Cart 0
No products in the cart.

Potty Training 101

  • Dr. Allie and Miss Barbara
  • Parenting, Potty Training, Toddlers
  • No Comments

Potty training tools, tricks, and tips from a neuropsychologist and mom!

Time to Train?

If you searched online for when is the best time to potty train your toddler, you would find a lot of different answers, some based on research and some based on opinion. At The Terrateer Club, we believe that the best answer to most parenting questions is based in a combination of science and a parent’s own gut instinct. So, with that being said, the research tells us that the the sweet spot for potty training your child is 18-24 months. The average age of a toddler in the United States being potty trained is about 27 months. Some studies tell us that if you train to early (such as 18 months), it will take your child longer to be fully potty trained. But, on the other hand, some studies suggest that if you train your child later (maybe around 3 years old), they will take longer to get on the potty train. At the end of the day, you know your child best.

In our opinion, potty training is about both your child and you being ready. Many children need you to help them get ready. It is not often that a child will just magically walk into the bathroom one day and ask to use the potty…or just start telling you they have to go! As with many developmental tasks, it is our job as parents to provide the environment for our children to accomplish milestones. Many websites will provide a laundry list of ways you will know if your child is ready, such as being able to stay dry for two hours at a time, wants to use the potty, does not like a wet/soiled diaper, recognizes when they are urinating or having a bowel movement, can walk, can pull pants up and down, etc. Your child may only meet some of those criteria – my child did not meet all of these…and still needs help pulling his pants up! One of the most important in our opinion is this: can your child follow simple instructions and do they demonstrate an understanding of the process as you prepare them (see below).

Preparing Yourself

Yes, you need to prepare yourself for potty training. It can be a frustrating and exhausting process for many parents! Here are a few things to decide on before you start preparing your little one:


Decide the words you want to use for your child…pee and poop work great for us. We also created a little jingle to use on the way to the potty (simple lyrics “It’s Big Boy Potty Time” repeated to a familiar tune) that he still uses today to tell us he has to go potty.

Tools for Success

There are a lot of tools that you might find as you begin researching potty training…here are some that we recommend and worked well for us.

  • Potty seat/Mini Potty
    • Summer My Size Potty
    • Munchkin Potty Seat
    • Toilet Replacement Seat
    • We used all of these at different times. The Summer My Size Potty was great for preparing/teaching about potty training, the Munchkin seat was effective for initial training, and the replacement seat is what we currently use.
    • We also purchased two of each, so that one potty could be upstairs and one could be downstairs.
    • We are big fans of getting out of the house, so we purchased one for the car seat and one for the stroller. Machine washable and well worth the price.
  • Training Underwear
    • The exact ones we used are linked here, here, and here.
    • You will want a lot of these so you aren’t constantly running your laundry machine! We purchased about 20 pairs.
    • The key is to find something that is interesting to your child. I asked my child what he wanted and he requested purple, blue, and basketball underwear. Surprisingly, it’s tricky to find purple underwear…but it never ceases to amaze me what you can find on Amazon!
    • We used this penguin timer because my little one loves his stuffed penguin “Waddles.” When the timer went off, Waddles told him it was time to go potty!
  • Rewards
    • There is always a debate about whether or not to use rewards…and if you use rewards, whether or not to allow the reward to be food. The psychologist in me started out potty training with a “no food as reward” attitude, and by day two, the parent in me caved and was handing out M&M’s for potty time successes. I felt that using M&M’s for a short period of time helped my child make the connection between needing to go potty and successfully going on the potty. If you do choose to use a reward, try to wean the reward over time by giving your child a reward every other time, or every third time they go to the potty successfully.
    • Two important things to keep in mind about rewards:
      • Rewards should be small…not a vacation or large new toy
      • Rewards should be immediate, consistent (used every time they go in the potty), and only used for the potty
    • Magic Jar
      • This is a fun way we ended up using rewards. We used a mason jar and filled it with M&M’s but it could be filled with small prizes or stickers! We love singing so we made a song about Magic Jar too! “Magic Jar, Magic Jar, opens when I pee. Magic Jar, Magic Jar opens when I poop.” Once your child successfully goes potty on the toilet, the jar magically opens and they receive their reward.
  • Pull-Ups
    • We used Pull-Ups only at naps and bedtime. We called these naptime, bedtime, or sleeping underwear…never diapers!

Preparing Your Little One

As we mentioned above, we believe that part of our job in potty training is to set the stage for success with our little ones and that begins by helping to spark their interest in using the potty. This might take some time, especially for younger children. We started talking about potty time around 16 months but did not actually start training until 21 months. Some of our favorite ways to prepare your child include:

  • Taking your child to the potty with you and talking them through the process (i.e., pulling your pants down, sitting on the potty, going potty, flushing, pulling your pants up, washing your hands).
  • Setting up a little potty or potty seat, showing your child their potty, and explaining what they do on the potty
  • Using stuffed animals or figurines to model going potty (especially on the mini potty)
  • Talking about potty time at diaper changes and framing it as an exciting time. Explain that you will be throwing away their diapers and using big kid underwear.
  • Including them in choosing their training underwear (i.e., ask them what color they want). Show them their underwear as you get closer to “training day” and talk about what it means to wear big kid underwear.

Training Day is Here!

The day to ditch the diapers has finally arrived. Wake your child up and take them to sit on the potty. They may or may not go! Let them sit on the potty for a few minutes, then put their big kid underwear on. We ditched pants for the first few days, but kept the big kid underwear on all day.

After this, set the potty timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, sing the potty song and then head to the potty. Try again for a few minutes, then reset the timer. You may find that your child can go a little longer than 15 minutes, but remember to go very frequently this first day. If they are successful, praise them and offer a reward if you have chosen to do so.

After day one, you can try to extend the time for the timer to 20 or 30 minutes. After day two, you may find that you can extend even longer! By day four, my little was getting upset by the timer and preferred to tell us when he had to go, so we ditched the timer! Remember, this is a process. You are teaching your child to recognize, understand, and then act upon body cues.

Accidents will happen. Probably a lot! Choose what you will say when your child has an accident. Avoid saying, “It’s okay,” and try something like, “Uh oh! You had an accident our pee/poop goes in the potty.” Remind your child to tell you the next time they have to go. Stay positive! No shaming, but no saying it’s okay either!

In these early days, it is easy to feel defeated and frustrated, not to mention exhausted! You are not alone, your little one probably feels frustrated and tired too. Try to stay positive, switch up rewards, offer fun activities in between potty attempts…and most importantly, stay the course!

After the Training Days

Although it might not feel like it at first, your child will get the hang of going potty after a few days, but accidents are normal for a while afterwards! Try not to become too set on a specific timeline, some children might be quite successful after three days, some may take more time. The goal is to stay the course and remember when the diapers are gone, the diapers are gone! Just continue to remind your child to tell you when they have to go and ask them if you see any signs of them needing to use the potty. Trust your child, even if it results in an accident, as this is helping them learn their body cues.

We want to hear from you! What worked best when you were potty training? Share with us below!

Author: Dr. Allie and Miss Barbara

Leave a Reply

This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use.