When to Potty Train and How to Do It

One of the most talked about things in parenthood is potty training.  Debates on when to do it, how to do it, how long it should take, and when to see the doctor are all questions that parents end up facing with their little ones!  If you’re wondering when you should start considering the process with your little one, or need a place to get started, we’ve got you covered!

We’re breaking down some of the signs to look for that it’s time to start, things you should know and tips to make it easier, as well as a process to help you get started!  It’s potty time!

Signs Toddler is Ready to Start Potty Training

Even if you’re little one isn’t able to completely vocalize their readiness to begin potty training, there are ways for you to tell that it’s time!

They don’t like a dirty diaper.  Babies will often cry when they’ve soiled their diaper, as it can get uncomfortable, but when it becomes a genuine disaster for your little one, it’s time to start considering potty training!  If they can tell you that they’re dirty and want to be changed, they’re well on the way.

They can communicate needs.  A big problem with potty training is that little ones aren’t ready to communicate that they need to go potty.  If your little one is able to easily sign or tell you that they need something, they might be ready!

They can pull their pants up or down.  This is a big one — if they can’t do that, it makes self-sufficiency in potty training more difficult!  Work with them on this skill first.

You don’t have any big life changes coming up.  While you can’t predict the future, knowing that there are no impending moves, school changes, or other life changes in the pipeline is a good indicator that now is a good time!  A big change in the middle of potty training can set your little one back easily.

They can follow simple instructions.  This is a big one.  Your little one needs to be able to follow your instructions in order for you to begin potty training.  Whether you have a good signing system in place or they’re great at verbal communication, this is going to be key in successful potty training for both of you.

Things You Should Know Ahead of Time

Before you begin, there are a few things to keep in mind as you start planning your process!  

Know that the earlier you start, the longer the potty training process will take.  Younger children will take longer to pick up on concepts and make them a habit, and the communication will likely be a little less clear.  In addition to that, if you start potty training too early, it can make the whole process incredibly stressful for both of you. Make sure you’re looking carefully for the signs, and listening to your instincts, not to others!

A good guideline is to not to it before the age of two — ideally, somewhere between 2 ½ and 3 ½ is a perfect time to start.  While there’s no “perfect” age, this can be a great benchmark for you to start watching and preparing!

How to Get Started

Typically getting going is the hardest part of the process for parents!  Knowing where to begin and what strategy to use can seem overwhelming. But take it from us — starting simple is best!  Save the fancy tricks and gimmicks if the simple strategy just isn’t working. Here’s a rough guideline of a process you can try!

Before you begin, make sure you have some time to commit to your little one — this could be holiday time off from work, a long weekend, etc.  Just making sure you can commit more than a day or two to the process will help drastically in creating a habit.

    1. To start, try using a favorite doll or stuffy — use the toy to “demonstrate” the process, from pulling their pants down, to using the potty, to then wiping and pulling their pants back up.  Then, reward that dolly.  Whatever excites your little one, do it — showing them that a reward is involved can entice them to be interested in the whole process!
    1. Now, guide your little one to the potty and gently instruct them to repeat the process from the toy.  It can help to explain to them the importance of potty training — letting them know that this is what big kids and grown ups do makes them feel responsible and grown up!
    1. If they don’t go, be patient!  Offer them some entertainment, like a potty training themed book or game, or just offer to try again later.  This is okay.
    1. If they do go, make sure to go over the top with praise and rewards.  Offer them their favorite snack, make up a celebratory dance, whatever you need to do to positively reinforce the good job!
  1. Rinse and repeat.  This won’t be a one-time thing that they learn, they’ll need to repeat the process over the next few days.  Watch for signs that they need to go — prancing, grabbing at their pants/waistband, general uncomfortability–and then guide them to the potty to start the process.

Some Final Tips

As you go through the process, there are a few things you can do to encourage them and make things a little easier.  

Rewards process.  Set up a chart so they can see their progress and when they can get their next reward!  Whether it’s yummy treats, a fun new toy, or a trip to the zoo they’ve been wanting to do, find what incentivizes them!

Easily removable clothing.  Make potty training as easy as possible on them — avoid clothing like overalls, pants with too many buttons, or a lot of layers.  The easier it is to pull their pants up and down, the more willing they’ll be to continue!

Read books about potty time.  Thankfully, there are so many fun and educational books for little ones about this exact thing!  Read them at bedtime, throughout the day, and while they’re on the potty!  It will help them realize that this is a normal process, make it a little more fun, and help them build their own routine around it.

Just hang in there as you go!  Potty training is different for every child, and some will pick up on it quicker than others — just remember that you will succeed!  Practice makes perfect, and before long, you’ll have a potty trained kiddo!