Potty Training in 3 Days: The Step-by-Step Plan

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So, now you have successfully introduced your toddler to the potty and there is more than a mere passing acquaintance between them. You should have a collection of useful items that will help you through the next couple of weeks; potty, numerous pairs of cheap underwear, flushable wipes and so on. For a better list, go back and look at  When Is Toddler Ready For Potty Training.

Stage One – Preparation

At first, you will just prepare your toddler for the following week. As to how long potty training will take depends on how your child reacts to the potty and how consistent you are. After this preparation stage, a toddler can be potty trained after just one week. However, the preparation stage must come first if greater success is to follow. Stage one can last for one to two weeks but there is no rush. It best to get your toddler happy with what they are doing before moving to the next level.

Nappy Off Time

In stage one of potty training, it is all about familiarisation and getting your toddler used to using their potty or the toilet as a matter of routine throughout the day. Start by getting them to sit on their potty, without their nappy, as you run their bath. Limit this time to 5 – 10 minutes and if they manage to produce something in that time give them lots of praise and make a fuss. Make them feel good about what they have done.

If this goes well and they are happy to sit on the potty at bath times, do the same after breakfast when they are going to get changed from their pajamas into their clothes. Another good time to continue this routine is when they awake from a nap in the daytime. As they get used to sitting on the potty with no nappy and hopefully producing some results, your toddler will show all the signs that they are ready for stage two. This is a seven-day plan, which is an easy to follow a routine for one week that will get most, if not all of the potty training in place.

Stage Two – The Seven Day Plan

A note on hygiene: It is important to remember hygiene; frequent cleaning of potties and toilets so that your child is less vulnerable to bugs and bacteria. It is also important to remember how to wipe after a pee or a poop and to teach your child how to do it; girls must wipe from front to back. At first, they will need you to do most of it for them but as time passes they will become more independent and be able to do this bit for themselves.

The idea of potty training is to teach your child how to recognize when they need a pee or a poop, where to do it and how to do it unaided. It is also about getting them into regular underwear and dispensing with the security of nappies (as well as the cost!). So, with this in mind it is now time to use regular underwear at all times of the day; nappies are now only for nap time and for sleeping at night time.


Day One

On day one, as soon as breakfast is over get your toddler changed into their ‘grown-up’ underwear. If the weather is suitable or your house is nice and warm, it could be a good idea to leave clothing on the bottom half off for the first couple of days. This will make it a lot easier when the time comes, as there will be less to remove in a hurry in order to get on that potty quickly.

Explain that they can now wear big boy or big girl underwear and continue to involve them in what you do when you visit the bathroom. Take them with you and sit them on their potty as you tell them what you are doing as you do it. Everything must now be calm and relaxed as they begin to progress.

For the first day or two, your child will need frequent reminders to use their potty. By getting them to use it often there is more chance of getting a result, which will be followed by praise and recognition of what is required. When we started our daughter (just over two years old) was sat on her potty for up to 10 minutes at a time every 15 – 20 minutes.

Bear in mind that most toddlers and young children don’t like sitting still for too long. Therefore, it is useful to have a collection of books or a CD player for stories while they sit. If you can keep them occupied and distracted for long enough it will help them and you. Sit or lie on the floor next to them and sing songs or talk. Don’t leave them alone; be a part of this with them and give encouragement.

When moving from room to room you should take them and a potty with you. I can guarantee that as soon as you leave them alone for just a couple of minutes you will return to find a puddle and an upset child. See what I mean about being prepared first? You will need lots of underwear and patience for them in the first week.

There will be accidents and it is likely you may feel disappointed. Please don’t be, it doesn’t mean they or you have failed, it simply means they need haven’t quite got the idea yet. After all, they have only been doing this for a day. If your toddler has an accident don’t make a fuss, clean them, change them and encourage them; they still have their big boy or girl underwear and they are they are still a clever boy or girl when they sit on their potty.

Many parents find that using a sticker chart or a reward chart useful during potty training. This way you can keep track of progress, while at the same time allowing your child to feel good about themselves when they are rewarded for a good job. Each time they sit on the potty they could get a sticker. Then each time they do a pee or a poop they get a different star that is bigger or a different color. The point here is praise, praise and more praise. Oh, and still a lot of patience…

Day Two

After a full day of regular potty use and hopefully more successes than accidents, the second day will gradually change into you not telling your toddler to sit on the potty at regular intervals. Instead, you will now be regularly asking them if they need to sit on the potty. This will develop their mental awareness and a responsibility within them, so they begin to recognize when they need to use the potty instead of being told.

It is likely there will still be accidents but it is not a sign that they are not ready to progress and it is important to remain positive and reassuring to your child. Don’t make a fuss and don’t be negative around them as this will highlight their failure and really not help at all.

Day Three

Now you are hopefully in the swing of this and you are ready for your first outing without a nappy. Over the past two days, you may have noticed a pattern as to when your child pees or poops. Maybe you kept a second chart to show their progress for your benefit. Any developing patterns will help you recognize and plan your first trip out.

It doesn’t have to be a long outing; maybe just a short visit to a friend’s house, or a trip to the local store. Whatever you decide, make sure they use their potty before you leave the house. Get them to sit for up to 10 minutes so that an accident while out and about will hopefully be avoided. Consider going with them and tell them that you are going to sit on the toilet for a pee before you go out as they do the same.

In planning for your trip out prepare enough things to take with you should you have to deal with any mishaps. It is advisable that you take with you more than one change of clothing, wipes and a plastic bag or two that you can put wet or soiled clothing into.

Take their potty with you, or even better, a travel potty. Maybe if you only do a few short journeys a travel potty won’t be worth getting. However, we use one when on the go because it is more convenient and easier to carry than a regular potty. Above all, don’t give in to the temptation of putting a nappy back on them when you go out. It may be reassuring for you but it will almost certainly be confusing for them.

Moving Forward

By this point, you should be progressing nicely and your toddler will be starting to use their potty without constant prompting. Our daughter became very aware of using hers and would tell us she needed it every time. There will still be some accidents but it is perfectly normal, so don’t be disheartened.

You can now expect your toddler to alert you most times that they want to use their potty and may even be using your chosen words to call out. As they go through the week they will develop some bladder control and will be able to hold on for longer before getting to the potty. This means you can now put the potty nearer and nearer to the bathroom so your child gets used to going to the bathroom for a pee or a poop. When this becomes the norm you can start to use the toilet instead of the potty.

As you go through the last few days and your child has developed their bladder control and awareness, you should start to rely on them more; telling you when the potty is needed, rather than constantly reminding them. If you continue to remind them too much they will take a step backward and become reliant on your prompts again.

Accidents may occur from time to time, especially when your toddler becomes engrossed in something or they get over-excited. So monitor them well and look for signs that they may need a prompt.

The advice given in this article is based on two very good books that we came across called – Potty Training in One Week, by Gina Ford (see it here) and Potty Training in 3 Days: The Step-by-Step Plan for a Clean Break from Dirty Diapers. (see it here)  What I have written is just a small part of what is involved and the book contains many more tips and points of advice.

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