, but that strategy can backfire if a child is not ready. How old is old enough to potty train? Like most things with kids, it depends.

Parents may have heard stories about a potty-trained two-month-old, but many children aren’t ready until after their second birthday. Some toddlers may not be ready for the potty until they are approaching three.

Reaching certain developmental milestones are also key to potty training success. Your toddler will need to have the ability to communicate, be capable of identifying the need to go potty, and have strong enough muscles to get on and off of the potty.

Keep an eye out for signs that your child’s ability to “hold it” has increased. If your toddler has fewer wet diapers, it likely means that their bladder muscles have developed sufficiently.

Perhaps most importantly, make sure your child is showing the desire to use the potty, as well as an interest in keeping dry or clean.

They may also want to wear "big kid" underwear and begin to observe what you're doing when you go to the bathroom.

If they aren’t interested yet, don’t feel like you have to force it. Chances are their interest will be piqued sooner rather than later.

Working With a Caregiver

Babysitters who see your child daily or nannies with years of experience are often the first to notice the signs that your toddler is ready to start potty training.

To successfully potty train a toddler in partnership with a caregiver, communication is crucial. For working parents, it's important to talk to caregivers about your potty training expectations and plans.

An experienced nanny or sitter might be able to provide guidance and even lead the way on potty training. Caregivers who see your child every day are often the first to notice signs that your toddler is ready to potty train.

Whatever the case may be, it's important that everyone commits to the same potty training process. Consistency is key.

If a child is being trained during the week with a nanny or at daycare, don't relax the regime at night or on the weekends. A disruption to the schedule is likely to confuse your toddler and extend the amount of time it takes to train them.

Getting Equipped

If your child is ready to potty train, take some time to make sure you're armed with the right potty training gear before you proceed.

In addition to a potty seat or a seat reducer (or both), you'll want to invest in "big kid" underwear, pants, or other clothing that can be easily pulled on and off. These will help prevent accidents while your child is trying to get to the potty.

Letting your child be involved in the process of choosing these items can heighten their excitement about using the potty. Make your child feel like a big kid by bringing them with you to the store to choose a potty and let them pick out some underwear featuring their favorite characters or color.

Girls vs. Boys

While there are many similarities between potty training for girls and boys, there are some differences and parents should be mindful of them.

It's not uncommon to hear that potty training girls is easier and happens earlier than it does for boys.

In addition, boys typically learn to potty train sitting down like girls, but once they've mastered sitting on the potty, you can transition them to standing up. A decal called a "toilet target" can help boys better learn how to aim.


People choose to go about potty training toddlers in many different ways. The 3 Day Potty Training Method is popular among parents for its quick results.

The 3-day method involves hunkering down at home for—you guessed it—three days and letting your child go diaper-free while you vigilantly take them to the potty.

The process can be stressful and accidents will happen, but many children quickly learn to recognize the signs that they need to go and are able to successfully get themselves to the potty on time.

Other parents choose to potty train over longer periods of time. Whatever you choose, you'll likely want to keep your child on a potty break schedule when you first begin training.

In addition, you might want to consider a reward system for your toddler. Charts or small pieces of candy are often used to keep your little one motivated throughout the process.

Accept that there will be frustrations for both you and your toddler throughout the potty training process. Most children don't master the skill without any hiccups along the way.

Some children may go to the bathroom at home but refuse public toilets. Others may have no problem peeing in the potty but may not want to use it for a bowel movement.

Most toddlers won’t be able to hold it overnight for at least a few months, if not longer. Others will do great for a few weeks or months before experiencing a potty training backslide. While it can be frustrating for you both, there are steps you can take to get back on track.

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