Learn how to potty train twins, from when to start, how to prepare, and what to do when one twin isn’t ready.
Few things felt as glorious as the day I was finally able to toss the changing pad and covers away for good.
My twins no longer wear diapers during the day. I can’t even remember the last time I bought baby wipes.
My twins are officially potty trained.
But the process is a little more complex. You may have your own questions about potty training twins as well. When do you start? How do you know they’re ready? What do you do if one twin is ready and the other isn’t? Is it possible to potty train over the weekend, or is it better to do it gradually?
You may even have been fielding questions from family and friends who ask whether your twins should be potty trained “by now.” And with two toddlers to contend with, typical potty training advice for singletons may not always cut it.
When to start potty training twins
Rest assured, we’ll go over all the details you’ll need to potty train your twins. We’ll talk about how to prepare for potty training, long before you even sit your twins down to a potty. I’ll describe two ways to potty train—a short, three-day method as well as a more gradual one.
Then I’ll share the tips that helped me with potty training, as well as obstacles I ran into. And finally, I’ll give you tips on how to manage your twins when you’re out and about during potty training.
Phew! That’s a lot, but first, we’ll start at the beginning: When should you start potty training?
What age should twins be potty trained?
The window to potty train is wide and varies with each child. Some children use potty at 18 months, while others aren’t potty trained until three- or four-years-old.
When your twins potty train shows no sign of intellectual ability or advancement. A child who learns to use the potty at 18-months-old isn’t more advanced than the one who learns later.
The best gauge? Not age, but readiness. Speaking of which…
What are the signs of potty training readiness?
The best way to know when your twins are ready to potty train is to look for the signs that show they are. But what exactly are these signs? Take a look at a few common behaviors that tell you your child is likely ready to start. He…
- Asks for a diaper change
- Hides in a private place to poop
- Has dry diapers when they would normally have been wet
- Feels or says he’s uncomfortable in diapers
- Can pull his pants up and down
The best way to know when your child isn’t ready for potty training? He cries or resists the process.
Don’t force potty training on your twins. This usually leads to regression, resentment, and inefficiency (it just won’t work as well). If either of your twins cries at the thought of letting go of his diapers, wait a week or two before suggesting potty training again.
Potty training twins together vs at different times
As is often the case, the challenge with having twins is the fact that there are two of them! Unlike singletons or even close-aged siblings, twins are going through similar developmental stages.
So when it comes to potty training, we wonder: Do we potty train them together, or at different times? What do you do when one twin is ready to potty train but the other isn’t?
Potty training twins at the same time can encourage the less-inclined twin to follow suit. Twin A might be more eager than Twin B, but his enthusiasm can encourage Twin B to give it a try as well.
You’re also making it more convenient for yourself, with both twins potty training at the same time rather than one at a time.
But trying to time potty training at the same can also have its drawbacks. Forcing a twin who isn’t ready can lead to struggles and ineffective potty training.
What if one twin is ready to potty train but the other isn’t?
Forcing a willing twin to wait is just as bad: Don’t hold back his desire to use the potty because the other twin isn’t ready.
My suggestion? Even if one twin doesn’t seem as willing or hasn’t caught on as well as the other, offer to potty train at the same time. As we talked about earlier, the less-inclined twin may take to potty training if he sees his twin leading by example.
BUT, if the less-inclined twin starts to cry or shows no readiness regardless of the other twin’s potty eagerness, start with one twin. We need to treat our twins as individuals, not as a unit, especially when it comes to developmental milestones like potty training.
And of course, if both twins resist, then don’t start any formal potty training until one or both are ready.
How to prepare for potty training twins
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Potty training—even if done over a weekend—isn’t something you spring on your twins out of the blue. Preparation starts long before you even sit your child on a potty to pee.
By introducing your twins to the potty, you’re making them more comfortable with the idea of pooping and peeing out of their diapers. Then, as you make your way to get them to use the potty, the idea won’t be so foreign.
Here are a few ways to prepare for potty training:
Buy the potties and let your twins sit and get comfortable on them
Talk about their new potty seat and how they too can start using the potty like mom or dad. Let them sit on the potties, even clothed, to “practice” the motion of sitting down. If they’re willing, they can sit down on the potty with a diaper or even undressed to further get them used to it.
You may have heard to let your twins play with a new, unused potty to get them even more excited about it. This might mean taking it to the living room, putting it on their heads during a silly game, or using it as props for imaginative play.
But I disagree. While you should introduce the potty as an exciting new gear, don’t allow your twins to use them for play. You don’t want to give the impression that they can play with the potty now when you’ll likely not have them play with it when you start potty training.
This is confusing to your twins and unfair to expect them to switch gears all of a sudden. They might even resent potty training as the event that prevented them from being able to play with the potties like they used to.
Instead, make the potty fun, but have your child’s interactions with it appropriate. The potty should stay in the bathroom (or wherever you decide to leave it long-term—I suggest the bathroom for easy clean up).
Read books about the potty
I’m a huge fan of turning to children’s books any time I want to introduce a new concept to my kids. Borrow books from your local library all about using the potty. Kids love looking at different characters and how they interact with potties.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Polar Bear’s Underwear by Tupera Tupera
- Potty by Leslie Patricelli
- Underwear! by Mary Elise Monsell
- The Potty Train by David Hochman
- Animals in Underwear ABC by Todd Parr
- A Potty for Me! by Karen Katz
Introduce (and hype up) undies
Now is the perfect time to buy or introduce undies to your twins, even if they won’t wear them regularly. They understand that adults and big kids wear undies, and will be eager to know they’ll soon be wearing them too.
Start with training pants with thicker protection. These can help your twins transition from diapers to undies much better.
Dump hard poop from diapers into the toilet
Even though it’s more convenient to toss a disgusting used diaper into the trash, if you can, toss the poop into the toilet first.
Let’s say your twin pooped in his diaper, and it’s not too messy. Take him with you to the bathroom and let him see you dump the poop into the toilet. This reinforces the idea that poop can go into the toilet too.
Take your twins with you to the bathroom
If you’re not shy about having an audience, take your twins, even one at a time, with you as you use the bathroom.
For many of us, this is already a recurring theme in our homes, but if not, it’s a good idea to have your twins see you using the toilet. They’ll understand that the potty is for everyone to use, and which is why adults and big kids don’t use diapers.
How many potties do you need for twins?
When I potty trained my twins, I already had an older child whom I had also potty trained. Even though he was an only child, I bought two potties and saved both of them. One was a floor potty he started on, and another was a toilet attachment.
So yes, my twins started off with two potties, but they were different kinds. I didn’t see the need to have two floor potties and two toilet attachments when I already had two to start with.
That said, it did come with its disadvantages, including the inability for whoever was using the toilet attachment to use it quickly. He’d have to climb the step, turn around, then hold onto the toilet seat to stay balanced. The floor potty though allowed for easy access without the need to hold onto anything.
Later, as they outgrew the floor potty, the toilet attachment then became the preferred seat to use. A few times, the twins had to wait or make do with the smaller floor potty when the both had to go.
I decided against buying another potty because both twins rarely needed to use the potty at the same time. Even when we’d walk them to use it every morning, we’d often take them one at a time.
And buy two toilet attachments only if you think your twins will be using two different toilets in your home. Otherwise, you’re likely fine with buying just one.
My best rule of thumb with buying things? Buy as you go. You may find that you’re fine with even one floor potty for now. See whether two is even necessary, or if you’re okay with just one (especially if they aren’t potty training at the same time).
Get two if you do need both, but at least you’ll know after having tried getting by with just one.
I loved both the floor and toilet potties I bought for all three kids, and both are from Baby Bjorn. The floor potty is easy to clean, and the toilet attachment adjusts to different-sized seats:
I also suggest getting a step for the toilet attachment so your twins can learn to step up on their own instead of being carried. Plus, they’ll use a step for an important part of potty training: washing their hands.
How to potty train twins
Now that you know when to start and have even begun to prepare, below are a few ways to potty train your twins. I’ll begin by sharing a general way to potty train, then follow it up with a three-day method as well.
I also suggest transitioning your twins into pull ups. They’re much easier to pull up and down and mimic the same motions of undies in ways a diaper doesn’t.
Create a routine of using the potty
Even if your twins are still in diapers or pull ups, create a routine of using the potty.
For instance, every morning when they wake up, have them sit on the potty to release any pee they may have. Keep doing this, even if they have nothing to pee.
Then, repeat the same process for other transition periods during the day. Waking up and peeing is something you and I do every day, so taking your twins at that time makes sense. You can also take them before or after:
- Taking a nap
- Eating a meal or snack
- Taking a bath
- Leaving or coming back to the house
Not only are you creating a consistent routine your twins can expect, you’re also doing so at moments anyone would likely use the toilet.
Another benefit of taking your twins at regular times is that it increases the chances of actually peeing. You’ll have more chances of them peeing if you take them every few hours than if you do so erratically.
Look for cues that your twins want to pee
Your twins may not tell you that they have to pee. Instead, rely on cues to let you know. Does one child run to a particular corner when he has to poop? Does the other seem anxious or worried? Maybe they tiptoe across the room, or make a dash to their bedroom when they feel an urge.
When you see these cues, don’t ask your child if he has to pee. Take him to the potty and say, “Looks like you have to pee! Let’s try it in the potty.”
And again, if your child resists, even if it results in an accident, don’t be upset. This is all normal, and accidents will happen.
In fact, the number of accidents shouldn’t determine whether your child is catching on or not. They’re going to happen, especially in the beginning. The worst thing parents can do is make a child feel terrible about an accident (it was an accident, after all).
Dress your twins in comfortable clothes
With so much undressing, keep your twins in comfortable clothes. Choose loose elastic pants or shorts they can pull up and down. Avoid buttons or hard fabric like jeans. And dress them in short tops instead of long ones that can get in the way as your twins try to pee.
And since you should expect a few accidents, keep a good stash of clothes ready to switch into when they happen. Keep an eye on your laundry to make sure you don’t need to run an emergency load because you ran out of clothes.
Undies or pull ups?
In the beginning of gradual potty training, you can start with pull ups, especially if you expect a lot of accidents. But eventually, you’ll want your twins comfortable using undies as well.
Once you notice your twins have had dry or drier pull ups, begin putting them in undies, especially if you’ll be at home. Even if the undies will get wet or stained, it’ll give your child a better sensation of what it feels like to have an accident. This will encourage him to let you know when he feels the urge to pee.
How to potty train twins in three days
Potty training your twins at the same time over the course of three days is another option. This can work well if your twins have shown no resistance to using the potty, but aren’t exactly excited about it, either. This method relies on keeping your twins bare-bottomed—no undies, pull ups, or even pants.
By being bare-bottomed, your twins will be aware of their urges to pee, and what happens when they do. Up to this point, they may not even be aware what pee looks like coming out of their bodies, or how it feels to be naked and accidentally peeing.
I explain three-day potty training extensively in another article. Read the three-day potty training process here.
Best practices for potty training twins
Potty training is a process both kids and adults have to go through. Take a look at several best practices to make it a positive and effective experience:
Don’t compare your twins
As you’re probably aware by now, it’s all too easy to compare our twins. But avoid comparing one twin to the other, especially when it comes to potty training. Each child develops differently, and one shouldn’t be made to feel bad because he isn’t catching on as quickly as his brother.
Instead, compare each child’s progress with his own. Praise him for having a dry pair of undies, since last time it was wet. Don’t measure one child’s success against the other’s.
Don’t use rewards
Potty training is notorious for rewards, from stickers to trinkets to toys. I’ve never been a fan of them and find them ineffective.
Sure, rewards might work, especially in the beginning. Kids are mesmerized by the shiny new things they get if they pee or poop. But these new things fizzle, leaving you with either a potty regression, or kids who demand better rewards to keep their work up.
When my eldest began potty training, I’d draw stars on his “pee pee poster.” And while each star kept him motivated initially, after a while, he began to care less about the poster, undoing much of the progress he had made.
When I removed the poster and replaced it with simple praise, he began to show progress once again. So when it was time to potty train the twins, I did away with rewards completely.
Reward charts are especially dangerous with twins, as they see a visual gauge of how they stack up against each other. While some enjoy friendly competition, many children can feel discouraged if they aren’t catching on as well as their sibling.
Praise their effort
Instead of rewards, use praise, but in a smart way.
First, it’s okay to reduce the amount of praise you give, especially once your twins have begun to master potty training. For instance, you shouldn’t have to keep praising a six-year-old for peeing every time. It’s only natural to stop praising once they get a hang of it.
And praise for effort, not just for a successful pee. This means you praise your twins just as much for trying to pee as you would for actually peeing. You should praise your twins when they:
- Sit down to pee, even if nothing comes out
- Tell you they have to pee
- Tell you they have poop in their pull up
- Go to the bathroom, especially on their own initiative
- Wear undies instead of pull ups
- Pull their pants up and down
Don’t give your twins a deadline
With so many preschools only accepting potty-trained kids, it’s tempting to give your twins a deadline. As much as possible, don’t. Everyone develops differently. Your child may not be ready to potty train at two-years-old, even if other kids—or even his twin—can. Putting deadlines on kids only makes potty training more stressful.
Sure, you could introduce potty training early enough to get them used to it. But don’t get upset if they don’t take to it as smoothly as you had hoped for, or by the time you needed them to. Encourage potty training, but always follow their lead.
Don’t punish for accidents
Our patience for accidents is pretty high in the beginning. We’ve braced ourselves for the worst, we knew they’re bound to happen.
But after a while, that patience begins to wane. We get tired when they keep making the same “mistakes,” when they don’t seem to listen, or when we’ve just about had it with cleaning up yet another mess.
As much as possible, don’t give your twins a hard time about accidents. This is not only unfair, it also makes them feel bad about something they may have no control over yet.
This doesn’t mean you’ll be chipper about every accident. You can feel and express disappointment, but don’t blame your twins for accidents that are only normal and expected.
Even if your twins have had a great run, don’t give them a hard time when an accident happens. I’d lose my temper during those times especially. I assumed they should know by now not to have accidents, so when one would happen, I’d get upset.
But they’re human, like you and I are. Imagine if someone got on our case for every mistake we made, even though we “should’ve known better.”
Be patient, especially with the potty training process. Nothing is ever as clear as day and night with kids.
Come prepared when you’re out and about
Eventually, you’ll brave the outdoors and take your twins—in undies!—to an outing. Whether it’s a quick walk to the park, or an errand to run, come prepared with your potty training tools:
- Extra shirts, pants, undies, socks and pull ups
- Baby wipes to wipe any messes
- Dirty towels and rags
- Plastic bags to toss wipes and diapers or contain soiled clothes
- Hand sanitizer
Whew! We covered a lot. Potty training twins is possible, especially when you know when to start and how to find the cues that signal your twins are ready. Treat each twin individually and encourage potty training only when they’re ready, even if you potty train at different times.
Even long before you decide to start, introduce potty training and prepare your twins for the process so the concept doesn’t seem foreign. And follow best practices to make the experience not only effective, but a positive one as well.
Get more tips:
- Simple Strategies to Take Toddler Twins Out Alone
- How to Encourage Twin Individuality
- How to Avoid Excluding Your Non-Twin Child
- What Potty Training Products Will You Need for Twins?
Tell me in the comments: What are your biggest concerns with potty training your twins?
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