Inside: Does the thought of potty training make you squirm? Are you considering waiting until your child is 10 before you start? Here are the best tips that will help you learn how to potty train your toddler fast. Learn what I finally did to potty train my 22-month old son in a week. This post contains affiliate links. Learn more here.
What started out as the 3-day potty training method ended up being a week-long potty training marathon where most days ended in tears.
Before the first day of potty training, we were prepared.
- Big boy potty? Check.
- Puppy piddle pads? Check.
- Lots of old rags for cleaning up messes? Check.
With all the potty training tips I had read and the research I had done, I just knew this was going to be a walk in the park.
So, when Monday morning came around and we had the ceremonial throwing out of the diaper, I was feeling good.
So good, perhaps, that cleaning up the first 10 messes on the floor didn’t bother me one bit.
But as the day drug on and I realized we were getting nowhere, exhaustion caught up with me.
“Oops, we had another accident. Do you remember where pee-pee goes? Pee-pee goes in the potty.”
This was my mantra for the first 3 days.
After an unsuccessful day 3, I was ready to give up
Crying to my husband about how exhausted I was from keeping myself positive when cleaning up dozens of accidents a day, spending hours (no really, hours) trying to keep my son entertained on the potty each day, and seeing no progress.
Day three is when my son was supposed to be potty trained, wasn’t it?
At least, that’s what I had read.
The magic of 3 days.
Then poof, potty training success.
So how did we successfully potty train our 22-month-old son?
We changed it up. On day 4, I realized the method we were using of “watch your child like a hawk, and at the first sign that they’re going to pee or poo, run like a madman to the potty” wasn’t cutting it.
We needed something different.
Now, you may argue that our son was too young, but I am here to tell you that he wasn’t. He was showing many signs of potty training readiness (more on that here), he showed immense interest in the potty, and I knew he could do it.
He knew he could do it.
He just needed some help and guidance along the way.
How We Potty Trained Our 22-Month Old Son in a Week
How we finally got our son potty trained was this:
We stopped living by “watch him like a hawk” and started living by a timer.
On day four of our (then-failing) potty-training marathon (or, day 1 of our successful potty training marathon), we started the morning out with the ceremonial throwing out of the diaper. Then, after setting him free buck naked, just like we had been doing the 3 days prior, I set a timer on my phone.
Every 15 minutes, we took a trip to the potty.
And, despite my exhaustion and under-exuberance for potty training, for the sake of my son, I put on an excited face and made him think going to the potty was the most exciting and thrilling thing in the world.
He didn’t always believe me, but I continued to keep my energy positive.
After singing “The Wheels on the Bus”, asking him to show me where his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth were, counting his fingers and toes, playing what felt like endless rounds of peek-a-boo, and continually asking him to try and make a pee or poop, I would let him get off the potty.
If he peed or pooped, we celebrated like there was no tomorrow.
Clapping, high-fives, potty dances, and of course, potty treats.
Then I would re-start my timer for 15 minutes again and the process would continue.
However, if he didn’t go pee on the potty, I would set my timer for 3 – 5 minutes and repeat the process of taking him to the potty until he did finally go pee, then the timer would get set for a longer amount of time again.
We still had accidents – and plenty of them – but I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Instead of just accidents, we were having our fair share of successes, too.
Day 2 of our successful potty training looked much like the first, plenty of accidents with a few successful potty trips and completely bottomless from the waist down. While our son still wasn’t telling us when he had to go potty, he was gaining more control and was able to hold his pee for longer periods of time between potty trips.
I tacked a few extra minutes on to the timer on day two. Now, I had the timer set for 20 – 25 minutes. During the morning I continued to set him on the potty every 15 – 20 minutes, because he has a tendency to go pee more frequently before and just after breakfast.
Day 3, something shifted. For the first time in this potty training marathon, our son told us “potty”.
(I’m a big believer in teaching your child the hand sign for potty, this way if they can’t get the words out or can’t quite say it, they can still communicate it to you without using words.)
Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t some accident-free, magical day where he told us every time he had to go. In fact, he only told us 2 times the whole day, but it was a start.
This meant he was starting to recognize when he felt like he had to pee or poop, and that he remembered that pee and poop goes in the potty. He finally started communicating that to us so we could get to the potty on time.
When this started happening, I loosened the reins on the timer. I still had it running in the background, but if he told us in between that he had to go potty and he actually went, we’d re-start the timer from there. He was still running around with no bottoms (not even training underwear) all day on day 3.
A slow, steady climb over the potty-training mountain.
Day 4 came and we kept trucking on.
Accidents still happened, but they were a bit less frequent. I braved taking him out for a walk with no diaper or underwear, just pants (thank you, puppy piddle pads). Accidents did happen, but it was a step in the right direction.
Day 4 is when I started putting loose-fitting pants on him with nothing underneath the pants but a naked bum.
Day 5 continued the upward trend, except today there were only a couple accidents all day (despite being out and about in the car seat and in and out of stores) and the progress he was making was evident.
This is when I started being able to relax a bit. Not with potty training, but with wondering if our son would ever learn how to use the potty.
The upward trend continued
…and I truly believe the reason why we were able to see potty training success at such a young age with our son all came down to a few vital things.
Most importantly, we didn’t “supplement” with pull-ups.
Pull-Ups give parents – and kids – permission to be lazy when it comes to potty training. And, pull-ups cause confusion for the child. A pull-up feels virtually just like a diaper, so why are they wearing a diaper but told they can’t pee in it?
It doesn’t make sense, especially to your child.
I strongly believe that using pull-ups prolongs the potty training journey.
A few things we did to successfully potty train our son were:
- We stayed home (for almost a full 7 days my son and I didn’t leave the house except to go on a couple short walks)
- We didn’t supplement with pull-ups
- Kept him completely naked from the waist-down (we didn’t want him to confuse pants or training underwear with feeling like he was wearing a diaper)
- Kept diapers for naptime & nighttime only (and when we put them on him, we reminded him these were “big boy undies for bedtime only”)
- Rewarded potty successes with treats and happy dances
- Kept calm when accidents happened (and they will happen) and reminded him that pee and poop go in the potty
- Continually talked about the potty
- Took the potty with us wherever we went
- Had two options: a toilet seat and a little potty (sometimes he wanted to use the toilet seat, sometimes he would only go on the little potty)
- Diligently took him to the bathroom every 15 minutes the first day, and slowly added more time in between bathroom trips each day
- Took him to the potty with us when we had to go
- Talked about the potty. A lot
- We kept simple toys at the potty, stuff to distract him but nothing so exciting that he wanted to go to the potty just to play with his toys rather than to actually pee or poop
How to potty train your child: what to expect
There are a few things that are absolute non-negotiables when it comes to potty training your child.
Having patience is critical. Potty training takes time, but as long as you’re diligent with it, your child will get the hang of the idea. It’s also important that you never, never shame or punish your child for having an accident.
How would you like to be yelled at or shamed when you make a mistake when learning something new?
Remember, all your child has known is peeing and pooing in their diaper.
This whole concept of using a potty and not peeing or pooing anytime, any place, is confusing. Give them grace and when they make a mess, calmly remind them that pee and poop belong in the potty.
Once you start potty training, don’t go back to diapers.
Keep diapers or pull-ups for naps and nighttime only. Remember, diapers give you an excuse to be lazy with potty training. Being lazy with potty training will draw the process out for months.
Being diligent and willing to spend a week wiping pee and poop from the floor will get the job done a lot faster.
Keep these in mind while potty training your child:
- Have patience
- Expect accidents. They will happen. Never shame or punish your child for having an accident
- Be committed. Once you start, don’t give up
- Be excited. Even if you hate it, you have to convince your child peeing on the potty is something to get excited over
- Reward successes. With treats, dance parties, or whatever fits your parenting style
- Potty talk. Don’t be afraid to talk about the potty, a lot
- Breathe. Potty training is tough and exhausting. Give yourself time to breathe.
- Stay home as much as possible until your little one has at least mostly gotten the hang of using the potty
- Get a large pack of puppy piddle pads. You’ll want them for lining your car seat and stroller
- Stay clear of diapers and pull-ups. There will be days when the temptation to slip a pull-up onto your child is extremely alluring. Don’t do it.
- Don’t expect your child to tell you when they have to potty for at least a while
How to Potty Train Your Toddler Fast
The best way to potty train your toddler fast is to be diligent and follow a schedule.
Remember, each child learns at a different pace, but I am convinced that following a schedule that fits your lifestyle is the best way to potty training success fast.
The following potty training schedule is the exact schedule we used to potty train my 22-month old son in about a week. Take the schedule and use it with your child, adapting and changing it where needed.
Remember, you know your child best, and just because a parent swears by one thing doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for your child. Try the schedule out and adapt where needed.
(Much like we tried a different potty training method that thousands of parents had used and swear by, but it wasn’t working for us. So I changed and adapted it to fit my son’s needs.)
Before we get to the potty training schedule that will help you potty train your toddler fast, let’s look at a few potty training essentials you’re going to want to have on hand before starting out:
Potty training essentials:
- Small potty (it’s important to have one of these rather than just a potty seat, since you’ll be taking the potty with you when you go out for the first while)
- Potty seat (if you have a small potty, a potty seat is totally optional)
- Baby wipes (lots of them)
- Puppy piddle pads (lots of them)
- Big kid training underwear
- An all-purpose cleaner (for cleaning up accidents)
- Lots of fluids for your child to drink
- A few simple toys to keep at the potty (my son especially loved these and these. We didn’t play frisbee on the toilet, but he loved folding it up and popping it out of the case.)
- Some kind of reward (whether that be a chocolate treat, stickers, or something else)
- Ice cream (for you, when you need a little break and you’re crying in the closet)
- Mattress protector (we purchased this one and are so thankful for it. It is so easy to wipe off and has saved our mattress)
Now, on to the potty training schedule that will help you potty train your toddler fast. Are you ready?
Potty training schedule days 1 – 7
*I’ve learned that it’s important not to ask your child if they have to go potty (99.9% of the time the answer will be “no”). Instead, say, “let’s go to the potty!” or, “yay! It’s time to go to the potty!”
You’ll also want to start potty training on a week when you can clear your schedule and be at home as much as possible.
Another important note is to prepare for your potty-training stint.
Don’t decide one morning you’re going to start that day. Instead, talk about it for at least 2 – 3 days prior with your child. Get them excited about it, even if they can’t grasp the idea yet. Take the potty out and remind them that in x amount of days, they aren’t going to wear diapers anymore but are going to learn how to use the potty.
A few important ideas for day 1 are, keep them completely bottomless. This means no diapers, no training pants and no pants, even loose-fitting ones. Let them run around wild and free – you don’t want anything getting in the way of getting pee or poop in the potty.
Have several cups of water throughout the house to remind them to drink regularly. The goal is to keep them good and hydrated so their bladder has something in it and they can try to go pee frequently. To help with hydration, treat them with a sippy cup of juice to encourage them to drink lots throughout the day.
- When they wake up in the morning, remove their diaper and celebrate throwing it in the trash. Tell them, “you’re a big kid now, and big kids don’t wear diapers. Big kids go pee and poop on the potty!”
- Immediately sit them on the potty for at least 30 seconds. Tell them why they’re on the potty and help them sit still by counting their fingers and toes (more on ways to keep a toddler entertained on the potty below)
- If they pee, set a timer for 15 minutes, if they don’t pee, set a timer for 3-5 minutes
- When the timer goes off, tell them it’s time to go potty again. Be excited about it
- Again, keep them occupied on the potty for at least 30 seconds
- Repeat steps 2 – 5 for the rest of the day (you’ll be living your life around a timer for the next couple of days)
*You can place a diaper or pull-ups on your child during nap times and bedtimes, but be sure not to call it a diaper… instead, call it big kid nighttime underwear. Make a distinction there so they are aware they are still in potty-training mode, not thinking that they’re going back to wearing diapers.
Day 2 and 3 are when the discouragement sets in. Day one is filled with excitement and hope, but as the long days drag on with what may seem like more and more accidents, it’s easy to get discouraged. This is when it’s especially important to keep the energy up and stay positive. Keep excitement about the potty high, even when you don’t feel it.
Again, today you’ll want to ensure your child is drinking lots of fluids so they are able to try and go pee frequently throughout the day.
- Again, celebrate throwing away their diaper in the morning
- Immediately place them on the potty for at least 30 seconds
- If they pee, set a timer for 15 minutes. If they don’t pee, set it for 3 – 5 minutes
- When the timer goes off, bring them back to the potty
- In the afternoon, add 5 minutes on to the timer for a total of 20 minutes between potty trips
*You know your child best. If you think they can’t handle 20 minutes between bathroom breaks, or if they tend to pee more during the afternoon than in the morning, keep it at 15 minutes for today.
Day 3 was the hardest for us. I was tired of potty training, it seemed like my son was not getting the hang of it, and it felt like he was having more accidents than not. But, this is the turning point. It’s important to power through. In the days following day 3 is when we started seeing some serious breakthrough.
Here’s our day 3 potty training schedule:
- Throw the diaper in the trash
- Sit toddler on the potty for at least 30 seconds, longer if it seems (or you know) like they need to pee or poop but need a bit more time
- If they pee, celebrate with a treat and set the timer for 30 minutes (if you think your child can handle this. If they can’t stick with 20 minutes. If you think they can handle more, try 35 – 40 minutes)
- If they don’t pee, set the timer for 5 minutes and try again
- When the timer dings, do a little celebratory dance and excitedly exclaim, “it’s potty time!”
- Repeat steps 2 – 5 all. day. long.
This is when you should (hopefully) start seeing some breakthroughs. For us, we noticed our son was able to go greater periods of time between potty trips, and he even occasionally started to signal when he had to go (whether that was crying and grabbing his bum, signing “potty”, or saying “uh-oh” or “bum-bum”). We still didn’t have an accident-free day, but it was beginning to look like a possibility.
Remember, even if your child still isn’t getting the hang of it by now, continue being diligent. Continue on with the shorter timer and continue the potty excitement. They will catch on soon. For your sanity, hopefully sooner rather than later!
- Ask them to take their diaper off and throw it in the trash, followed by a high-five
- Sit them on the potty and remind them why they’re on the potty
- If they pee, set a timer for 45 minutes to 1 hour
- If they don’t pee, set a timer for 5 – 10 minutes
- When the timer dings, take them to the potty
- Repeat, repeat, repeat
If you feel like getting experimental, you could try putting some loose-fitting pants on your child on day four. Make sure to remind them that these are not to be peed or pooped in, but that pee and poop goes in the potty. Restrain from putting training underwear on them for now and just experiment with loose-fitting pants.
Today’s the day to challenge and stretch your child. Experiment with longer times between the potty and keep the duration of time they sit on the potty short to encourage them to sit down and potty right away, rather than taking 10 minutes to get anything out. Let your child choose what pants they’d like to wear after throwing their diaper away.
- Get them to take their diaper off and throw it away
- Sit them on the potty and remind them what to do. Try not to let them sit on the potty for any longer than a minute
- If they go potty, set a timer for 1 hour+ (you know your child best and the time that they can handle between bathroom breaks, adjust this accordingly)
- If they don’t potty, set the timer for 10 – 15 minutes
- When the timer dings, take them to the potty
- Repeat throughout the day
Encourage your child to go to the potty when they need to, rather than when the timer goes off. Frequently walk past the potty and remind them where pee and poop goes. If they show any signs of needing to go, celebrate big time and take them immediately.
By day six, you’re likely seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Accident-free days are still more than likely a ways away, but potty trips are getting shorter and your toddler is gaining increased bladder and bowel control, as well as learning how to signal when they need to go.
Today, repeat the steps from day 5. Let them choose their loose-fitting pants and celebrate successful potty trips like there’s no tomorrow.
Remember that accidents are still going to happen. Keep your cool and calmly remind them where to go potty.
You’ve made it one whole week of potty training. In other words, you’re a superhero. Making it this far is a huge deal.
If potty training is going well, repeat the steps from day 5, while adding more time between potty trips if you think your child can handle that. If not, stick with no more than 1 hour between trips.
After today, if you think your toddler is up for it, consider trying out some training underwear beneath their pants. If you find they’re having more accidents when wearing the underwear, hold off for another several days and try again.
Today’s the day to start getting brave. Leave the house for a walk or short drive, but remember to pack several extra pairs of pants and line your car seat and stroller with puppy piddle pads to keep messes contained.
Don’t forget to bring your little potty with you everywhere you go or always keep in mind where the closest bathroom is, and remember that going out may distract your child and they may forget to tell you when they have to go. Take them at least once an hour to try.
The thing I love about this potty training schedule is that whether you’re potty training boys or potty training girls, it works. Being diligent and patient are key, and never returning to diapers (except for nap and nighttime) is essential to your child’s potty training success.
How to keep a toddler entertained on the potty
Keeping your child entertained enough to stay on the toilet for at least 30 seconds, but not so entertained that they ask to go to the potty just to play with their potty-toys but not actually go to the bathroom is key.
A few of our favorite ways to keep a toddler entertained while sitting on the toilet are:
- Make a game of counting their fingers and toes
- Play peek-a-boo
- Rub lotion on their legs and get them to help
- Have a few not-too-exciting, but exciting-enough books nearby
- Have a couple bath toys on hand (we kept these stackable boats near our son’s toilet)
- Play round and round the garden
- Sing songs (our son’s favorite was the wheels on the bus with extravagant actions to go along with it)
- Count to 20 with your fingers (make it exciting to keep them intrigued)
- Ask them where their body parts are (“where is your nose?” “can you show mommy where your toes are?” “where are your ears?”)
Got more ways to keep a toddler entertained on the toilet? Share them with us all below!
Signs of potty training readiness
Before you even start to tackle potty training, it’s important that your child ticks off at least a few of these signs of potty training readiness. Our son didn’t tick them all off (he struggled to remove his pants on his own, due to lack of practice), but that didn’t stop us from potty training. Take these signs of potty training readiness’ with a grain of salt and remember, you know your kid best.
Signs of potty training readiness:
- Can walk on their own
- Has dry periods throughout the day for at least 2 hours
- Has regular, formed bowel movements
- Can pull their pants up/down on their own
- They show an interest in using the potty
- They hide, go into a different room, or make some kind of notable sign that shows they are aware of what they’re doing when making a bowel movement
- They can follow simple directions
- They can sit still for 2 – 5 minutes
- Not experiencing a big change (a move, bringing a new sibling into the family, starting daycare, etc.)
- They seem to dislike the feeling of wet and soiled diapers
- Stay dry through their naps
- Can communicate through words, signs, or actions that they need to go or already went
Remember, these signs that your toddler is ready to potty train are simple guidelines. They are not rules set in stone. After reading through the list you still have to determine whether you think your child is ready for this big learning curve or not.
How to Potty Train Your Toddler Fast: Conclusion
We’d love to know, what did you do to have potty training success? And, if you’re not there yet, what are you most dreading about starting potty training? We’d love to know!