Get Them Ready for Potty Training

There are several things you can do in the months leading up to potty training to encourage a child’s interest and increase their readiness.

  • Read About It – There are so many good children’s book on the market including Once Upon a Potty by Frankel, The Potty Book for Boys/Girls by Capucilli, What to Expect When You Use the Potty by Murkoff and Diapers Are Not Forever by Verdick among many others. The idea is to mix these in with your other read-alouds. There is a fuller list of potty related children’s books on my blog at
  • Watch the Videos – There are also many helpful children’s videos including Potty Power, Once Upon a Potty, The Potty Movie and It’s Potty Time.
  • Play Potty – For introducing potty training through play you can purchase an inexpensive plastic baby doll, poke a small hole in the bottom and fill the body with water. Then you teach the doll baby to potty, and have your child teach the doll baby to potty. You can also buy just the bathroom set and doll from any dollhouse set, and let them play the potty process that way.
  • Let Them Observe – Young children learn best through observation and modeling. If you are at all comfortable, it can be helpful to take children in the bathroom with you and let them observe the process. It can be helpful for them to observe older siblings or others in the potty training process as well.
  • Talk them Through Your Process – If they are observing, it can be additionally helpful to talk them through your process of pulling down pants, sitting and waiting and wiping. I understand this is a lot of detail and can feel uncomfortable, but you are teaching them the language and the details of the process.
  • Change all Diapers in the Bathroom – This is helping them associate the sensation with being in a bathroom. If your bathroom is small, change on a mat just outside. Talk about how when people pee or poop, they need to be in a bathroom.

My full Potty Training audio class is available online at

Increase Interest in Potty Training

>Are you thinking about potty training in the near future? Have you been at it a while but stalled in the process? Is your child “just not interested”? These tips may help.

*Let Them Observe*
If you are at all comfortable with the idea, let them observe. Children learn best through modeling and taking them in with you provides this opportunity. Let them watch and answer any questions they have. By all means, if this is uncomfortable don’t do it.

*Talk Them Through*
Talking them through the process can start while you are still changing diapers. You can talk about how they poop and pee and you can label bodyparts. You can talk about how someday they will go on the potty. When they observe you in the bathroom, you can talk about all that you are doing includng flushing and washing. Once you are making the transition you can add language about “that feeling in their tummy that means they need to go.”

*Read the Books & Watch the Videos*
There are many good potty training books and videos on the market. The idea is to casually mix in the books with your other story times and the videos with your viewing time.

*Change All Diapers In or Just Outside the Bathroom*
Stop changing diapers all over the house. The first benefit is that children who hadn’t already may start associating the bathroom with going potty. The second benefit is that children who just don’t want to stop playing to go potty have to whether they make it or not. This goes for when you are out running errands as well, find a bathroom.

*Dump or Hold Over Their Potty*
This idea also helps children to make the potty connection. Whenever you change a poopie diaper walk with the child into the bathroom and dump the poop into their potty saying “the poop goes in the potty” and then flush or clean as you would have. If it is a wet diaper, you can just hold the diaper over their potty saying “the peepee goes in the potty.” I know this may create an extra step but may be helpful in the process.

*Sit and Relax*
Some children are too nervous to have success if the push is to “sit and try.” If this is the case, it may be best to shift the focus to “sit and relax,” sit together and talk or sing or read books or put on finger plays.

*Presenting the Potty OR Making It Their Own*
This means make the initial presenting of the potty fun. Maybe take a special shopping trip to pick out a potty or let them help choose which potty seat they like. If the potty is already out, you’ve been trying for a while already or they have older siblings, have a potty decorating day. You might let them put stickers on the (cleaned) lid or make a poster for the wall behind the potty, something to celebrate that the potty is now theirs.

*Descriptive Praise*
Descriptive praise works to build intrinsic motivation for behavior. In the case of potty training it sounds like, “You knew you had to go!” “You got there so fast!” and “Look, you put your poop right in the potty!” You are describing back their behavior, focused on effort and progress. This helps to give them ownership of the process.

*Underwear as an Under Layer*
For some children, diapers and pull-ups may work too well. Because these products are so absorbent children may not recognize that they are wet. If this seems to be the case, you might have them wear underwear under their pull-up or diaper. This way they get wet just not the floor.

*Take a Tour of Potties*
Start pointing out potties everywhere you go. Talk about how there are potties in restaurants, stores and in other people’s homes. If there is time, you might visit the potties. We took the tour at relatives’ and close family friends’ houses.

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