I like to potty potty… Potty training has been on the mind lately. We read the Oh Crap! Potty Training book. And with a date on the horizon, gathered supplies and made many lists of things to do. If you’re unfamiliar, the Oh Crap potty training method is essentially the “3 day potty training” method. Instead of days you think of it as “blocks” – like blocks of time. Your child might be in Block One for one day or for three days, before moving on.
Consider this our Ultimate Potty Training Guide including:
- Things to Do Before You Start Potty Training
- Must-Have Potty Training Supplies
- Our Potty Training Experience – The First 10 Days: Block One, Block Two, Block Three
- Potty Training Tips – 4 Week Update
Things to Do Before Starting:
- The “Are they ready?” question – The Oh Crap potty training book/method we went with talked more about “are they capable of learning?” vs just “are they ready?”. I really liked this mindset as it’s more “growth mindset” related. As long as your kiddo is over two years old, I think the bigger question to ask yourself is “are YOU ready?”. We definitely went through a couple phases where he was probably ready before age two (capable of learning and expressing more interest), but we were not ready or in a season that was good.
- Decide on your method or approach – As mentioned, we decided on the Oh Crap Potty Training Method – some people call it the three day method. I would call it more like the 5-7 day method. As the “three” is more about blocks and different kids will take shorter or longer time to get through the blocks of understanding. Block 1 – your kid is naked from the waist down. They can use the potty (not necessarily self-prompted, but makes it to the potty). Block 2 – Your kid is wearing pants, but no undies (commando). You’re still mainly at home or very short outings like a walk around the block etc. Block 3 – Your kid is still commando and you take bigger outings – play dates, go to the store etc. After a few weeks you introduce undies to the mix. Theory being that undies under pants feel like a diaper to them. Memory is a powerful thing so they’re likely to have fewer accidents if commando. Call it what you want, we’re all just trying to get our kids to pee and poop in a potty. Some people also call it “toilet learning”, like in Montessori circles. I also really like that this book agreed with my belief that boys are not harder to potty train. It’s more of a personality thing than anything else – not gender related. On that note. Note: it’s really important that any other primary caregiver is on board with the method you choose. That means you should both read the Oh crap potty training book (or whatever method you choose)! There’s also an audio book. I read the ebook version. My husband read the first couple chapters and then switched to the audio version so he could listen to it during the commute. After listening to the oh crap potty training audio book, he actually had a sense of urgency about potty training.
- Pick a date! After reading the oh crap potty training book, we picked a date a few weeks out – on a three day weekend. We started on a Friday, so turned it into a 4 day weekend. Life is always going to be busy. Potty training seems more ideal in the summer (or even spring), but potty training in winter was actually great timing. Winter/January specifically is a good down-time for us. It’s between traveling or family trips, he doesn’t have any kid classes scheduled (like swim class), and we don’t have a lot of social events on the calendar [yet]! Plus, the last thing I want to do in summer is be stuck inside for a week during wonderful weather. And it’s in that sweet spot that the oh crap potty training book mentions of 20-30 months.
- Temporarily move anything that will stress you out if you have to clean it. We did this a few days before the start date so he wasn’t alarmed that his house and things were being taken away. We have hardwood floors, so most of the flooring will be fine if we get to any messes right away. But we rolled up our dining room rug, as it would be extra work to clean. We also rolled up half of the living room rug and tucked it under the couch front. This gave us more play space that wouldn’t require extra cleaning. Some people do use plastic liners all over the house. I wasn’t crazy about that idea from a waste perspective. I also didn’t want our whole house to be a slip n slide or be super different feeling. Like wake up on potty training day and it looks like we’re moving house etc. He’s very in-tune with any changes made to the house. So we started moving things the week before, nothing was drastically different the morning we started.
- Towels, mattress protectors etc – put on couches or chairs that you don’t want to get wet. I’ve also heard puppy pads or garbage bags also work great under towels or blankets. He isn’t currently in a phase where he wants to sit on the couch for hours on end. We did cover the couch with an old mattress cover though.
- Restock your diaper bag/kiddo backpack with new essentials – yes, wipes are still useful, 1 pull-up for long car rides or travel at nap time, extra outfits/undies (including socks & we put an extra pair of shoes in car or stroller if we are going to be out for awhile), large plastic bag for wet stuff & to use as a changing pad (we use the large ikea ones – have used on planes, parks etc), antibacterial hand wipes, hand sanitizer, and a travel potty.
- Plan ahead for first few days – food, toys, activities – We were mostly at home for a couple days during the naked day(s) of Block One. And we stayed close to home for Block Two. Think ahead to kind of meal plan those first days so you’re not disappearing for ages and them having accidents. We also rotated some toys that he hadn’t played with for awhile. He got a KiwiCo Koala Crate for Christmas that we hadn’t opened yet, and a couple other toys that he hadn’t seen yet like a new puzzle. Plus, some extra treats and drinks for us parents for after he was asleep for the night (beer! chocolate!).
- Don’t tell anyone before you start (if that’s your jam) – Other than my partner we didn’t tell anyone we were starting potty training. I feel like this kept any extra opinions at bay (no it wouldn’t have changed our minds if someone said oh wait til older etc). It felt easier to just have their support on day 2 like oh this is a thing we’re doing now. And the added bonus of my phone not blowing up all day with well-meaning “how’s it going!?” texts. This also probably helped me stay more present in observing him.
- Prep your kiddo! – Assuming you’ve already introduced the concept of a potty – put a little potty in the bathroom. Have them come to the bathroom with you so it’s not a scary or unknown thing. Get a book about potties (tons of options here – follow their interests – we had A Potty for Me! book already since he loved the Karen Katz books. If they’re not already, help them learn to wash hands at the bathroom sink. A tall stool, and foaming hand soap work great. Also, start teaching them how to pull their pants up and “push” their pants down. You can also introduce the potty and have it in the bathroom. We offered it as an easy-going option for about a year before potty training. He went through phases of wanting to sit and read a book before bath. And phases of not using it. There’s also a couple Daniel Tiger episodes about using the potty. We re-watched these in the few days before starting potty training.
Potty Training Supplies:
- Potty Chair – We had an IKEA LOCKIG potty chair for about a year already. He sat on it before bath, off and on for about 6 months. We recently bought a 2nd [same exact] potty chair since we live in a two story house with only one bathroom. The Baby Bjorn Potty Chair is also super popular. But ultimately, the last thing we wanted to deal with during potty training was him crowning one chair as his favorite and then rushing around the house for said chair. You’re welcome.
- Toilet seat insert – Also IKEA. We planned to start him on the little potty, but then move to the actual toilet. I like that this is quickly movable and we can just use a step stool in front of the toilet. This was a later step, but available when he is interested. I’ve heard good things about the Munchkin version of this too, since it has handles on the side.
- Toilet seat hook – This simple $3 hook slides onto the toilet tank and the toilet seat insert hangs from it. It’s very handy, especially if you have a tiny bathroom.
- Step stool – Looking at some of the bamboo step stools similar to Squatty Potty. For now with limited bathroom space, just turning his sink step stool around. There are tons of plastic toddler stool options.
- Wipes – We still have plenty of baby wipes. There are flushable wipes, but living in an old house, I’m not cool with that option. And we’ve been dealing with poop and regular wipes already for two years so… we’ll use the wipes we have. Poop going into a potty is also a lot less messy on the bum and there’s not much to clean. You can fold up the wipe and throw it in the garbage and it’s not going to smell, depending on your can. We have used a Simplehuman 2 liter garbage can instead of a diaper pail this whole time.
- Night Diapers/Pull-Ups – We are not nap and night training to begin with. We will continue to use his night diapers for naps and bedtime until we’ve used them all up. We explained to him the difference that diapers are for sleep because it’s a long time. He was fine with it. If he starts resisting we will just use Pull-Ups and donate the rest.
- Basket of Books and Supplies – We have transitioned the small basket we used for diaper supplies, into a potty supply basket. So a small selection of books, clean up clothes, and clean pants. Undies will be added later, as we are following the commando method for the first few weeks of potty training. A second little basket is also upstairs for the other little potty. We have the Potty for Me book already. He would have loved anything Daniel Tiger, trains or Paw Patrol related. Most of his books in his basket were just fun books he enjoys or books he hadn’t seen in a while.
- Towel for floor cover in room – We have carpet upstairs in his room. So we have a large towel folded in half with a garbage bag underneath it as a mat for his little potty.
- Wet basket for clean up – a handled “tub trug” type basket to place wet clothes or rags in. We wanted this out and available so it seemed like less of an emergency during cleanups. And we wouldn’t be running off to round up cleaning supplies.
- Potty Training Cleaning Supplies – spray bottle of 50% vinegar/50% water, paper towels and clean up rags. Obviously some accidents are easier to clean with paper towels than rags. We also got a small container of anti-bacterial wipes to wipe out the little potty once a week. They are Seventh Generation brand as I can’t handle the smell of Clorox Wipes. Remember to rewash the potty where it will touch their skin after wiping it down with these wipes, to avoid skin issues.
- Car seat liner cover – We have a Diono car seat, but there are liners for many different brands. This is a waterproof insert that sits in the car seat. We were given a hand-me down one, and then purchased one more for $11. If this gets wet, we wanted to have another to put in right away. Without risking having to clean a car seat completely if we really need to go somewhere and the other isn’t clean/dry yet. These also work great for the stroller. We currently have one in the car and one in the BOB stroller.
- Foldable Travel potty – We bought the OXO tot 2-in-1 so it can work as a stand alone potty for back of the car or as a seat in public restrooms. It came with 3 starter bags and we bought a refill pack too. There are also cheaper refill bags that fit universal travel potties. Mamas that I know also just use a plastic bag and throw in a paper towel or two as well. That’s an option if you find out you’re out of the inserts later, in a pinch. I can also vouch for the Kalencom brand potty. Just make sure if you have a boy, to buy a travel potty that has a pee guard shape in front.
- Undies! – Finally the fun stuff! We had a mix of hand me down underwear already – Hanna Anderson training pants and other random Hanes sets. Hand me down undies sounds terrible, but for toddlers its actually really nice for starting out. Just wash them on hot with vinegar etc. There will come a time in this process that you decide whether to clean or just throw out a pair. Plus, we’ll be buying brand new undies a few months in as more of a reward.
Our Potty Training Experience – The First 10 Days
We originally had talked about potty training around two years old. He had some interest in the summer time around 20/22 months. Then a month or so of being really anti-potty. After one of our last trips, we decided we’d do it when we had a break in travel – around 27 months or 2 – 1/4 years old.
Day 1 / Block One: The first day of the Oh Crap Potty Training method starts out like Pooh bear – naked from the waist down. And a poo or pee bear they will be. With our supplies and a rough plan in place we started our day. We decided to start potty training on the Friday of a 3 day weekend. This would give us 4 days of mostly at home. We also thought it might be easier if the first day was just one parent calling the shots (me) for most of the day. To kind of get simple communication down, we didn’t have both of us bumbling around. This worked well. We weren’t just thinking the other one of us was paying attention, or being too intense, because we’re both all over him about using the potty. And by evening/day 2 I was ready to tag out!
Day 2 / Block One/Two: Since yesterday felt pretty good, I was guessing day two was going to be harder. It was a little harder than day one but not bad. A couple accidents. He self-prompted like 1/3 time which was cool. And we tried pants although both accidents were with pants on. We even went on a very short bike ride around the block on his balance bike and no accident. By late afternoon though I was tired from a full day already. So I took a break and went to a movie with a friend.
Day 3 / Block One/Two: The third day felt the hardest. He obviously made progress and hadn’t really been defiant, but was resisting the potty ‘I don’t have to go!!!” and had three accidents all in pants. I knew he needed to have accidents to learn but I think after two days of nonstop observation of him, we we’re both a little cranky! We also took a short trip to the coffee shop. He biked almost a mile roundtrip on his balance bike, accident-free. We took the stroller with his travel potty and went into the restroom at the coffee shop to try it out. He sat on it but didn’t go. So about an hour outing and no accident. Win!
Day 4 / Block Two: The fourth day was no accidents before nap. He wore pants for most of the day. We realized he was kind of getting used to being naked. The first few days he requested pants and we were like not right now. By the time we offered pants on the third day he was like “no I’m good”. After a nice potty we headed out for a walk. He rode his balance bike around a few blocks in the neighborhood. We took the stroller too to have his travel potty handy but he didn’t want it. Day 4 felt much better than Day 3 (which was the worst for me).
Day 5 / Block Two/Three?: His first play date! He learned that you still might have to go potty when you’re having fun and a friend is visiting! It was more challenging to get him to stop and use the potty with the excitement of having a friend around. He also had his first accident since day 3 – while helping to crack eggs for a frittata before dinner. He got quiet and said I need to go! But he only went a little bit, held it, made it to the potty and went more. That was progress! The time before when he peed in his kitchen tower it was a lot to clean up. This time only getting a fresh pair of pants!
Day 6 / Block Three: We finally went on our first car ride. I’d call this probably a move to Block 3. I did a Target Drive Up order and we drove about 10 minutes there. It was definitely a little nerve wracking have a sans-diapered child in the car for the first time. I mean, I had his car seat liner in, but still each time he shouted something like “Mama! I’m going… really really fast!” it makes you cringe, lol.
We arrived with no accidents. We got our order and tried to use the potty in the back of the car. It was a no go, and then drove home. As soon as we got on our street he shouted “I have to go potty!” We zoomed to the house and parked. He tried the potty in the back of the car again, but didn’t ended up going. Then finally went on his inside potty.
Day 7 / Block Three: Our one week anniversary of potty training ended up being a pretty big day. We decided to go swimming with friends. It was about a 15 minute drive there, swam and played, and then another 15 minute drive home. Overall, he did great. Pro tip, take extra potty liners with you. Of course, but I kind of forgot this. So he used his travel potty when we arrived and then we didn’t have more liners.
After swimming, I tried to get him to use the travel potty without a liner, over the floor drain in the changing room. Yeah, I’m that mom trying to convince their kid to pee on the ground apparently. Anyway, he got all upset and hollering about his liner and needing a liner. He didn’t go and stood there and fussed while I got changed. I finally just wrapped him in a towel and went to the restrooms. He got to use the big potty for the first time (with his travel potty as the seat). That went great and he was really excited about it. I was all prepared for a battle of big public bathroom toilets so what a relief. This time. ;)
We also got a 50 minute car ride in that afternoon. We had to drop something downtown and then got stuck in traffic. I spent the ride planning worst case scenarios in my head and thinking of where I would pull over, if needed. He didn’t have an accident and just went when we got home. I was pretty impressed.
Day 8-10 / Block Three/Four: This is the phase that I actually started having thoughts that didn’t involve potty training. Shocking, I know. We did some normal weekend things like biking/walking to the park to play and hanging out in the neighborhood. He also started wearing undies. After requesting UNDIES! we thought well he’s been doing really great, so let’s try it. If he has accidents we can hold off for awhile like the Oh Crap Potty Training book recommends waiting 3-4 weeks I think. But so far so good.
He’s also doing almost all of his own prompting. We’re still prompting and telling him to use potty before we go somewhere. Most of the time at home, he’s doing his thing and if he has to go he’ll go. Which is awesome. He’s also been delaying nap and bedtime slightly by claiming to need to use the potty. So we’ve just moved our routine to read books on the potty first.
Potty Training Tips: 4 Week Update!
- Think about what actions you will take when an accident happens down to the specifics. Obviously you will figure it out regardless eventually. It helped meee to stay calm instead of fluttering all around like “what first, wipe the feet and floor? grab the kid?” etc. You don’t need to make a comprehensive list of all locations and scenarios in your home, lol. Think of like 2 or 3 and go! For example, they pee on the hardwood floor. Me: Tell them “you’re peeing! Wait for the potty.” And rush them to the potty even if a trail of pee follows. Stay with them for a minute so they’re not alarmed. If they’re chill and sitting, then clean up pee with paper towels and spray. Then come back to them and clean them up with a wipe and dump any extra pee in toilet etc. Scenario: They pee in their kitchen tower. Me: “You peed on your stool. Next time, pee goes in the potty, let’s get cleaned up. I would get rags/wipes and clean him up and take him down, then I would clean up the stool.
- Make a list of phrases you will use. This was not top of mind natural language for me. Yes, I get that we’re potty training and I want them to use the potty and not the floor. I understand saying “It’s ok!” can mislead a toddler. She says this in the oh crap potty training book, but what should I say? Here are a few: “You peed on the floor/in pants. Next time, pee goes in the potty.” “It’s time to use the potty.” “Sit on the potty and I’m going to start making lunch.” “After you sit on the potty we will head to the park”.
- List makers gonna list – in the Oh Crap potty training book, they talk about not keeping a pee log. That’s fine if it would stress you out. Cool, don’t do it. For me, it was actually less stressful for the first few days to keep track of when I prompted him. I learned how long it had actually been since he went. Plus, this gave confirmation at the end of the day. Like “wow, he actually only had 2 accidents which is great, but the day still felt hard because it was so full on”. I just had a little notepad that I wrote down time and #1/#2, and maybe any other info like accident or self-prompted.
- The power of distraction – the oh crap potty training book doesn’t recommend using bribes – like treats or stickers as motivation. When he was resisting using the potty I could see how it would have been nice to have something to bribe with. Instead of bribes I tried to offer distractions. Once it was a new book. Or a new book he hadn’t seen in a while. Or “oh hey, let’s see if lego kitty needs to try and sit on the potty!” and the transitional prompts, like “It’s time to use the potty, so we can get ready to go biking” etc. or the Daniel Tiger sing song “sitting on the potty! I’m sitting on the potty!”, or offering two choices “do you want to sit on the little potty or the big potty”. Sometimes they will still refuse, and that’s the part where it still needs to be respectful parenting – just more creatively.
- Potty Cleaning – If it’s #1 we dump it in the toilet, give it a quick rinse in the sink and then wipe it dry with a rag. The rag hangs off the side of his step stool so we don’t confuse it with our bathroom hand towel. Pee is sterile so not a big deal. #2 on the other hand, we dump in the toilet. Wipe anything stuck with toilet paper. Squirt some foaming hand soap in it. Add hot water, swish around dump in toilet. Scrub a little with toilet paper again and then rinse out with hot water in sink and then dry with rag. If it was messy or poop got anywhere on the sink etc. we would use an antibacterial wipe (7th generation). And we’ve been wiping the potty down probably once a week with one of those wipes.
- READ THE OH CRAP POTTY TRAINING BOOK – Ok, now after you read the oh crap potty training book commit to trying the method. But caveat- you don’t have to agree 100% with the author. And the author would probably agree. You know your kid best! Take what works and tweak as needed, but do give the method a try. We didn’t opt for nap or night training at the same time. We also didn’t wait to introduce the potty until potty training. Granted he wasn’t using it as a play toy. We always communicated to him that it was for potty only. We didn’t let him use it as a basketball hoop etc. He tried undies about 9 days in because he asked to wear them and we thought well lets try it. And it was fine.
- You’re going to have to help them do a lot of things FOR A LONG TIME! Duh, welcome to parenting. One of the things I realized about a week or two in is that even if they get the concept and remember most of the time – you’re still going to be helping them for a while. You’ll still be reminding them. You might need to help them get to the potty quickly. They might need help pulling their undies and pants up and down. You might need to help them climb on their potty stool to reach the big toilet. If they’re under 3, you probably will need to sit there with them at first so they don’t fall etc etc etc.
- You know your child best. Yes, this method has worked great for a lot of kids. That doesn’t mean it’s going to work for every kid. You’re going to bring the same parenting dynamic that you already have with your child. They’re going to bring their unique personality and preferences. You’re teaching them something new! And potty training isn’t something instinctual to most of us. You read the oh crap potty training book to prepare. Then you’re learning as you go – in real-time with your kid, until it becomes second nature. So maybe a reward like a sticker or candy works for you. Maybe you start and then decide to try again later. Eventually, they are all potty trained. :)