June is Potty Training Awareness Month, so what better time to discuss preparing your cutie’s booty for the porcelain throne? Potty training is one of the biggest stages in a toddler’s life, and there’s tons to think about as you navigate this important transition.
Here’s the good news: we’ve done most of the dirty work (minus the actual training, that is) and compiled a list of the best potty training tips we could find. We’ve even thrown in a few extra tricks straight from our Hello Bello community of “been there, done that” parents. PLUS, we have a free printable potty training kit for you AND a funny video of our very own Kristen Bell talking about her potty training experience with her girls.
(Heads-up: This is a loooonnnng blog post, but it's well worth the read/watch/print! Whenever toilet time strikes, consider this your secret wee-wee weapon! )
Before diving in, we'd like to emphasize that every journey is unique. This is a general guide to the wonderful, weird world of potty training. We encourage you to cherry pick what works best for you.
#1 Relax, don’t push it
Getting things moving is the goal, right? Well, sort of - but it’s more important to be patient in the process. Things like using their diaper less, telling you when they go pee and poo, or showing more interest in the subject are just a few signs that your toddler’s toilet time is approaching.
#2 Ensure your little one is capable, too
Part of the process is making sure your babe is physically able to begin training. That means pulling their own pants up and down, or being able to sit on the toilet long enough to do their business. If they’re not quite there yet, it’s ok to wait a bit until you feel more confident in their ability.
#3 Once you start, be consistent
Littles are looking at you to set the potty pace, so staying consistent once you start is key. If possible, get your daycare providers and family involved in your potty patterns and see if they can help maintain the same regimen. Setting potty intervals, like before naps or after snacktime, will also help baby bums get with the program.
#4 Make it fun
Let’s be honest, what happens in the toilet isn’t pretty. But you can at least make it fun with something everyone can enjoy, like reading books during potty time, buying special underwear, singing silly songs or implementing a sticker chart. Setting a laid back, playful pace may even spark curiosity from reluctant tots.
#5 Let them pick their potty
...And underwear, and anything else they’ll be using once they're in full-blown training mode. Giving them options is not only exciting, but it also gives them a sense of responsibility and “grown up” power in the process. Just make sure the potty they pick is durable and tip-resistant!
#6 Put the potty in an obvious place
Despite what you may think, toddler toilets don’t have to stay in the bathroom! At least while they’re getting used to it, feel free to move the potty somewhere easily accessible to them, like their room or playroom. As long as they can get to it quickly, it’s ok (and you can always move it closer to the bathroom as they progress.)
#7 Be open to skipping the toddler toilet
Some kids want the real thing, and that’s great! In that case, purchase a potty seat that attaches directly to your toilet. As with potty chairs, make sure the seat you pick is stable and wobble-free for safety (and so your little one doesn’t get scared of the movement.) A foot rest will also help them feel supported as they go.
#8 Flush when they’re away
Did we mention this is a brand new venture? Even flushing can be scary for newbies! If you’re dealing with a timid tot, wait until they leave the bathroom to flush the toilet to avoid frightening them. Gently introduce the concept as they feel more comfortable.
#9 Explain what’s happening
Honestly, going to the bathroom is… weird. Naturally, some kids are a little spooked by the whole thing, especially bowel movements. Giving them plenty of books or videos to explain what’s happening with their body can take away some of that confusion and fear.
#10 Give rewards
Your little one is tackling a big task, and it’s ok to reward them for doing so! The idea is simple: do good things, get good stuff. Special treats that they only get after using the potty or an extra sweet treat you usually limit may encourage some kids to follow the right potty behavior.
#11 If not rewards, plenty of praise
Treats aren’t right for everyone, so sometimes an enthusiastic “good job” is all you need. Involve praise any time something good happens, including when they show interest in learning more or trying things themselves. A positive association with all aspects of training will help keep them on track.
#12 Don’t punish for accidents
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: potty training is tough on toddlers. But getting upset or punishing them for not doing it right will further exacerbate the situation. Stubbornness can also mean they’re not ready, so consider taking a break until they’re ready again.
#13 Lead by example
Parents are their child’s biggest influence, so why not show them how it’s done? Bring them with you the next time you go to the bathroom and demonstrate how it works (only if you’re comfortable, of course.) This is also a good opportunity to answer any questions they may have and walk them through it step by step.
#14 Implement a “clothing optional” approach
For some toddlers, removing any temptation to relieve themselves elsewhere can encourage proper potty protocol. If it feels right (and if you’re ready for potential accidents), give your tots some naked time around the house. Without diapers, some baby bums naturally choose the potty for their go time needs.
#15 Use training diapers & portable potties for car rides
If you’re headed out for a road trip or embarking on a longer outing, keeping a portable potty handy and combining big kids underwear with training pants helps prepare you for anything. Simply slip the training pants over your little’s underwear for a failsafe backup in the event they tinkle in the car.
#16 Give number two a little more time
Peeing is easier to accomplish, so it’s natural for baby bums to hesitate with number two. Don’t be concerned if your child nails tinkling in the potty right away, but regresses when it comes to pooping. They might be scared of what’s happening, or it’s just uncomfortable or painful - give them encouragement and patience as they figure the rest out!
#17 Yes, they will regress
Oh, if only this process were cut and dry… But alas, potty training is a long & windy road. Some days you can feel on top, other days it feels like your back at square one. No matter what’s happening, just remember that regression is natural and it’s ok if your toddler takes a few steps back. Adjust & remain flexible to each and every stage.
#18 Practice aim with your boys
Anatomically speaking, boys have an extra step to tackle when potty training. After practicing sitting down, standing up can feel like a whole new skillset. Once he’s ready, try dropping a small piece of food in the toilet, then have him stand on a stool and aim for the object. It’s fun, it’s practical, and it’s one of the best ways to avoid wayward streaming!
#19 Add some color
It’s not all just browns and yellows! Adding a bit of color can create an engaging, playful experience. Drop some blue dye in the toilet and sit your little one backwards. This way, they can watch the water turn green as they go. Tada!
#20 Comparisons kill motivation
Have a big kid in the house? Or neighbors and friends who finished already? Whatever you do, don’t compare your child to anyone else, and especially not in front of them. This causes embarrassment and shame and deters them from wanting to try for fear of failing or “falling behind”.
#21 Keep a close eye
Even with the proper tools, your littlest love may not always listen to their body. Keep an eye out for signs that they need to go (like fidgeting or straining) then gently ask if that’s the case. If you’re too late and they’ve already gone, take them to the potty anyway to reinforce the action.
#22 Don’t condemn old behaviors
It might feel like your tot is growing right before your eyes, but they may not want to let go of their baby days just yet. Encouraging big kid behavior is good, but try not to overdo it. If kids feel like they can’t be kids anymore, they may pull a full stop in favor of hanging onto their glory days (and diapers.)
#23 Follow their lead, too
By now you understand that this process is all about patience. Sometimes, your little learners run out of it completely. If you’re hitting a wall, don’t force the issue at hand - it’s much better to let them cool down and try again later than to strong arm them into doing something they aren’t comfortable with yet.
#24 Show & tell
Still struggling to break the diaper dependence? Some kids are visual learners, and showing them their excrement can better demonstrate why the toilet is necessary (especially poops.) It’s ok to get curious with it, so include them when you deposit diaper remnants in the toilet to show them what’s up.
#25 Have friends show them the way
If you know their friends are on the same journey (and if their parents are ok with it), have your babe tag along to the bathroom with them! By seeing another toddler use the potty, it may resonate more and inspire them to want to follow suit.
And now, a few pro hacks from our Hello Bello community:
#26 Kally says:
“A potty training cover for the car seat for the win!”
#27 McKenna says:
“Use positive reinforcement and prepare yourself to clean up a lot of accidents along the way.”
#28 Stephanie says:
“Let them choose how - my little one hated when we made her sit on the potty. She wanted to go sit when she was ready!”
#29 Meghan says:
“It will be a marathon not a sprint, and they will get it eventually. Hang. In. There.”
#30 Kirsten says:
“If it seems like they aren’t ready, they really, really aren’t ready. No amount of reassuring, bargaining, praising, coaxing will work if they really aren’t ready.”
BONUS TIP: Kristen Bell says: Don't be embarrassed if your kiddo's a late learner.
Kristen's been quite transparent about the fact that her first child potty-trained lightning-fast and the second didn't fully until she was...much older. "The reality is I have two very different children. One got potty-trained really early. One got potty-trained much later. Both of them are going to, I assume, graduate high school and be able to function in the world and that it will never be an issue."
Watch this video to learn a little more about how it played out in her house. (She talks specifically about potty-training at the 2:50 mark, but the whole video is well worth the watch!)
Free Printable Potty Training Tool Kit
Check out our adorable potty training chart that helps track your kiddo's progress, printable stickers, and a certificate to celebrate their success in the end!
- Click here for potty training stickers (If you don't have sticker paper, you can just cut them out and use a glue stick or tape to attach them to the chart.)
- Click here for the potty training chart
- Click here for the potty training certificate of success
Ready for the real thing? We hope so! And don’t be afraid to implement your own tricks, too - everyone’s situation is different, so try not to be too strict with it. Potty training is an unpredictable adventure, so keep your hope alive no matter what. Good luck!