Potty training in three days? Impossible! Or, so we thought. We have now trained three children, each within three days — so we’re total believers. But how does it work? Pull up a (potty) chair and let’s chat.
Girls versus Boys
Nearly six years ago, we started devoting a slice of our monthly income to diapers when our oldest, a girl, was born. When our twin boys were born, we put her on the fast-track to becoming queen of the porcelain throne; she turned three just days after the twins were born. The day after that, the boys came home from the hospital and we converted her crib to a toddler bed. And that weekend, we started the potty training in three days process.
She had a few accidents that morning, but by lunch time, she had used the potty appropriately and was accident-free the remainder of the day aside from just after waking up from naps that afternoon. We went to Sunday mass the next day in undies and never looked back.
Our twin boys were completely different, yet quite similar. We tried to train them around the age of two as well. For them, however, it was apparent they weren’t ready quite yet; between the two boys, we had gone through six pair of underwear within the first half hour.
I’d read somewhere that if a child can’t last a certain amount of time between needing to pee, they are not yet ready. Which makes sense — how would we like it if we had to use the bathroom every 30 minutes, all day long? By sheer annoyance of the task at hand, a toddler wouldn’t stand much chance at being successful.
So we decided to wait another month before trying again. And when we tried again, we had the same result: lots of accidents, very little time. Rather than forcing it, we decided to wait another month or two.
The last time we tried, we certainly didn’t have immediate success — but we did see one of our boys make it to the potty once that first Friday morning just before lunch. That little victory gave us the the nod we needed to know we were on the right track. And we were! Though they weren’t as quick as our daughter, we were still attending Sunday mass, two mornings later, in underwear.
We’ll be embarking on this journey yet again this summer, when our youngest daughter turns two. So, how did we do potty training in three days? Keep reading for a printable freebie and the five things we did to train our kids — both girls and boys — in a weekend.
1. Go Pantsless
Some people recommend going entirely bare from the waist down — no pants, no underwear. We always opted to start with keeping underwear on.
Simple: less mess. At least if there were underwear on, there was some type of barrier to somewhat absorb or stop the result of an accident before it would hit the floor. I also assumed having wet underwear would be more uncomfortable than having none on at all.
It completely depended on the child. Our daughter and one of our twins were more bothered by having accidents in their underwear; our other twin didn’t seem to care if he had an accident with underwear on, but couldn’t stand the feeling if we had removed that barrier.
The takeaway here is try one way, and if it’s not working — try the other. Find what works for your child.
2. It’s All About the Snacks
With our first, I was pretty strict about snacks and drinks; I watched the sodium levels and added sugars like a hawk, and juice was practically a curse word in our house. However, when it came time to potty train, all bets were off: bring on all the salty snacks & juice used to quench them, and all the sugary popsicles (hello, juice on a stick!) one could ever want.
The more liquid, no matter what form, the more opportunity to practice the skill you’re trying to teach here.
That said, our daughter did catch on to us. Once lunchtime hit on the first day, she wasn’t too interested in any of the snacks or frozen confections we were offering. Our boys, however, embraced it with open arms! They loved every moment of our potty training in three days bootcamp. Plenty of practice for them.
3. Potties, Potties, Everywhere
This one is hard for some: put the potty wherever you’re spending your time. So if you’re playing in the living room, place the potty in that same room. Yes, this may mean placing it on the carpet. If that’s concerning to you, you can certainly place a barrier on the floor between their chair and the carpet. The point here is you want the potty chair to be easily accessible.
This also means when you change rooms, that yes, you do need to bring it with you.
Which brings up another point: it’s so important to highlight where the potty chair is located for your child. Be sure you have their full attention when pointing it out; you want them to know, see and acknowledge it. That way, it’s not confusing to them where it is when they need to use it.
4. Intuitive Potty Training versus Timers
For quite a long time, I was against the method of setting a timer to train your child. I felt needing to remind them to try to go would be counter intuitive — shouldn’t their little bodies just learn to feel that urge and thus make their way to the potty? In theory, yes. But just how one of my twins trained well with undies and one trained better without undies, I found that while one just learned to listen to his body, the other couldn’t be bothered with such things.
He was far too busy playing to consider the fact that those “feelings” meant he needed to give up what he was doing and take the time to go potty. It was so frustrating to me that he just kept having accident after accident, being entirely okay with sitting in his wet underwear while playing trains. We recognized at that point, he needed something different — so I swallowed what I thought were my expert parenting opinions (after one child… ha!) and set that timer.
And whaddya know? It actually worked. He started associating the potty with going pee (or poop) and would start going as almost an automatic “trigger” reaction when he would sit down for a small amount of time.
So, like the underwear versus no underwear, I learned again: one rule does not apply to all. It really depends on the child — give one a try, and if that doesn’t work, give the other a try.
5. Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody Everywhere
This can be a semi-controversial one, but it is one I stand by firmly. When an accident happens (which is, no doubt, inevitable, those first days), I always hand my child a rag and have them help me clean up the mess.
This does not mean I have them do the bulk of the clean up; on the contrary, I probably do 95% of it. Basically, I get in there and do the “dirty work”, while they stay on the edge and wipe around what’s already been cleaned up.
I also do this without any shame attached. Instead, I speak positively:
“That’s okay, accidents happen! But even if it is an accident, we need to clean it up.”
“Uh-oh! That’s okay. Let’s clean it up together.”
This leads them to understand that it’s entirely okay and not shameful to have accidents in life — not necessarily on the potty, but we all have accidents in some way, shape or form every day. It’s what we do about them afterward that counts. So if you have an accident, we simply deal with it, clean it up, and move forward.
Not only does this teach a general life lesson, I feel it’s good for them to understand their worth and self-esteem aren’t connected to whether or not they make it to the potty in time. That being said, it does provide a type of incentive and some ownership in learning how to use the potty successfully. After all, no one likes to clean up a mess.
The Ultimate Question… to Pull-Up or to NOT Pull-Up?
We have a very strict “no pull-up” policy in our house. I don’t believe in pull-ups, period. Now when we give up diapers, we do it cold turkey. I’ve found that if I would put a pull-up on our daughter before naps, she would pee in it as soon as she’d wake up. If I would leave her in underwear, she would hold it.
Same thing went with the boys: I’d get them in the morning and their diaper would be dry. I’d rip that diaper off and put them on their potty chair as quickly as possible, and yet it would never be fast enough: nine times out of 10, they would have seen their opportunity and peed in it before I could get it off. However, if they were in underwear, I found they could wait.
It seemed they each knew they had a “security blanket” and would take that opportunity to take it easy, sliding back into old habits.
What About Overnight and Naps?
Now, all that being said: what about overnight and naps? We’ve been pretty lucky with our three; we’ve typically only done underwear overnight and they’ve never seemed to have much trouble with bed-wetting. And if they have, we’ve easily been able to link their sleep-accidents with drinking a little too much fluid before bed.
However, I’d say if your child is consistently bed-wetting, put them in a pull-up overnight or through nap time.
Ultimately, I think it’s important not to be too rigid when you’re trying to do potty training in three days. If it’s not working and only stressing you and/or your child out, give it a break and pick it up again in a month. However, using these five tips should make training easier when the timing is right for your toddler.
Reward Chart Freebie!
Some families prefer using a chart to track their child’s potty training success. In our house, we did not; I felt a string of 10 stickers was too long for my toddlers to grasp and care about because the reward wasn’t more immediate. We did, however, use gummy bears and Sour Patch Kids as rewards.
To be honest, with our first, I did sugar free gummy bears. And she didn’t get a whole bear — she’d get a third of a bear every time she went, no matter if it were poop or pee.
Fast forward two years to our twin boys, and I was handing out two Sour Patch Kids for pee and three for poop. Ah, what a difference a few children can make!
Though I don’t necessarily appreciate the use of a reward chart, I do like the idea of having pictures to help remind a toddler all of the steps necessary to complete this new task they’re learning. It’s important they learn all the steps, especially hand washing. Feel welcome to print off this handy chart and laminate it. Then, have you or your child cross out the tasks they’ve completed in the potty process as a reminder before finally getting their treat.
Click here to gain access to charts of either a boy or a girl in a variety of colors — because we all know how important those “favorite colors” are!
Don’t forget to pin this for easy access when you’re in the trenches later and potty training in three days!
Plus, check out my five easy laundry hacks for the early potty training days. They’ll come in useful when you might have a little more dirty laundry than usual!
Do you have any tried-and-true potty training methods that have worked in your house? Comment below. I’d love to hear them!