Potty training can begin long before your child sits on one. Learn how to start preparing for potty training with these 8 simple tips.
It’s that time: Your toddler has now reached an age that, for many other kids, means she might be interested in potty training.
Or perhaps you’ve already given potty training a try, only for your child to completely dismiss it. You’ve bought DVDs, books, and potty training accessories—with zero luck. So you decided to wait and try again later, hoping this time she’ll take to using the potty.
You might even have a deadline in mind, from the first day of preschool to a new baby on the way. Having a potty-trained toddler by then would make things so much easier and more convenient.
Either way, you’re ready to start fresh, this time with a clean slate to avoid the power struggles and messy accidents you’d rather avoid.
So, what do you need to do to prepare for potty training?
8 simple ways to start preparing for potty training
I truly believe that one of the reasons potty training “works” for some and not for others is the preparation that goes beforehand. Introducing the potty starts long before you begin, whether you try the three-day method or take the more gradual approach.
Preparing for potty training can make the difference between a reluctant toddler to one who can finally ditch the diapers. And thankfully, this preparation is much simpler than you might think.
Below, I share the steps I took to prepare for potty training and help my kids feel comfortable with this new stage in their lives.
1. Buy a potty and allow your child to feel comfortable around it
The first step is to simply buy a potty and bring it home. Introduce it to your child in a casual and playful manner, not something she should feel anxious or worried about.
In fact, you might even leave it out and let her start the conversation and be curious about it. Allow her to practice sitting on it and to form positive associations with the seat.
I also recommend keeping your potty in the bathroom, rather than as a seat he can sit on anywhere in the house. Unless you’re okay with her peeing and pooping everywhere (and you might, that’s okay), it’s best to set expectations from the start.
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2. Gradually have your child sit on the potty
With your toddler now familiar with the potty, start suggesting that he sit on it from time to time.
He doesn’t even have to remove his clothes or diaper—even sitting on it fully dressed can crumble any hesitation he might have about the potty. Don’t make a big deal if he doesn’t want to sit without his clothes on.
But if he does sit on it naked, it’s also okay if nothing actually comes out. Some days, my son would sit on the potty for several minutes without a diaper, even if no pee ever trickled out—and that’s okay. Get your child used to the potty so when the time comes to actually use it, the seat won’t feel so foreign to him.
3. Discuss how pee and poop come out of bodies
When you’ve been wearing diapers all your life, sometimes the biggest hurdle for toddlers to overcome is the shock of seeing their pee and poop. Plus, the very act of peeing and pooping in a potty is pretty different between going in a diaper and in a potty.
This is a good time to explain his bodily functions. Talk about how pee comes out in front, and the poop from the back. Or that this is his body’s way of staying clean inside. Reassure him that all of these—however new it may be to him—is normal for everybody.
4. Take them with you to the potty
One of the best ways to start preparing for potty training is to take your child with you when you use the bathroom. Depending on your comfort level, you could bring her with you inside while you pee, whether at home or in a stall at a public restroom.
If you don’t feel completely comfortable with the idea, perhaps you can show your child your pee and poop in the toilet after the fact. It might seem gross, but it’s these little things that can better introduce your toddler to using the potty. When her own mom uses it, potties and toilets don’t seem so strange.
5. Buy and hype up undies
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Nothing can inspire using the potty more than getting to use undies. Introduce undies in a fun yet casual way, mentioning that you wear undies since you use the toilet. And more important, she’ll get to wear undies herself, and even help pick some out at the store.
To make undies even more exciting, see if you can find a few pairs with her favorite characters. Sometimes brand names can make for good motivation!
6. Read books about the potty
Children’s books are a fantastic way to discuss topics that might be difficult to understand, including using the potty. By reading other characters in familiar situations, your toddler can begin to draw connections to her own potty use.
My son loved reading the book Potty by Leslie Patricelli and other potty books from the library. Even if your child doesn’t “get” potty training yet, reading about it is enough to introduce her to the concept.
7. Empty a poopy diaper into the toilet
When all her life, her poop had gone straight from the diaper to the trash, it can be hard for your toddler to know why she’s supposed to poop in the potty now.
One simple way to get the message across is to dump her poop into the toilet. Let her know that this is where poop can go instead of diapers. That people who don’t wear diapers anymore don’t have to because the poop can go straight into the toilet.
Obviously, this is easier with a “solid” poop than a messy one, but whenever you can, dump the poop into the toilet before tossing the diaper in the trash.
8. Praise your child for progress
Potty training “success” isn’t just about your child finally peeing or pooping in a potty. Every little bit of progress is worthy of praise.
Maybe that’s when she tells you she has a dirty diaper, or that she has to pee. Or maybe she finally agreed to sit on the potty, even if she insisted on keeping her clothes on. Praise the fact that your child was able to recognize when she has pooped and that she mentioned it to you.
My son was never one to tell us he’s about to pee or poop, but he would tell us when he already did.
Potty training—or as I like to say, potty practice—isn’t an overnight success. Preparation takes place long before potty training in a gradual way to help them master the skill.
Start by buying a potty and allowing your child to be curious about it. Then, have her gradually start sitting on the potty, even if she still has her clothes on. Take her with you when you use the bathroom, explaining that pee and poop go down the toilet. Empty her poopy diapers into the toilet as well.
Buy undies, especially with characters she loves, to motivate her to ditch diapers. Read children’s books about potty training so she can see how other characters deal with it. And finally, praise her for the progress she’s made, however simple those steps may be.
In due time, she’ll be ready to stop using diapers, especially after preparing for potty training all this time.
Read more tips on preparing for potty training and toddler life:
- The Do’s and Don’ts of Potty Training
- How to Potty Train a Toddler in 3 Days
- When You Feel Guilty about Adding to the Family
- How to Run Errands with Kids (And Not Go Crazy)
- Toddler Routines: How to Structure Your Day
Don’t forget: Join my FREE 5-day email mini course, Peaceful Potty Training and potty train without frustrating power struggles: