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Welcome! Do you have a million questions running through your head on when you should start potty training and how the heck to make it happen as painlessly as possible?
Do you have an inkling that your little is ready for potty training before 2?
Are you sick and tired of changing diapers and ready for freedom?
Do you welcome the idea of saving all that $$ from running through pack after pack of diapers?
I know I was all of those things.
Today, I’m here today to share ALL my top tips and my personal experience in potty training my 22 month old daughter.
Spoiler alert: a ton of work, but TOTALLY worth it. I’d do it again at 22 months in a heartbeat.
Most kids in the United States are potty-trained somewhere between ages 2 and 3. In many other cultures, potty training begins MUCH earlier. My husband is from Eastern Europe and his family was totally appalled we waited until 22 months to start. Different strokes for different folks.
If you think your child may be ready, it’s totally worth a try. Remember – YOU know your child BEST! Not Susie or Karen down the street. You. The Parents. The Primary Caregivers. Remember, there is simply no one size fits all in parenting or potty training.
Alright, let’s get started, shall we?
PS – if you read only one section on this page, let it be the 6 things I wish I knew before potty training before 2!
Signs Your Toddler is Ready to Potty Train Before 2
I hate to break it to you, but there is no golden rule showing your toddler is ready and potty training will be a breeze. You have to listen to your parenting intuition. You can always try and reset (take a break) if it’s a total disaster. That being said, there are some signs that may help indicate success is in your future:
- an independent toddler
- toddler tells you when he/she has peed or pooped in his/her diaper
- toddler hides to poop
- toddler shows interest in the potty
- toddler can follow simple instructions
- toddler can communicate with you (verbally or with sign language)
How To Potty Train Before 2
The first thing I recommend doing is getting your toddler interested and excited about using the potty and becoming more of a big boy or big girl. Ideally, you will take them with you when you go to the bathroom and explain the process (with excitement!).
Next, if you are truly committed to ditching diapers, you’ll want to set aside a solid chunk of time (~5 days) to focus on exactly that – potty training. I’d recommend having some kind of strategy in mind. We went full immersive, no more daytime diapers, and no part-time training. We didn’t put on diapers for outings or in the car. This isn’t for everyone, I understand that, but it does show your toddler you are serious about this change and that you are confident they’ve got this!
It’s time for you to pick a strategy that aligns with your parenting style. Like all things in parenting, there is no ONE WAY to do it right.
If your interested in immersive potty training, this is the method I mainly followed:
The Oh Crap Potty Training Method: Use It, But Take It With A Grain of Salt…
Now I’m no potty training GURU. I’m a mom of a toddler (with another baby on the way) who was pretty darn confident we didn’t need daytime diapers in our life anymore.
After extensive research (because I LOVE to research), I ended up purchasing 3 different books to pull inspiration from: Potty Training in 3 Days, OH CRAP Potty Training, & Go Diaper Free. My favorite BY FAR was the Oh Crap Potty Training Method… but I do wish they laid out some more realistic expectations. The book had me convinced in less than a week we would be done-zo with potty training, which turned out to be far from the case for us. I’ll share my thoughts below to help prepare you for the task ahead.
Basically, the book breaks down potty training into “blocks”. You start naked and look for their cues, then you add pants only (commando) and then you move into undies with pants. You stay in each block until they’ve either shown progress or mastered it before moving on. Obviously you aren’t doing any outings in the naked block, but once in pants you start with small excursions and build up. You can nap/night train at the same time or wait (we are waiting). The book goes into a ton of detail and really is very helpful on troubleshooting issues that may come up along the way. You can order it here.
The Oh Crap Facebook support group is INCREDIBLE and one of the best parts of the book. There are thousands of potty training parents eager to share their experiences and help YOU succeed and cheer you on. It’s awesome because no toddler is the same (seriously, what works for one doesn’t even impact the next one), and quite frankly it’s nice to not feel like you are on this journey alone.
Let’s Chat About Realistic Expectations…
Look, potty training isn’t easy. In fact, it’s the first thing that truly challenged my patience as a parent. It’s not fun – nobody likes cleaning pee and poop off the floor/couch/rug/chair/bed/wall/highchair… but in the end it is totally liberating. You’ll be so PROUD of your little when he/she gets the hang of it and feels like such a big kid.
What YOU the parent need to succeed:
- Positive mindset
- More patience
You need a boat load of patience to succeed in potty training. It seems so simple to us adults, but it’s apparently quite the process for toddlers to learn. It also tends to disrupt their naps and sleep, so you need a healthy dose of patience all around.
After reading the three potty training books, I was pretty convinced it was going to take somewhere around 3-5 days. WRONG. It took nearly 14 days for my daughter to stop having multiple accidents a day every day and for me to feel like I didn’t have to watch her like a hawk.
Now, some parents will say I started too early, I should have given up and tried again later… blah blah blah. But I know my daughter and I know she was ready and capable, we just had to work through her fears. She was making progress even though it at the time it seemed we were spinning in circles (more of our story below).
Will it take your kid 2 weeks? Hopefully not. From my experience reading the Oh Crap Facebook group this was on the longer end. You see, she’s a smart cookie, but she had this intense fear of releasing. Apparently she liked to pee standing up in her diaper and she didn’t like the feeling of releasing sitting down.
I pray you have one of the kiddos that takes right to it and is practically fully trained in 3 days. I do. That would be AMAZING.
I just want you to have realistic expectations. That may not be the case.
I’d highly suggest setting aside at least 5 days when you are home to commit everything you have to potty training in one fell swoop.
If you’re done in 3 – YAHOO, you’ll be so proud and you can shout it from the rooftops. But if you aren’t, you won’t be in a puddle of tears on the floor wondering what you did wrong. Because you’ll have realistic expectations. It may take a week or two, or even 3. Some kiddos self initiate from the early days, while others will require prompting for a month or more. Every child is unique – I can’t say it enough! That’s why you need to be committed and in the right mindset for this journey.
You’ve got to stay upbeat, so you don’t lose your mind in this process. Plan lots of fun activitities to do at home with your toddler and play lots of uplifting music.
Remind yourself WHY you know it’s time. Write affirmations on your mirror. Journal. Do whatever you can to stay in high spirits.
You’ve got this!
It’s likely going to try your patience. Stock up. Recruit help for meals/cleaning/errands during this time. Try to have a partner on board that can sub in and provide some relief.
Ok, it doesn’t have to be wine or chocolate. But have a treat (doesn’t have to be food) ready to reward yourself at the end of a long day for all of your effort!
Potty Training Supplies for Successful Potty Training Before 2
Ehhh, living in a city condo, I’m more of a supplies minimalist. In my opinion, you don’t need a ton of fancy things. I read about all these wool soaker shorts and special car seat liners…. and sure, if you have the $$ and want the extra stuff in your house, go for it. Some of it does make your life slightly easier, but just know it certainly isn’t required.
Here are the things I’d recommend having:
First, consider whether you want a portable potty you can move around your house, or whether you want them to use the bathroom from the getgo.
This will depend on 1- the layout of your home (is a bathroom nearby the rooms you spend time in?) and 2- time (it may take a little more time to teach them to leave the room they are in and go to the bathroom).
Waterproof mattress cover x 2
The most brilliant advice I received for nap or night training: put on a mattress cover and your fitted sheet, and then add a second mattress cover and fitted sheet. That way, when you have a night accident, you can just pull the top 2 layers off and put your toddler right back to bed. No need to make the bed while you are really just wanting to crawl back in bed.
We love this organic cotton breathable & noiseless waterproof crib mattress cover. If your toddler is already in a big kid bed, we have had success with this cotton terry noiseless cover (available in all bed sizes).
While I am a minimalist, I’m also all for promoting toddler independence. Having a step stool like this one allows them to access the sink to wash their hands. We have the white one pictured above and it’s perfect!
These don’t have to be new. You’ll just want to arrange them in the bathroom. You need ways to entertain your toddler and get them to stay seated for more than 0.3 seconds.
We would read books or sing songs. These are a few of our favorite reads:
This interactive book holds their attention and helps keep them seated in one place. Get it here.
This cute book helps teach your toddler to ask for help when they need to go! Get it here.
Not potty training related, but this bright and colorful book holds my toddler’s attention has helped expand her vocabulary! Get it here.
Preferably undies with characters or patterns that are pleasing to your toddler, so they will be extra excited to wear them! I’m a fan of the Cat & Jack brand at Target for younger toddlers because they fit on the smaller end and don’t break the bank.
Travel potty or seat reducer (optional, but very handy)
We’ve used this travel potty so many times, it’s definitely worth the price. It’s small enough to fold up in our diaper bag. I love that you can use it as a seat reducer or as a stand-alone potty, and the disposable bags are great for easy cleanup on the go. I’m always honest and there is one con with this one – the splash guard isn’t very effective and requires wiping around the edge or rinsing. I just use a diaper wipe and get on with my day.
6 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting Potty Training Before 2
- No toddler is the same. What works for one may have no impact whatsoever on the next.
- Diaper wearing babies/toddlers pee VERY often, but they will quickly learn to consolidate. This means on day 1 you may be cleaning up tiny accidents every 5-10 minutes. I had NO IDEA! It’s totally normal, and should improve dramatically each day.
- It’s normal for day 1 to feel like a total disaster. They are learning and you are learning their cues! Hang in there.
- Slow progress is progress. While it may take a LONG time to get through one component of potty training, the rest may come easily.
- Fear of release is very common. Have ideas ready on how to help your toddler learn (see below).
- Potty training is not a linear process. Toddlers have good days and bad days. They may try to mess with you to see how serious you are a few days in. They might be tired one day. A bad day doesn’t mean you should give up!
Okay let’s chat about releasing…
Tips for getting your child to release on the potty
Here are some activities to try to help get your child to release on the potty:
- dip their feet or hands in warm water
- play with a bucket of water or water toys while sitting on the potty
- run water in the background
- blow bubbles (this relaxes the required muscles: use a straw and cup of water or pretend to blow out candles)
- demonstrate it’s not scary (yes, pee in tiny potty yourself or have an older sibling do it)
- play with playdoh on the potty
- read books
- pour water between their legs
- play with sensory jars (purchased or homemade)
- screen time?
Screen time comes with a question mark because it was recommended to us, however it didn’t really work at all for us. We are screen-free until 2 and limited afterwards, but I did try some screen time during potty training to try to get my daughter to stay on the potty. She was too distracted to release and would just hold it the entire time she was watching and then pee on the floor 5 mins later. It didn’t seem to matter if it was 5 minutes or 45 minutes of sitting on the potty…. Super frustrating, but you know what? She was learning to hold it. And when we got over the fear of release, she flew through the rest of potty training.
Recap of these tips for potty training before 2
As the parent, it’s important you have realistic expectations and a positive mindset. You need to trust your intuition and choose a strategy or method that aligns with your parenting style. You know your child best – if you think they are capable, give it a try! It’s wonderful to not rely on diapers (plus much better for the environment too!). It’s certainly a challenge, but one all of your parent friends can relate too.
Wishing you potty training success!
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