Since all toddlers go through the process of potty training at some point, I wanted to share 10 tips for 3-day potty training from our experience of the process with our second kid!
Let me start by saying that potty training in 3 days—at least getting to a mostly good routine by the end of the 3rd (or 4th day)— is definitely an intense process. But it’s so remarkably effective that I recommend it! It does require clearing the calendar and hanging out with your kid in close proximity so you can get a sense of their signals and patterns and doing little else for at least 48 hours, but in many ways, that’s actually fun since it’s so rare that we take the time to do that.
Truthfully, I am by no means a potty training expert, but I am a real person who’s had success with this method twice, so I wanted to share my big takeaways.
3-Day Potty Training Tip #1: Mentally Prepare Yourself
To me, 3-day potty training meant that I wanted to send my kid back to daycare without a diaper on the 4th day. This is a stark transition and I found, especially the second time since I was totally dreading this process, that I needed to get my head in the right place before I was ready start. We started right around my daughter’s second birthday and while I think that she was ready around 22 months, I wasn’t! So we waited—and I prepared.
My very best suggestion for this preparation is to get a copy of Oh Crap Potty Training. The author is super straight forward, goes through what to expect, what some common pitfalls might be, and basically helps you feel like you can do this—and that you really, really should. I read it twice before I felt ready!
Potty Training Tip #2: Get the Right Gear
There’s actually not a lot you need to potty train but little toddler-size potties are key. They keep their little legs in good position (which can help with pooping), they are comfy, the kid can get to it all by themselves, and there’s no fear of falling in.
We love our Baby Bjorn potties since we can move them around the house from room to room so there’s always one nearby. Because in those early days, you won’t have a lot of notice and will often need to put your child on the potty after they’ve started peeing to help them start to make the connection that pee goes in the potty.
Tip #3: Ditch the Diapers
I know that pull-ups exist, but let’s be honest: They’re just diapers with a different name. They don’t give kids any reason to use the potty so we never used them. Instead, we go pants-less for at least 3 days (in my experience, 4 was better) and we skip underwear for at least the first two months since the tightness can mimic the feel of a diaper…which can cause more accidents.
At home we don’t worry much about ditching pants. When out and about, my girl wore dresses, then after the first weekend, these loose Hanna Anderson pants. One month in and these are still our go-to pants—and now she can finally push them down by herself!
3-Day Potty Training Tip #4: Make the Potty Super Accessible
As I mentioned, your toddler will go through these stages of realization: I peed, I’m peeing, I have to pee. This progression is normal and can take time to move from one to the other. I was always excited about any of these phases since they are a sign of recognition of the process.
We kept the potty close by during the first 3 days—and honestly, we still keep a potty in the playroom or the kitchen—because they can’t often hold it for very long even once they start to realize that they have to pee. The faster and easier it is to get to a potty, the easier this will all likely be.
If you see your toddler starting to pee, pick them up and put them on the potty to finish (even if you have to bypass a small puddle to clean up in a moment). The more they are reminded that pee goes in the potty, the better.
Potty Training Tip #5: Figure Out How to Relax
You’re worried that there will be pee and poop on the floor. (Spoiler alert: There probably will be at some point.) You’re worried about how you’ll ever be able to leave the house and keep a close enough eye on your toddler to be able to get them to a potty when they need to go. There’s a lot to worry about!
On the second day of training my daughter, I waited for two hours for her to pee so we could go get groceries. She was frustrated that I kept prompting her and then proceeded to hold it to the store, at the store, and back home again. She went 3 hours! I was a wreck the whole time and she was FINE.
Which is to say, there may come a point at which you need to get our of your kid’s way. Trust them, incorporate going potty into your routine—before leaving the house, before and after meals, etc—but don’t get too laser focused on making them go…because some kids can hold it forever! And sometimes they won’t go simply because they know you want them to.
3-Day Potty Training Tip #6: Get Out of the House—with a Travel Potty
This will depend on the time of year, but if at all possible, get out of the house during this 3 day period. Take a walk around the block. Run a quick errand. Get some fresh air. I always try to get a good pee in before we go, but again, if they won’t go, just go outside anyway! I also try not to ask “Do you have to go potty?” because the answer is almost always no. Instead say something like, “We’re going to pee, then go outside.” So it’s just in the course of normal business.
I take this Pottete Plus Travel Potty everywhere we go. It’s lightweight, foldable, and is comfy for the kids. They sell disposable liners too (though often I just use plastic grocery bags with folded up paper towel.)
Tip #7: Don’t Sweat Pee on the Floor
I know this stresses people out…myself included. We had white carpet with my first kid and newish hard wood floors with the second! But honestly, it’s not really that big of a deal. We put the area rug in our playroom into a closet for two weeks to simplify things a little and kept rags, wipes, and floor cleaner nearby. And when pee did wind up on the floor, we reminded that, “Pee goes in the potty, not on the floor,” and didn’t punish or make her feel badly.
Tip #8: Get Care Providers On Board
If possible, talk to any care providers (whether at daycare, in your home, or simply other relatives who spend time with your kid) ahead of time and share your plan. Make sure that your child has easy access to the bathroom and that they’ll be taken often. And communicate whether or not they’ll need diapers during nap.
3-Day Potty Training Tip #9: Know that You Can Pause and Reset
I actually started potty training my daughter 2 months before I did it for real and had to stop. My husband had an emergency appendectomy and I was taking care of two kids and him. We were one day in so I didn’t want to stop…but when I realized I was yelling at the kids way more than normal, and that my toddler was peeing (and yes, pooping) on the floor deliberately, I pulled the plug and waited for another long weekend.
I initially felt a little like I’d failed but it was FINE. In fact, it went much better when we started again! So remember that it’s okay if life happens.
Tip #10: Remember that 3 Days is Just the Start!
Starting the 3-day potty training method is just the beginning. Some kids get it faster than others and there are so many factors that come up that might present challenges. My first daughter had way less accidents than the second but the second also started a new daycare, went on two trips, and had a few other daily routine changes within the first month of going without diapers.
This is a process, just like any other milestone, so give your child some time for the elements to click. (Whenever we have a regression or a series of accidents, we go back to being without pants in the house and that usually helps things get back on track.) It took a good month for my girl to reliably be able to tell me when she needed to go (up until then, I simply prompted her to go when I thought she might need to) and now, two months later, accidents are rare.
Remember to check out Oh Crap Potty Training for the full nitty gritty on potty training toddlers! And if you need one-on-on help or just need to talk to an expert in real life, reach out to my friend Jen at Oh Crap Potty Training from Me To You. Both are such good resources!