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My Top Potty Training Tips

There is no end to the crazy and sometimes gross topics that parenting bloggers can write about on their blogs. Potty training is no exception. I’m not going to pretend that this post is going to be chock-full of advice you’ve never heard before or provide anything groundbreaking. However, the tips I’m going to write about have worked for our family for two boys with very different personalities. Using these tips has helped us to have a relatively stress-free time potty training our boys.

1. Wait until your child is ready. For us, the magic age has been 2.5 years old. I know others swear by starting earlier or starting later but for our boys, 2.5 is perfect. I tried to start with both of them earlier than this and they just didn’t get it. Spencer didn’t understand it at all when I tried to introduce him to the potty in the spring. I didn’t try much earlier than2.5 with Miles because Spencer was still so young. What does “ready” mean? Here is a great checklist (in quiz form) of potty training readiness signs from! For both boys, it was something where we tried to get them to do it on our schedule but they had to decide for themselves “Yes, let’s do this.” whether we were ready for it or not!

2. Ditch the diapers and switch to undies! We don’t do Pull-Ups in this house except for nights (and we call them “nighttime undies” instead of diapers or pull-ups). I don’t want to confuse the boys by saying “Okay, we’re going to potty in the toilet…Except when  you have this absorbent pull-up diaper on around the house, THEN you can pee your pants.” YES it will mean a little more laundry and perhaps you should stock up on upholstery cleaner (I recommend getting something to clean up pet messes, it works the same) and paper towels or rags for any puddles you might incur.

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3. Scared about messes on outings? Consider going old school. Yep, we do Gerber plastic pants during the potty training period at our house. The church nursery worker heard Spencer’s pants making an odd “swish swish” noise on Sunday and inspect his pants to find his plastic pants. He has so far done perfectly when we’re out of the house, but the plastic pants make me feel better.

4. Use a small potty training chair that has a detachable seat. This is one area where my boys have differed. Miles preferred to start out using the small potty we bought for him and then gradually upgrade to putting the little seat onto the big potty. Spencer sat on the little potty chair for just a few times while I was introducing the concept to him but never peed on it. That’s why I recommend getting a potty like this one, the Summer Infant All-In-One Potty Seat & Step Stool, so that you can use the potty or trainer seat, whichever is most comfortable for them. See more potty training chairs at!

5. Start small, don’t expect much. I like to start by just introducing the concept of the potty first. We get the potty out, have him try to sit on it, practice sitting down, and reading books about potty training. I use stickers for this part, but once we move on to the big show (peeing on the potty), we move on to bigger and better rewards (more on that in a minute). I make a potty training chart that has different actions like “Sit on the potty” “Read a book on the potty” and each time he does it he gets a sticker. Five stickers earns a bigger prize, something from my stash of Happy Meal toys and so forth.

 Potty Training Concepts
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6. M&Ms are PERFECT potty training tools. Yeah yeah, they’ll rot their teeth out. But seriously? I would shower these boys with M&Ms for a few days to get them to use the potty. So that’s what we do. Every pee gets an M&M. Every single time for the first week. Yes, it does result in some gaming of the system, where he’ll suddenly have to pee a tiny little trickle every 2 minutes, but it won’t last. Peeing is a lot of work when you’re little, so I bet he won’t keep that up long (my didn’t). And a bonus:  work on those colors at the same time! Spencer doesn’t know his colors yet but by gosh by the end of last week he was getting it down! Have a nice instant prize for #2 on the potty. For Miles, he wanted cookies. Spencer wants marshmallows. Yeah I have to store cookies and marshmallows in the bathroom closet during potty training which is kind of gross but it’s effective.

7. Use a timer to help you keep track of taking trips to the potty. After about a day, your child will probably respond like Pavlov’s dogs and automatically walk into the bathroom (or wherever your training potty is set up) to try to potty every time the timer goes off.

8. Promise a big deal prize when they’re totally potty trained. Spencer is currently working for a Toy Story Jessie toy, something that’ll cost maybe $10. But it’s what he wants and he’s motivated to get it. Potty training is one aspect of parenting where bribery is (or should be) perfectly acceptable.

9. For kids with bigger, potty-trained siblings, involve them when you can. For me, I almost lost my mind when I was trying to show Spencer how to sit and pee on the potty with Miles jumping around him, literally jumping, saying “Here! Do this! I want an M&M! Yay ‘bencer!” *deep breath* I chose to wait until Miles was at preschool so that we had a few hours of quiet to practice in peace. After Spencer got the hang of it, Miles was an EXCELLENT cheerleader and every time Spencer got an M&M, so did Miles. Everyone was happy.

10. Relax. This should probably be #1, but we’re mostly going in chronological order. If you’re making progress and it stops or slows, relax. If your child periodically has an accident (at home or in public), relax. Your child won’t go off to college in diapers, I promise. Unless you’re trying to get them into school, there’s no timetable on getting out of diapers. Yes, we all want to be done with it. I know. And you will. You’ll get through this. And when you do, I think you deserve a prize too!

Here are some older Playdate Crashers posts about potty training for further reading:

Do you agree with my top ten tips? What would you add? 

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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. Thanks for the tips! I’d add (the BEST advice I ever got): Float a cheerio in the toilet for “target practice”

  2. You know what’s funny? I hear the Cheerio thing EVERY TIME Cheerios or potty training boys are mentioned but we’ve NEVER done it 🙂