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As toddlers get older and need less diaper changes, we wonder when might be the right time to start potty training. While there are many signs to look out for, a child must be developmentally ready. It takes patience and commitment from parents and caretakers, so try not to dive in too soon. Remember that all children will be ready at different ages. There are signs to look out for that may indicate your child is ready to be potty trained. Here are some tips for potty training success.
Signs Your Child is Ready
- More Dry Diapers: Once you notice you are changing diapers less frequently, pay attention to how often your child is wetting diapers. If they can go 2-3 hours or more with a dry diaper, this might be a sign they are ready for potty training.
- Regular Bowel Movements: You might find your child’s bowel movements become more predictable and possibly occurring at the same time each day.
- Verbal Cues: Children will start verbalizing when they may need to go potty. They might also let you know they have a dirty diaper or ask for a diaper change.
- Hiding: My kids would start hiding behind furniture and become more private when they were having a bowel movement. They usually wanted me to change their diaper right after. This was a subtle cue for me that they were ready for potty training.
- Age: According to Pediatrician Dr. Peggy Manuel of Sharp Rees Stealy San Diego, it is best to wait as long as possible, usually between 1 ½ to 3 ⅓ years old.
How to Potty Train
Potty training looks different for every family. I really liked the Three Day Method and that seemed to work well for my kids. The Three Day Method is exactly how it sounds – potty training in approximately three days. The reality is, it took us closer to a week using this method. Since every child is different, they will potty train at their own pace.
The Three Day Method
This method requires a lot of commitment and might be the most successful when two parents or caretakers can be there to help. I found that starting potty training on a long holiday weekend worked best for our family.
Here is what the Three Day Method looked like for us. We had our kids completely unclothed for three days during the daytime. It is best to stay at home to be ready for accidents and running to the potty at a moments notice. Being in the comfort of your own home can make a child feel more comfortable too.
Why go naked? I found that using diapers or pull-ups didn’t help. My kids would just go in their diaper or pull-up despite trying to use the potty throughout the day. Since they didn’t seem to want to wet themselves or have an accident on the floor, being naked is what worked best for us. Naturally, they would tell me they needed to go potty before I even had to ask. Just remember, all kids are different.
If the weather is nice and you have a private yard, having them play outside most of the day is also an option. Since we had carpet, I found this helpful in case they had an accident. It was much easier to clean up outside.
After a few days, they might fall into their own routine of asking to use the potty. If not, kindly remind them every hour or so. If they keep having accidents after a few full days of trying, they might not be ready for potty training just yet. Give it a few more weeks or months and try again.
Naptime and Bedtime
For naptime and bedtime, we continued to use diapers until my kids woke up with a dry diaper for three consecutive days. After that, puppy pads were a lifesaver! Put them under crib sheets, in the car seat or stroller to protect these surfaces from accidents. It makes cleanup a lot easier. There will be naptime and nighttime accidents, but they will be quick and easy to clean up in the middle of the night by using puppy pads.
Time For Underwear
I found that once my kids did well running around naked for three days, it was time for some underwear. Having them go and pick them out from the store ahead of time makes it fun and they look forward to wearing them. They might have accidents in their underwear but that’s ok. It’s all part of the potty training process.
Focus on the Positive
It can be hard not to get frustrated when your child has an accident, but if you focus on their successes instead of their accidents, it can make both you and your child feel a lot better about potty training. I bought a pack of m&ms and let my kids have one m&m each time they used the potty successfully. After a few days of doing that, we switched to a daily reward for having no accidents (maybe an ice cream after dinner). Eventually, we made a weekly reward of going to the store to pick out a new toy.
Potty training can be intimidating for both children and parents, but this transition can be fun and rewarding too. Before starting potty training, it’s important to remember the signs of potty training readiness and remember that every child is different. These tips for potty training success should help you navigate the joys of this stage in motherhood.