How To Potty Train A Toddler


Please make sure you have read these first two posts in the series before getting started on how to potty train a toddler:

Potty Training 101

Is My Child Ready To Be Potty Trained?

Is My Child Ready To Be Potty Trained - 3 Day Potty Training Method

Below you will find our step-by-step 3-day potty training process. These are the steps that we took that successfully helped us to potty train. You can also print our free three day potty training chart.


How To Potty Train A Toddler – Potty Training Process:

  1. Pick a convenient time to start– Since you will need to devote your entire day (and several following days)to Potty Training you will have to make sure you start on a day that you can stay at home all day. I know this is hard especially for working parents but a long weekend could work great. I made sure that our schedule was clear for a few days. I had no idea how long this would take and wanted to make sure that once we started there was no turning back. Luckily, my younger son was ‘okay’ throughout the process but I know a lot of people try to get a babysitter for other siblings just in case. I wanted to focus completely on potty training to make the process as easy as possible for him. By not staying home I felt like I was just setting him up for failure because he would definitely have accidents.
  2. Talk/Read – Talk to your child as much as you can about going on the potty. I constantly told Connor about all the people who wear underwear including TV show characters! We also found children’s books that focused on going on the potty. Connor really liked the Dora the Explorer book that had sounds that went along with it. I recently found a great episode of Daniel Tiger that I saved on our DVR about potty training. Luckily my younger son loves this show so we have been watching it a lot to get him ready for the process. Also, he completely looks up to my younger brothers so I kept telling him Uncle Max and Uncle Jay wear big boy underwear. I wanted to make sure that he knew what was going to happen to prevent as much resistance as I could.
  3. Prizes – Depending on how your child reacts to prizes/rewards you can create something special for them for potty training. My son loves getting little prizes or treats so I actually created a bin that I wrapped a few inexpensive items in that were rewards only for when he pooped on the potty. I was not sure how easily he would grasp this concept so I wanted to make it a BIG deal if he pooped on the potty.
  4. Go Shopping – Let you child be an active part of this process by allowing them to pick out their own underwear. Trust me you will NEED a lot of underwear, unless you enjoy doing laundry numerous times a day. We focused on telling him that “Big Boys” wear underwear and not diapers. “Diapers are for babies.” He actually really enjoyed this concept and started telling everyone that he is a big boy who wears underwear! I never let him wear them until the ‘Big Day.’ I wanted him to understand that this was for real. It is your choice if you’d like to buy a potty chair. My son actually preferred the soft potty seat that went onto the toilet. This actually eliminated a step in the process for us because he never used the potty seat so I never had to make the transition from potty seat to the real toilet. I also let him pick this out. You will also need to buy pull-ups. We ONLY used Pull-ups for nap time and bedtime. As soon as he woke up we immediately took it off of him.
  5. Give Warning– I tried to talk to Connor and let him know days before hand when we would be starting this new “Big Boy” task of going on the potty. I didn’t want to surprise him, and he actually doesn’t like change so I made sure he was well aware of the day before it happened. The night before we started potty training we gathered all of his diapers and put them into a box for his younger brother. Not only did I want him to see that he would no longer be using diapers but I wanted him to understand that there weren’t any left just in case he asked to put a diaper back on. This might seem a little bit overkill but I really wanted him to understand that the diapers were gone. potty training
  6. Training Day – As soon as he woke up we put his underwear on him and made it a huge deal! We did a little dance together to get him excited. I let him pick the pair he wanted to wear first. There was NO going back at this point!! I was so nervous!

    Now that the day is HERE what do you do?!?

    • The main focus for us was not actually using the potty but keeping his underwear dry and clean. I liked this concept because he was proud of himself even if he had not yet gone on the potty. Yes, you do still need to give them praise when they go on the potty but you also need to praise them for the simple task of keeping their underwear dry and clean! The key is to let them drink as much as they want. My son actually loves ice water so we started with that first thing in the morning. I did NOT let him out of my site. Every few minutes I would ask him if his underwear were still dry and clean, and I would jump up and down and be VERY excited for him when they were. He was actually so excited to see how happy I would be when he was dry.
    • You need to seriously ask over and over again if they are dry so that they understand that is what is expected. After the first 10 times of asking him he started to ask me if my underwear were still dry and would say “yay mommy!”
    • Connor’s favorite stuffed animal is his monkey

    How To Potty Train A Toddler


      • We put a pair of underwear on Monk {as he calls him} to teach him how to go on the potty too. I would then ask if his underwear were dry and then ask if Monk’s underwear were dry. Ask this OVER AND OVER AGAIN! Before wanting to sit on the potty himself he asked if Monk could go. I was not planning on using a stuffed animal/doll but soon realized that he liked being the one teaching how to do something new and to have his favorite friend learning at the same time made it easier.
      • Make sure you are having them drink plenty of liquid throughout the entire potty training process so you will know that they have to go to the bathroom.
      • Next you will need to show them ‘how’ to go potty. You can either do this with their doll/stuffed animal or yourself. Tell them to say “I have to go Potty” and then hurry up and head to the bathroom. This way they know what to do. If they will let you, tell them to try sitting on the Potty to see if they have to go, if they refuse then have their doll/stuffed animal do it see they can help them go potty. Make sure you explain to them to tell you when they have to go. I kept saying “Make sure you tell me when you have to go potty.” This gives them some control throughout the process. I did not like to constantly ask if he had to go because I wanted him to learn the sensation of having to go and telling me he had to go.
      • Repeat this process over and over. Make sure you keep asking if their underwear is dry and clean. Have them sit on the potty and praise them even if nothing comes out. My son is all about treats and prizes so every once in awhile when he would actually sit on the potty (even if he didn’t go) I would give him a little pretzel rod or an M&M to keep his focus. Doing rewards is completely up to you. The key is to keep praising them for being dry and clean. Even if quite some time has passed and they still have not gone make sure you keep trying to get them to go on the potty.
      • Once they understand the process you will now have to tell them to go even if they don’t tell you they have to go. Some kids may understand it but still won’t go. Don’t give up. It does take time! If they have not gone in a while you will have to take them. The first few times I did this he just sat there. I would tell him to pee but nothing would come out. The trick I did here to get him to pee the first time is I told him I had to go and for him to listen to the pee. Then once he got back up on the potty I said “Shh lets listen for the pee,” and he did it!! I was extremely thrilled and shocked that it actually worked! If your child does not go just be patient and keep rewarding for trying. If they do not mind sitting on the potty then let read some books to distract them so that eventually something will come out. Make sure you are still allowing them to drink so that you know they will need to go.


After the first time he went I was so excited and was like wow this might not be that bad. Don’t get ahead of yourself. He then went hours before he went again and it was NOT on the potty!

    •  Since I was afraid of him holding it in really long I kept a little schedule in the notes of my phone not only to remind myself of when to have him try again but so that I could document the accidents he had. This is his actual potty training schedule that I saved and added to each day. You probably think I am crazy tedious but I was worried he would go too long without going. I highly recommend using a schedule!

potty training

    •  Accidents will happen. As you can see from our schedule he did have quite a few accidents the first few days, and he did not immediately start pooping on the potty. Actually in the beginning, the only reason he did poop on the potty was because it would just come out when he peed. It took him a little while to actually tell me that he had to poop. When he did have an accident I made sure not to yell or discipline him. I would make him acknowledge that his underwear was wet by feeling them and make him take them off. He hated the feeling of having wet underwear so he would tell me immediately even if it was a few drips. A couple times when it was a lot of pee and the ground was wet I would have him help me clean it up off of the floor. This definitely helped because it really grossed Connor out to have to clean up after himself.


  • Naptime and Bedtime– Only put the pull-up on your child at these times. No exceptions! I was very nervous the first time we had to leave the house and he was wearing underwear but there was no way I was going to confuse him by allowing him to wear a pull-up. Even if your child does not want to take it off when they wake-up they MUST. They are a big kid now and big kids wear underwear. Make sure you reward them if they wake up dry and immediately take them to the potty when they wake up whether it is first thing in the morning or right after a nap. Surprisingly, my son started waking up completely dry from naps and bedtime after about 2 weeks. It just happened. I do recommend having a cover on the mattress just in case. Connor then wore underwear all the time and we no longer used the pull-ups at all. We have had a few accidents at night, probably around 5 total, but it is much better than just putting a pull-up on him when he doesn’t need it. Most people I talk to have told me that this step can take a few months or even a year, so don’t be discouraged if your child does not wake up dry this fast. Potty training is a process. Connor knew the difference if he was wearing a pull-up. If he had it on he would use it, if not he would hold it until he woke-up. I would suggest if you think they could be ready then try it a few times. Start with nap time and then go from there. If they continuously wet the bed then try to really cut back how much they drink before bed. I would not and still DO NOT let him have a drink before bed or even an hour or two before. If that does not help then just wait it out and use a pull-up until they begin to wake-up dry.
  • Repeat the entire day again for Day 2! YAY! (haha) Trust me it is exhausting! I re-thought my choice to potty train numerous times over those few days. I wanted to turn back and give into diapers again but I am so happy that we stuck with it.


**One of the most frustrating parts of the whole process was when I would have him sit on the potty and he wouldn’t go but would get up and have an accident within 2 minutes! Ugh!!


“If you have to go potty, STOP and go right away.” – Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

How To Potty Train A Toddler Tips:

  • Always pack extra clothes with you along with several pairs of underwear when you leave the house even once you are finished potty training.
  • Limit the amount of the liquids they take in after they have caught on to the process.
  • Have your child use the bathroom before you leave the house every single time. Please understand that the whole potty process does take time and dedication and you will start to learn where every public restroom is located.
  • When using a public restroom the first time, make sure you explain everything. Connor was very afraid of the loud flushing noise of these toilets. He was constantly asking me if it was just going to flush itself. I have learned that many places now have automatic flushes so I try to cover the sensor when we are out because the time it did flush by itself when he was still going was HORRIBLE!
  • For the first few weeks of potty training I actually carried his little soft potty seat that went on top of the potty out with us everywhere we went. He would NOT go without it. It took him several weeks {and walking in on one of my younger brothers} to realize he did not need that little seat anymore.


 Also, check out:

Potty Training Tips

Potty Training Myths Debunked

3-Day Potty Training Method – Second Child

Please let us know if you use our 3-day potty training method or any tips you may have on how to potty train a toddler in the comments below.

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