For the last six months or so we have been saying that this was coming soon. My two-year-old (2 years, 5 months to be exact) has been showing signs of potty training readiness for a while, but we weren’t quite mentally prepared for it. A couple of weeks ago we decided it was time to just go for it and that we would use the same method we used in the past with our other two children and found success...
3-day potty training boot camp!
We started on a Friday morning and did it through the weekend. After those three days, he has been in undies all day (except for nap time). He had an accident on both of the first 2 days after the weekend, but since then–zero! He has even woke up from some naps and nighttime sleeps dry and has asked to go potty!
Even though I have done this two other times with my older children, I am always shocked at how quickly they catch on. I am writing this 2 weeks after the “boot camp” and I am still amazed that we did that so fast.
Signs of Readiness
So how did we do it? I will get there, but before you jump in, you need to make sure your child is ready. Age really doesn’t matter a whole lot, but rather that they are showing signs of readiness.
Here are some signs I have been seeing in Huck that made me feel like it was time.
- Staying dry longer stretches. I had noticed that he would stay dry 2 or 3 hours and sometimes wake up dry from naptime. This showed me he physically had the ability to “hold it”.
- Showing interest. For months Huck followed us all into the bathroom and asked what we were doing and eventually started asking if he could go on the potty too. We would put him on and even though he didn’t actually go potty, it was a sign he was interested.
- Knowing when he was going to go. He didn’t communicate that he was going to go pee, but he would go hide somewhere if he felt like he was going to go poop. That showed me that he was getting in tune with his body.
- Showing independence and confidence. He has been insistent on doing tasks by himself for a while, like getting his own water or snacks. I felt like he would be ready to take initiative when he needed to go and take pride in accomplishing the task.
- Having the ability to follow directions. Potty training requires remembering and being able to follow multiple steps, so once I noticed that he was able to follow 2-3 directions at a time in other areas, I felt like he could be ready to potty train.
- Having the ability to communicate his basic needs. He was able to tell me when he was hungry, tired, thirsty, or hurt, so I figured he could also tell me when he needed to go potty.
Once you are sure your child is ready, it doesn’t hurt to wait just a little longer and check for the signs again! If you force or rush it, you may end up with a big problem on your hands (or floors) for an unnecessarily prolonged time, and a child who has a bad association with the whole ordeal.
Here is what we did to prepare before starting “boot camp.”
- We picked 3 days in a row that we knew we would be home and had nothing else going on. We chose to do a Friday - Sunday so my husband could help on the weekend. On that Friday, we took the day off of our homeschool lessons so I could be fully available. We set our intention for those three days to be focused on that. We even told the older kids the plan and they participated. My daughter dubbed it a “potty party” and even made decorations to hang in the bathroom!
- We read a few potty books throughout the week leading up to it and started talking to Huck about the big day coming up that he would be using the big boy potty. Here are a few of my favorite potty books for toddlers:
- We gathered the supplies we needed.
- Big kid undies. We ordered Huck some "big boy undies" with his favorite characters on them (Daniel Tiger and Mickey Mouse)
- Potty or potty seat and footstool. I don’t think a small separate potty or a potty seat are always necessary, but my mom had bought him a little potty seat that goes on top of the toilet awhile back, so we got it out and put it in the bathroom. Either way, make sure they have somewhere comfortable to rest their feet.
- Timer. For this method you also need a timer (we like this one from Amazon)
- Drink. A drink your child loves and gets rarely (for us, that was apple juice).
- Reward. We use dye-free chocolate candies from Trader Joe’s, but raisins or other small treats will also work.
Here is the nitty-gritty of the potty training boot camp and how we did it in our home.
On day one when we took Huck’s diaper off from night time, we put his undies on. We also put a pair of undies on his favorite stuffed animal. We kept him in just undies or undies and a shirt, no pants. We set up the footstool in front of the toilet and put on the potty seat. We filled his water cup with water, cut it with a little bit of apple juice, and set the timer for 30 minutes. The idea is to give them lots of opportunities to practice in these three days. You want them peeing A LOT, so keep the water and juice coming all day long!
Focus on “keep it dry”
We told Huck that he is a big boy now and he is going to keep his undies dry! Every 10-15 minutes we had a big “keep it dry” check. We asked him, “Are you keeping it dry?” We would feel his undies and celebrate that they were dry! We felt his stuffed animal’s undies together and celebrated that they were dry. The big kids got involved too and we celebrated them and Mommy keeping it dry. The idea is not to only focus on celebrating peeing on the potty, but even more on keeping it dry. Every time we would do a dry check and he was dry, we would celebrate and he would get a chocolate candy. That might seem like a lot, but really it was only about 4 each hour. You could certainly use raisins or something else if that bothers you. We tapered off celebrating with candy sometime during day two.
Use the timer
The timer is for two purposes.
- To remind you to take them potty. On day one we started with setting the timer for every 30 minutes. Every time the timer would ring, we would head to the potty. Remember, in between potty runs you want to continually ask the child if they are keeping it dry. On day two, we set the timer for every hour, and by day three, we weren’t using it at all!
- For them to sit on the potty. Once they are sitting on the potty, we set the timer for two minutes for him to sit there. This gives them a chance to try to feel the sensation and let it out rather than rushing off the potty because they are unfamiliar with the feeling and then end up having an accident a minute later.
When accidents do happen
On the first day, we had as many “accidents” as we did successes. That is to be expected and every accident is an opportunity to talk about the difference between wet and dry and remind the child to keep it dry. I would say something like, “Uh oh, you didn’t keep it dry. That’s okay, let’s get new dry undies from your drawer and work on keeping these ones dry!” Then I would have Huck put the wet undies in the laundry basket and reset the timer. After one or two full-blown pee-all-over-the-floor accidents, he started just going a tiny bit in his undies and then would stop himself and say “Uh oh! I didn’t keep it dry.” When that happened I would run him to the potty and let him finish. Even if he just had a tiny wet spot, we would put it in the laundry basket and get new undies. We did a lot of laundry on the first day!
Most of the work and focus was really on day one. By day two, we ditched the juice and were transitioning out of using the timer. Instead, I would just periodically ask if he needed to go potty and if I saw him showing any signs of holding it, I would just take him. This would totally depend on how quickly your child catches on, but the idea is to start strong using all the help and then to slowly let go of using everything and let them take ownership of it. By day three, Huck was telling me he needed to go potty and taking initiative to go himself!
I have been so happy with using this method. I know it can’t possibly work for every child, but we have seen success with our older three children, so I call that a win. If you try this method, share with me how it goes on Instagram by tagging me. I would love to know!