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Impromptu Potty Training Boot Camp!

We’re discussing potty training (among other things) on this week’s podcast, which isn’t quite ready yet.  So to get you warmed up, here’s a quick post about beginning potty training with my son Miles.  Stay tuned for more great posts and information on potty learning this week!

On Thursday morning, I woke up and decided to put Miles in underwear instead of a diaper after breakfast.  We have tried putting him in undies (“unnies” as he calls them) before but without much success.  I had decided a long time ago that we weren’t going to switch to Pull-Ups when we started training, since we use cloth diapers anyway.  I should point out that on Wednesday (yes, the day before we started potty training) I had ordered a dozen more cloth diapers to re-vamp our diaper stash.  It’s a good thing the baby will need them for a long time or I would be a little annoyed with myself!  I’m not sure what possesssed me to try out the undies, but I guess I had a feeling he might be ready to give potty training a go.  He is 2.5 years old and will be 3 in July.

I started by setting a timer for an hour at first, but I found that he was peeing just a tiny bit in his underwear.  When I noticed his underwear looking wet, we went to the potty but he didn’t know what to do.  Finally, at probably our fifth trip to the potty (and fifth pair of underwear and shorts), he peed!  I think he was as shocked as I was!  I cheered and went nuts, giving him a few M & M’s (which I had purchased and put into a glass jar several months ago when we first starting doing some potty awareness).

I began setting the timer for 15 minutes and every 15 minutes, to the potty we would go!  He had several successful trips to the potty before and after lunch.  I couldn’t believe how quickly he was taking to using the potty!  This continued all afternoon and evening and a few times he even told us he needed to potty.  Dinner was interesting, because he hardly ate a thing but kept wanting to go potty.  I think he needed to poop but he wasn’t ready to do it in the potty yet.  After baths, when his little brother went to bed, we were a little more relaxed about the timer, but we still religiously asked every so often.

On Friday, day two, we started the day at 15 minute intervals but quickly moved to 30 minutes at a time.  He started telling me when he needed to potty and even though they weren’t hugely productive pees, he knew it was time.  I’m proud to say that with the exception of one poopy mess while we were playing outside, he had no other accidents!  I know this pooping thing is going to take awhile to get down, so I was pleased with this progress!

Saturday, we had plans to be out of town for some shopping and instead of canceling our plans to stay in with our potty training, we planned for every eventuality and headed out.  He did so well!  Every place we went (restaurants, stores) we hit the potty when we arrived and when we left and also went any time he asked to go.  We ended up visiting the potty about 3 times each place, but all the extra outfits we brought and the potty which we set up in the back of our Jeep were all unused!  No accidents!

On Sunday he went to the church nursery and we brought the timer and several changes of clothes.  Our process was explained to the nursery workers and everyone did great!  When I picked the boys up, I was pleasantly surprised to see that he was wearing the same pants as when I dropped him off!  They told me that in addition to running to the toilet every time the timer went off, he also told them once that he needed to potty.  We were even able to go to the bowling alley with our church group on Sunday evening.  We were there for 3 hours and visited the potty 3 times!

Here are a few of my personal tips:

  1. Wait until your child is ready.  What does that look like?  Here’s a checklist from  I think it will look slightly different for every child, but I can’t overstate the importance of being “ready.”  I have no patience for endless carpet scrubbing so I wanted to do this quickly.  When your child is ready, you’re much more likely to have a quick, easy experience.
  2. Wait until YOU are ready.  Just like with many things from my parenting experience, it’s so much better (for me) if I do some mental preparing and reading about a topic or technique and have things ready for awhile but just dive in whenever it feels right.  For example, I read up on letting our kids do some controlled crying to begin sleeping at night in their cribs but never said “Okay, we’re starting on October 12th at 7:00pm OR ELSE!”  If I had given myself a deadline about starting it, I would have gotten too worked up about it and it wouldn’t have felt natural.  It was best for it to just happen naturally.
  3. If you can’t handle naked, just use undies. As you’ll hear on the podcast, I’m not a big fan of naked toddlers in my house.
  4. Have LOTS of undies.  Unless you want to do lots of extra laundry, stock up!  We went through a large amount of undies that first morning.  Since then, maybe 2 pairs a day plus all the extras I have in the diaper bag.
  5. Rewards! I don’t know how you feel about bribery mixing with parenting, but potty training is the one exception for me!  M&M’s for peeing, cookies for pooping (the cookies remain untouched at this point), stickers for going certain amounts of time dry and telling us when he needs to potty, prizes after so many stickers.  We do a prize after 5 stickers, which I’m a little stingy about handing out.  I’m a sticker legalist.  Anyway, our prizes are from Happy Meals.  He doesn’t know to expect a toy in his Happy Meal yet, so we’ve been stashing them away.
  6. Make the potty a happy place, but not too happy.  When he was still trying to figure out what it meant to pee, I had lots of books (potty-themed, of course) next to the potty.  But eventually I realized he was just wanting to go in there to read!  So the books went away.  Is that mean?
  7. Keep your cool.  I’m having a hard time deciding if readiness or even tempers are more important for potty training.   If I’m having a rotten day, it’s not a good time to start potty training.  He would cry, I would cry.  No one wants that.  Potty training shouldn’t be traumatic for anyone involved.
  8. Have fun! This is a big day for you and your child!  If no one is able to laugh about the accidents, you’re probably too wound up about it all.  Relax.  Your kid won’t go to college in diapers.  There’s a wide range of “normal” and I’m willing to bet that your child will be in that range.  If you need to, treat yourself to some of those M&Ms 🙂

What would you add to this list?

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About Krista

Krista is a full-time working mom of two boys, currently aged 6 and 7. She lives in Kentucky with her husband, Brandon.


  1. I was wondering if I could offer a printout of your potty training story/with our list of tips and pointers to some of the parents in my 2 and 3yr old class? Maybe hearing it from another parent will help them understand that their child can and will potty train.