Potty Training: 11 Simple Techniques for Toddlers

Isn’t potty training a toddler, a difficult task? Well, we think so too. Training a toddler to use the toilet and to be independent while using the washroom seems like quite a daunting task; which is why we need to clear our minds around it first. But how?
During an in-depth discussion with Shirali, a Canada-based paediatric registered nurse (RN), she expounds the myths about potty training and states a few indisputable facts:

4626893485_38f90d57e9_potty-trainingPotty training facts that defy all myths

  • ALL children will eventually get potty trained whether we try too hard or not.
  • ALL children are meant to get potty trained as per their own physical growth and cycle.
  • Children do not need expert assistance and in-depth psychological analysis (especially by parents) if they are not ready to potty train by a certain expected age!

Potty training is a part-natural part-induced system

“Have you seen any child wear diapers to senior school?” This was a question during our discussion that got me believing that yes, potty-training is a natural process!

Induced why? Because we train them mainly for purposes of hygiene, personal care, and social-development. Therefore, it cannot be treated as an age-specific milestone that needs to be accomplished!

Facts about potty training

  • “When we pre-decide a certain age and time by when we want to potty train our child, we establish a mental block.”

This is because the stress of achieving the target blurs our practical thought process.

  • “Potty training can be scientific in nature.”

If we follow your child’s physical developmental pattern and his/her natural ability to control his/her urges to pee and poop, we can potty train a toddler without a hiccup. For instance, if you notice that your child is able to hold his/her pee for more than a couple of hours at home, you can take him/her to the toilet and teach how to use it.

  • “Potty training is not definite in nature.”

Just because your child is able to use the toilet during the day or most parts of the day does not mean he/she is completely potty trained. Do not expect 100% achievements immediately. Go easy on yourself and your child if bed-wetting happens or if he/she wets his/her clothes despite being potty trained. Be prepared for potty stains as well!

Since we’ve already established that potty training is not as herculean as it seems to be, let’s explore a few techniques that you can use for your toddler.
RELATED: 10 Things Not To Say To Your Child

11 Ingenious Potty Training Techniques

1) How to tell if your toddler is ready to potty train?

There are signs by which you can understand whether your toddler is ready to be potty trained or not.

What signs?

a. Facial and physical expressions

  • A tense/taut facial expression or an expression that says that he/she is forcing the potty to go away is the first sign that your child may not be comfortable doing potty in the diaper anymore.
  • You should then offer to let him sit on his potty seat or the toilet seat and check if he/she agrees.
  • Sitting on all fours is also a sign that he/she wants to potty. You can offer the toilet seat at this point.

When toddlers hold their pee, they usually fidget by pressing their thighs together. Some of them also balance their weight from one leg to another before giving up and peeing in their pants or diapers. This is a clear indication that you should offer to take your toddler to the toilet.

b. Short syllabic sounds

  • Most toddlers are unable to speak coherently so, you need to watch out for the sounds to tell if your toddler is ready for potty training.
  • Since we use the words ‘potty’ or ‘pee-pee’ with them quite often, most toddlers say the sound ‘p’ or ‘pi’ before they go. You can keep track of these sounds.
  • A painful sounding ooh! or aah! before potty means that your toddler might be constipated. Potty training is difficult if your child suffers from constipation. Ensuring that your toddler drinks enough water during this time will keep constipation in check. Then you can initiate potty training with him/her.
  • Ask your toddler whether he/she wants to go, every couple of hours. If he/she is interested or wants to use the toilet willingly, he/she will make some intelligible sounds.

Shirali says that the response in this case is different for every child. It’s in different languages too–depending on the language they understand or hear parents speaking at home.

c. Clear words like ‘potty,’ ‘pee-pee,’ etc

If your toddler understands symptoms and the feeling of potty or of using the toilet, he/she might say the complete words like ‘potty,’ ‘poo,’ ‘pee,’ and so on. Since we speak different languages with children, the words in this case will also be in the language we speak.

  • Sometimes children make their own special language to say certain things. If we keep track, some of those might be to inform us about an upcoming need to go to the toilet.
  • When a child gives verbal signals, more often than not he/she is ready to be potty trained. You can offer the toilet seat to him/her and let him/her make the decision.

Don’t force!

d. Walking into the washroom with the diaper on

  • Often, we’ve witnessed children walking up to the toilet on their own; just to indicate that they want to use it. If your toddler is comfortable being inside the washroom, you can offer him/her the potty seat to use.
  • If he/she takes it, bingo! You’re set on the right track towards potty training.

e. Wanting to do potty in the diaper but inside the washroom

  • A possible scenario can also be that your toddler walks or crawls up to the washroom but insists on using a diaper. My son would do that for potty till he turned 3! He found the potty seat too intimidating. “I’m scared” were his
  • Let your child be comfortable with the surroundings and idea of the washroom first. Only then can the training begin.

Experts suggest that we should avoid letting them use the potty training seat in various parts of the house. It sends the wrong signals.

2) “At what age can I start potty training my toddler?”

This is an often asked question by most parents.

  • Although the previous sets of points already establish that there are no age-parameters in toddlers, they can begin showing signs of readiness as early as 1 year.
  • Most toddlers are okay to be potty trained before 2 years, although the complete process may take more than a week to even a few months.

“Trust that by age 4 your child will be completely potty trained. If not, don’t fret. Not every child has to follow the norm,” concludes Shirali.

3) How to get a toddler interested in potty training?

Potty Training Technique

Plus, you should applaud/encourage if they are successful at using the toilet, every time they use it.

4) Best potty training tips for toddlers

Once you have conveyed the idea of potty training to your toddler, the next step is to show him/her how.

Yes, you got that right!

“Parents need to show them how to use the toilet by demonstration–that does not involve actually using the washroom but just a pretend demo,” says Shirali.

She adds that sometimes, toddlers accompany their mothers to the bathroom since they can’t be left unattended outside for safety purposes. It’s great to explain the aspects of toilet training during this time as well.

For boys:

  • Let daddy convey the idea of standing up and peeing. It makes more sense to them when their father can actually demonstrate instead of their mother just trying to explain.
  • For teaching to sit on a regular (adult) toilet, the parents should sit and show first. This includes demonstrating how the fixtures like flush, water jet etc. work (although they’re not supposed to use them now!)
  • Ideally, boys should be gotten into the habit of standing and peeing early-on, so that you don’t have to undo the habit of sitting later (Plus public washrooms are well…dirty!)
  • Keep a stool handy in the washroom on which your toddler can stand (with your support) and pee directly into the toilet. Using a baby toilet seat is a messy option in this regard.

For girls:

  • Mamma needs to show every aspect of toilet training to a girl!” Shirali insists that mothers of girls should talk about personal hygiene (in simple words of course) to even a tiny toddler.
  • Moms can show a girl the best way to sit on a toilet and use it. Toddlers really enjoy demos!

When mammas teach boys:

  • You can get your boy to aim into the toilet by placing pieces of popcorn or bits of chapati into the pot. Explain that his pee needs to hit the spot on which the popcorn/chapati or whatever it is that you have chosen, is floating.
  • “It’s so much fun that all mothers would like to teach the boys even when papas are around to do it,” says Shirali, mid chuckles!


5) How often should you take your toddler to the bathroom when potty training?

  • Depends on how often your child needs to pee, which in turn depends on the liquid consumption. On an average, once every hour and a-half is good.
  • For potty, you should let your child try doing it on the potty seat once every two hours till it happens. Once done, you’re set for the next 5-6 hours.


6) How long should your toddler sit on the potty when potty training?

Well, not very long!

  • Don’t wear out your child in your excitement to potty train. Make him/her use the toilet for a bit and then let go. He/she will let you know if potty is happening or not by continuing to sit longer when it is.


7) Potty training a stubborn toddler!

So you’ve put all the possible tips together and tried every rule of the book and yet, your toddler still swears by the diaper. Let him/her be!

  • Don’t push or force your child to potty train.
  • The diaper is a habit you gave him/her in the first place so he/she is not doing something totally wrong. Is it?
  • Just because the neighbour’s toddler is charmingly using the toilet does not mean your toddler will too. If your child is being stubborn, there is a reason behind it. Try and get to the reason first!
  • A stubborn toddler needs patience and rewards to potty train. Offer plausible rewards and see if you are successful at getting the horse to the well!


8) Potty training toddler at night: Night-Time Tips!

“I know of parents who set alarms to get up and make their child use the toilet in the middle of the night.”

Shirali is talking about the tremendous amount of effort that some parents take to avoid their toddler from wetting the bed. If similar concerns are stressing you out, the following night-time training tips are for you:

Tips for the midnight trip to the toilet:

  • Avoid making your child drink fluids just before bedtime. Fluids will increase the urge to pee and your child may not be able to control it.
  • Set a mental (or physical) alarm and help your child use the toilet every couple of hours during night-time.
  • Explain to your toddler that you are available for him/her if he/she wants to use the toilet at any time during the night. Allow for slips and accidental wetting too.
  • Ensure that the mattresses that you use for your toddler are water resistant and use plastic/quick dry sheets over them.
  • Don’t make night-time toilet training scary for your little one. If he/she insists on using a diaper in spite of being potty trained during the day, allow it.

Wrong potty training expectations:

  • Potty training is not easy if you are pushing the limits of your toddler. For instance, an urge to potty cannot be controlled by your toddler so we should not be expecting the same from him/her. In the same way, an urge to pee in the middle of the night will make your toddler forget all the toilet training that you accomplished.

In short, be patient about night-time potty training since it will go slower than it goes during the day. It involves a sleepy small child at the end of the day, right?

9) Is training done best at home?

Home is the best environment for potty training and not the school. Some parents want the school to do this hard work for them and that is not right.

  • A teacher has many children to cater to. One cannot expect him/her to address your child’s specific potty training issues at all times.
  • You should start the process at home and then inform the teacher about the issues that she can expect. Let him/her be prepared but don’t expect 100% attention in this regard.
  • You should most definitely keep the toilet at home spic and span so that your child is not put off by the sight and smells in there. Your child should want to be where he/she is.
  • Don’t overwhelm your child by making the process at home too long-winded and then involving other people in the process as well. Grandparents and other family members should be involved only after your child gets comfortable with the idea of using a toilet.

Ensure that potty training involves no stress or punishment at all!

10) Real-life examples of potty training methods:

  • Mother of two kids, Medha says that her one-year-old would want to watch her use the washroom. In fact she would insist on accompanying her. Medha allowed it till her child turned one and soon, her daughter would use the washroom just like her mamma.

Wish it was as easy for everyone!

  • “My son would want to use the potty the minute he would enter the washroom naked,” says Deeksha (a mom and homemaker). When her son was one-and-a half, he was trained to do potty before taking a bath!

Two birds with one stone, anyone?

  • It was as tough as it could get for Sharon, a marketing executive, whose toddler would resist the sight of a toilet. She let him use the diaper for potty till he turned four! After which he started using the toilet on his own.

Talk about a headstrong toddler!

  • “I followed the rules of the book and managed to potty train before she was two,” says Celeste. From trying the potty seat, to getting pretty bathroom toys to setting alarm for trips to the washroom, Celeste stuck to the age-old rules and won!

Doesn’t work the same for everyone but no harm trying, right?

11) Potty training videos for toddlers: See and learn!

The following videos are interesting and informative to teach parents how to train their little ones to use the toilet. We added a few that children can watch too:

For step-by-step training

By Ari Brown, a paediatrician and author of successful children’s books, this video leads you into quick step-by-step tips towards successful potty training. It’s easy to follow so give it a shot!

Here, Ari Brown talks about the day and night-time potty training. Exactly something we’re looking for, isn’t it?

This one is animated where even the diaper talks! Fun and interesting–watch it and show it to your toddler for a fun potty training experience.

This video is animated again. Talks about an interactive potty training game for toddlers. You can download it as an app on your phone or tablet and let your toddler learn.

To conclude: Example of toddler potty training schedule

Potty training can be quite a stressful time for parents and children alike. However, the key is to let the stress pass and treat the process as naturally as possible. To do that, you can follow these broad set of points and see if this sets a schedule for your child:

  • After your child wakes up, let him/her sit on his/her potty seat or your toilet for some time.
  • Involve him/her in some conversation or let him/her play with some bath toys. (You can show a potty training video too!)
  • If your child is able to use the toilet, great! If not, try again after an hour.
  • Ensure that while trying, you don’t force him/her too much.
  • Let your child remain diaper-free during the afternoons when he/she is at home.
  • Remind him/her that since pants are not on, he/she can go to the toilet/potty seat and use it.
  • Sometimes, natural instinct to not get dirty leads children to a corner or to their potty seat when they want to go.

Tweak and change the process as per your child’s behaviour, response, and your suitability. After that, take a chill pill!
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Image Credit: Manish BansalTodd Morris

Do you also know of simple potty training techniques that helped your child? Share a few of them with us. Comment below!

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Mother to a five-year-old, Amrita Minocha is essentially a teacher. She teaches GRE/GMAT/IELTS verbal courses, English as a second language (TESOL), and Yoga! An MBA in HR, she enjoys juggling between diverse roles. A hardcore bookworm who aims to pen a book someday, she currently writes GRE verbal samples, activity books for kids, and actively blogs on the Flintobox blog.

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