Potty training can be one of the most difficult tasks in motherhood, but it doesn’t have to be! Let me introduce you to a fun, effective, method to potty train in 1 day. It really works, I’ve used it seven times!
As of now, I have potty trained 14 of my children. I still have one to go, my baby is 18 months old. Yes, I have a bunch of kids. (If you are wondering what’s wrong with me, you can read about it here.) The first seven potty training experiences, (before I learned to potty train in 1 day) were at best, extremely frustrating. I give myself a grade of C or D. (Some people have such an easy time with potty training and their kids train like geniuses. My awesome sister-in-law is one of those people. Sadly, for years I was most definitely not.)
But all that changed with number eight!
When the time approached for me to train number eight, I dreaded it with everything in my soul. Even after 7 (successful?) experiences, I still felt like I had no idea what I was doing. Potty training took months before I felt like my kids were fully trained. It was day after awful day of trying, failing, accidents, and sobbing. (The sobbing was me, in case you wondered.) I had discussed potty training with many other moms, and the prevalent advice seemed to be “When they are ready, they will just get it.” I suppose they did eventually “just get it” because none of those first seven is still having accidents. Number 7 is fifteen now, so…
But this time I really wanted to find a better way! Several of my babies were born at home with the help of a fantastic midwife. I called her one day, because I knew her to be a great source of wisdom in all things baby. She told me that she potty trained all of her grandchildren as a gift to her daughters!
Whhaaat?! Did you here that?? BEST BABY GIFT EVER! And furthermore, she potty trained in 1 day! She told me to go to the library and check out a book, Toilet Training in Less Than a Day by Azrin and Fox. So I did. The context reads like it was written in the seventies, because it was. The information in it is solid, though somewhat lacking in the fun factor. I used their model to develop my method, adding and adjusting in ways that have better suited me and my kids and made this experience more fun. Let’s get on with the potty train in 1 day plan!
At what age should I start training? Ages vary, the book I referenced above says it may be done as early as 18 months. Personally, I find that age two and a half is the earliest that my kids are ready to potty train in 1 day. Readiness is far more important than age, because kids mature at different rates.
- Child’s diaper stays dry for periods of time. She may wake up dry from a nap or in the morning. A dry diaper for a couple of hours indicates that the bladder is developed enough for her to “hold it” at will.
- Child is able to follow simple two part instructions. For example, “Go get the ball and bring it to me.”
- Child is able to pull his pants up and down. You can help, of course, by showing him how, but he needs to have the necessary motor skills. The goal here is to have a mostly independent pottier.
- Child is typically obedient. If your little sweetie has no intention of doing what you say come heck or high water, work on that first.
- Child shows some interest in using the potty. This one is not mandatory, but it is helpful.
Before training Day.
Once your tot shows these signs, it’s time to get ready! Make a plan and get yourself emotionally psyched up to have an awesome potty train in 1 day experience! One important thing you can do in the days and weeks before Training Day, is to let your little one watch everyone else in the family go potty. She needs to understand that this is a normal, big girl thing to do! The other members of the family can talk it up, “Soon, you will be a big girl! Soon you will learn to go potty too!”
Arrange for your other kids to spend Training Day with someone else. The potty train in 1 day method involves one intense day of training. It’s will be a fun, super high energy, exciting day for him where he has mom’s undivided attention all day! It is very important to spend the day one on one with your child. You need to be able to focus on him and only him! My kiddos usually go to grandma’s on training day. If that is not an option, train on dad’s day off, so he can take the other kiddos out for the day. Another great option is to find a friend who can help, maybe one who needs to potty train her child in the next few months, and the two of you can trade babysitting.
Next, gather some supplies. You will need:
- A potty chair. I have used a potty seat that goes on the regular toilet, and a little step stool. The problem with this is, it adds extra steps to the potty process for your child: placing the seat on the toilet, getting up on the stool and turning around to sit. Simpler and faster is better. Also, a potty chair can be moved from room to room and even taken with you in the car. So I much prefer a portable potty chair right at first.
- Underwear and/or training pants. NOT PULL-UPS. Disposable training pants feel just like diapers, and that will not work! You need at least a dozen pairs of undies, I personally like to have a few more than that. (They need to fit loosely enough to be easy for your child to pull up and down.) Your tot is going to have lots of accidents on training day, by design! Have plenty of undies so you don’t run out. When your are buying them, keep in mind that this purchase is going to save you from buying diapers in the future! Cute colorful ones add to the festivity, and festive is what you are going for! Potty training should be FUN!
- Treats. You will reward your child every step of the way on training day with a variety of treats. These need to be something special that she loves, and doesn’t get to eat everyday. If it is her everyday snack, it won’t be a great motivator. On training day, I like to have small candies like Skittles or M&Ms, goldfish crackers, Cheetos, bite size cookies, grapes, cubed cheese, marshmallows, etc. Yes, there is some unhealthy junk in that list, but this is for one day. She needs to be excited about these treats! You need her to eat and drink a ton on training day. Salty, sugary foods will make her thirsty, too, and that is exactly what you want. The benefit of achieving potty success far outweighs her eating junk on this one day.
- Drinks. Juice, chocolate milk, soda, whatever he likes to drink! You are going to want your tot to drink as much as you can get him to pour down his cute little throat. The more he drinks, the more opportunity he has to practice the whole potty process. Again, have a variety. When he gets bored of one, switch to something else.
- Snacks and drinks for you, you are going to need some fuel!
- A stack of picture books. I like to go check out “potty books” from the library to read to my kiddos on training day.
- A doll that goes potty. It just needs a hole in its mouth and its bottom.
- A timer. (The one on your phone will work, BUT it’s important to stay OFF your phone on training day, so it might be better to use something else. Seriously, being distracted by your phone could cause the whole thing to fail!)
- Gift wrap. (I’ll explain that in a minute.)
- Paper towels and some disinfectant wipes for cleaning up accidents.
- Camera. It’s a monumental day, capture some memories!
- Potty Training Help Sheets designed to use with this method, includes readiness checklist, planning sheets, and quick reference guide. Download here
So now, you have established that your child is ready, you have marked a day on the calendar (in which you will do NOTHING except concentrate on training-I repeat, nothing else!), you have made arrangements for the other kids (if you have others), and you have gathered your supplies.
First thing in the morning, the rest of the family heads out the door. (I highly recommend making a plan for your evening meal when the rest of your family returns. You can put a meal in the crockpot before your tot wakes up, see my Emergency Chicken Enchilada Soup recipe if you need an idea… Or just have Dad pick up some pizza after work!)
You have already chosen a room or area of the house in which you will spend a good portion of the day, preferably one without carpet to make cleanup easy. You have prepared drinks for both you and your little trainee. As soon as she gets out of bed, you have her favorite cup filled with a yummy beverage and give it to her. You have treats nearby and accessible, but out of sight.
You have gift wrapped three presents for your child, one is the new underwear, one is the potty chair, and one is the doll that goes potty. (Yes, I do reuse the potty chair from child to child, and I still wrap it. When the previous one doesn’t need it anymore, I put it away and then it’s new to each child!) This is a very special day, and your special kiddo is celebrating this new milestone. It’s a party!
You lead your little one into the room where training will take place, and with much excitement in your voice you exclaim “Happy Potty Training Day!” You need to be excited like you’ve had six cups of coffee, mama! Your enthusiasm will be infectious, and you want this to be FUN!! After some cheering and jumping up and down and hugs, let your little one open his presents. Take pictures as he opens his gifts, just like you would on his birthday. When he is finished, explain that today, he is going to be a big boy. Today is the day when we throw his diapers away and wear underwear like Daddy (or big brother, or whoever is important in his life.) We are going to learn to use the potty!
Next you make a big deal of taking off her diaper and having her throw it away- with gusto! You exclaim several times throughout the day that diapers are for babies, and she is a big girl now! You may also have a few unused diapers nearby, which she can throw away as well. After today, there will be no diapers in sight for her to see. (Unless of course, you have a younger baby, and I always have. For a few months before I start training, I buy diapers of different brands that look noticeably different for the baby and the toddler, so that after training, the toddler knows the baby diapers belong to the baby, not her.) She must understand that the diapers are ancient history and there is no putting them on again. You cheer and carry on like a mom with a hyperactive disorder!
Then you direct her to choose a pair of her new undies and put them on. Give her a bite–sized treat as a reward, and tell her that it’s for wearing the underwear. Give her a drink, and keep her sipping on it ALL DAY. At least once per minute, she needs to take a drink. Keep offering it and reminding her to drink. If she shakes her head no, put the cup to her lips and tip it up so that she gets a little on her lips. This is a technique called “priming“. You will also keep sipping on your drink, which will encourage her to imitate you.
From this point on, you will give her treats for every new thing that she does. Once a particular skill is conquered, you no longer reward for that. This is to keep motivating her to try the next step, rather than getting stuck on the last step. I do, however, keep rewarding for each successful “go” on the potty chair all day, until I know my trainee has got it!
Now its time to sit on the potty chair! Continue to be very excited! Direct him to pull those undies down. If he needs help, place your hands over his hands and guide him. When he pulls them down, give him a treat. Next he sits on the potty, and receives another treat. Now comes the tricky part. Keeping him there. You want him to stay on the potty for at least 15 minutes UNLESS he actually potties sooner than that. Use this time to talk about everyone in his life that uses the potty and wears underwear. Tell him how proud dad, grandma, etc. are going to be! Keep the conversation on topic all day long! If he becomes restless and wants to get up, distract him with your stack of potty books, (Like “Elmo goes Potty”.)
I need to stress, you must pay very careful attention to what is happening in that potty chair! Tinkling can sometimes happen without making that tinkle sound. When she urinates in the potty for the first time, you will immediately cheer and jump up and down and give her a treat! Make this treat a good one, maybe 2 or 3 pieces. If your child likes stickers, you can let her put a sticker on a fun chart every time she goes for added fun and reinforcement. Your excitement at this point is extremely important! Extreme excitement for the very first “go” on the potty is essential to potty train in 1 day!
If she doesn’t “go” after 15 minutes or so, let her get up. Have her pull her panties back up. Placing one hand in back at center and the other hand in front helps to get undies over her bottom. Give a treat for pulling them up.
Now its time for the doll. Tell your child that the two of you are going to teach Dolly how to go potty too. Give Dolly a drink and then let your child set her on the potty. The doll needs to be held in a lying down position until it is on the potty, so you will need to assist. Once it is upright, it “goes.” (But you already know this, because you have practiced with it beforehand.) When Dolly potties, make a BIG DEAL of it! Jump up and down, cheer, and get your tot to join you! Tell Dolly what a big girl she is for going on the potty chair, and let him give her a treat! (Which he can eat.)
After he has urinated successfully a few times, you will do a poop training with Dolly too. Dolly will have an “accident.” When your tot isn’t looking, put some “poop” in Dolly’s pants. (A smooshed piece of chocolate makes great poop!) Then show your child! (I actually had a little guy who gagged when I showed him! It was so funny!) Then you and your child tell Dolly, “No! We go poop on the potty chair!”
Every 10-15 minutes, have your tot sit on the potty for 15 minutes or until he potties. You need a successful “go”! Once he has actually pottied on the potty chair, you don’t have to make him sit there for 15 minutes at a time. He now knows what he is supposed to do and what it feels like. He can decide when he wants to get up.
Continue training with the doll during your tot’s “get up” times. Keep cheering for Dolly and giving her treats, explaining that she will get a treat when she potties too! Keep up your enthusiasm, mama! Have some more coffee! Keep talking about what a big girl she is now, and how excited you are that she is wearing undies! Keep her drinking, give her a salty snack to make her thirsty when necessary.
Accidents = training opportunity
If it hasn’t happened already, your child will soon have an accident. Each time, gasp, and loudly exclaim “Oh no!” Point to the puddle, and have him feel his wet pants. Firmly explain that wet pants is yucky, we want to keep our pants dry. The point here is not to scold, but to teach. Now it’s time for practice runs:
Each time that your tot has an accident, you will do practice runs. Tell him that the two of you are going to practice hurrying to the potty chair. Holding his hand, with wet pants still on, you run to a different location in the house. All the while, saying “Hurry! Run quick to the potty chair! We want dry pants, not yucky wet pants!” Run back to the potty chair and have him pull down his pants and sit. Just as soon as his bottom touches the seat, have him jump back up and pull up his pants again. Then run to another spot in the house and repeat.
After 7 repetitions, explain thoroughly once more that we want dry pants and we must sit on the potty chair to go potty. Then have him put on a dry pair of undies and feel that they are dry. Give him paper towels and have him clean up the puddle. It’s important that he understands that he has a responsibility for the mess.
Don’t allow yourself to get frustrated or angry. This is what training is all about. The accidents are an important, necessary part of potty training in 1 day. And there may be several!
Continue having her sit every 10-15 minutes for 15 minutes at a time. If she continues to have accidents while off the potty, and does not go while on the potty, it may be that she is having anxiety about releasing her bladder while sitting there. (Seems strange, but a few of mine have definitely experienced this! This is a big part of the reason why training was so difficult before! As the urgency to “go” grows, my kids would become increasingly squirmy and agitated, eager to get up. As soon as I let them up, they would go on the floor.) For whatever reason, some kids are afraid to release on that potty chair the first time.
To overcome this, keep your child on the potty until she goes. She may have to sit there for quite a while. The more she is drinking, the quicker this will happen. Keep giving her drinks! You must get a successful “go” on the potty chair to accomplish the goal! Pass the time reading books, playing finger games, talking, even let her call Daddy or Grandma to tell them all about the party you are having! If anxiety is the problem, she may be distressed when she finally can’t hold it anymore and “goes” on the potty chair. Be very excited when she does! When she sees how happy you are, and that everything is fine, the anxiety disappears and problem is solved! Then, keep rewarding for each successful “go” all day.
It’s a poopy situation
With all the eating and drinking your child is doing, most likely he will need to poop during the course of training. Handle poops exactly the same way. If he starts to make a poop face while not on the potty, quickly set him on it! Just for that first time. After that, he needs to sit down on the potty chair himself. If he has an accident, do the practice runs. Depending on how bad the mess is, you may have to clean it up a little so you don’t spread it around the house. This can be a tough one for you, mama, but he needs to clean up his mess with as little help from you as possible. This is an important deterrent to accidents!
Once she has 3 or 4 successful “goes”, you no longer need to require her to sit on the potty chair. Instead, when your 15 minute timer goes off, ask her if her pants are dry. Direct her to feel them with her hand. Anytime she has an accident, you do the practice runs. If she is dry, give her a treat and celebrate! Ask her if she needs to potty. At this point, she may decide yes or no. If she says no, reset your timer and repeat. If she is staying dry, gradually increase the amount of time between pants checks to 30 minutes. Let her call someone she loves and tell them how great she is doing!
When your child is doing well, and really seems to be getting it, you can move into another room of the house. Take the potty chair with you and set it down nearby. For the first time today, you can allow him to play with his toys. Make sure he knows that his potty chair is right there. Every 30 minutes, do a dry pants check. Every time he passes the check, and every time he goes successfully, give him a treat! Remind him that the chair is right there, but do not ask him if he needs to go. When he decides that he needs to go, and does it…THAT IS A HUGE WIN! From this point on, there may still be a few accidents here and there, but a child who decides himself to go, and does it, is potty trained!
By now, it may be time for the rest of the family to return home. When they do, include them! They can help with the dry pants checks, and they can do practice runs for accidents. You will continue the dry pants checks for a couple of weeks, but gradually increase the amount of time in between. Hourly, then every couple of hours as she continues to stay dry. Always do practice runs for accidents! My other kids love to take the trainee potty and do dry pants checks, because when she gets a treat, so do they! It encourages them to get involved, and helps me out! The rest of the family getting involved will reinforce the whole idea for your child, and is essential to “potty train in 1 day” success!
Occasionally a child doesn’t quite get it the first day. When that happens, pick up right where you left off the next day. If it is impractical to have the other kids leave again, don’t worry! Just include them in the process. The one-on-one time should not be as critical now as the first day. Continue dry pants checks and practice runs! By the end of day 2, she should have it!
Let’s talk about bedtime! Some kids never wet the bed at night, and some will have accidents at night for years. Nighttime wettings do not mean your child isn’t potty trained. Some kids just can’t help it, it’s a matter of biology. Eventually, their plumbing development will catch up to the size of their bodies. You can save yourself a ton of stress by wrapping your head around that. There are two instances where Pull-ups are acceptable and helpful, when your child is sick and overnight if needed.
Our potty chair in the house
Even though you potty train in 1 day, you will continue to reinforce training for a couple of weeks as you go on with the rest of your life!
When you take your child out in the next several weeks, make sure you show him where the toilet is in any place that you go, like Grandma’s or his friend’s house. When going into a public place, like the grocery store or church, take him into the restroom as soon as you arrive. If newly trained kids do not know that there is a toilet available, they are more likely to have an accident. I always take a potty chair with us in the van. I have a bigger one in the house, and a little one in the van. It’s a lifesaver! Or should I say accident-saver! (Even my other kids as old as 5 or 6 have used it in emergencies.) The potty chair, along with some wipes for cleaning bottoms and the chair, stays in the van at all times.
Our potty chair in the van
This method works best as a first try, not last resort. Once you begin, do not give up! Even if it takes your child a day or two longer, this is still MUCH faster and easier than weeks and months of frustration. If you have tried before and failed, don’t despair! Put away the potty chair and let your child forget all about training for a couple of months. Make sure he is exhibiting the readiness signs, and then choose a date to potty train in 1 day!
If you have any other questions about this whole “potty train in 1 day” business, contact me! Best of luck, Mama! It’s gonna be great!