When it was time to potty train our oldest son Jack, I had only heard horror stories about the long, drawn-out process of potty training. Friends talked about their kiddos struggling for months and months to get the hang of the potty while they were stuck cleaning up tons of messes, washing loads and loads of laundry, and everyone is left feeling frustrated. I heard this was especially true for boys, who often aren’t ready until age 3 or later.
Jack had started a new preschool a few months earlier, and lots of the kiddos in the 2-year-old room were still in diapers, but the focus was on learning to use the bathroom. I hoped it would be a natural progression of learning and being interested in using the potty once he saw his new friends doing it. But it wasn’t.
His 3rd birthday came and went and he was less and less interested in using the potty at home. When May rolled around, I learned he had a chance to move into the 3-year-old room at his school at the end of the month if he was potty trained. So I did some research and zeroed in on the three-day method, which essentially goes like this:
Start off day one by telling your kiddo they’re done with diapers. Have them help you toss all the remaining diapers in the trash and put your little guy or gal on the potty first thing. Let them go commando from the waist down. Give them LOTS of delicious beverages, and proceed with your day (as much as possible when you’re setting a timer to make a trip to the bathroom every 15-30 minutes).
Day two and three are the same. You can put them in pants that are easy to pull up/down on day two and start spacing out your trips to the bathroom a bit. By day three, you should be able to have them fully dressed again (big boy underwear and all) and embark on one short fun outing (like the park), making sure to make a stop at the potty before and after.
Accidents are to be treated as part of the learning process. Ask your little one to help you clean up the mess and remind them they’ll remember to make it to the potty next time.
But here’s the thing: The three-day method relies heavily on a rewards system to motivate your child to use the potty. I printed out a sticker chart (leading up to a big reward at the end) and bought stickers. I stocked up on candy (as a reward for going potty), and small toys (as a reward for going poop). But I had a nagging feeling none of this was going to make much sense to Jack or serve as a big motivator.
We aren’t big on rewards in our house. Candy is pretty much always available, within reason. And new toys/items are purchased as needed/wanted, also within reason. We don’t usually rely on the “If you do X if you can have Y” method, so I had a feeling the rewards system wasn’t going to mean a whole lot to him.
On a whim, a couple days before the big weekend I told Jack we were going to have a potty party (since I knew he thought parties were a lot of fun). That idea stuck. And once the big potty training weekend got underway, Jack started asking me where the party was.
He had taken it literally, of course (he was only 3 after all). So I improvised.
How to Have a Potty Training Party
We pulled out the party decorations, put on party hats, hung streamers, and blew up balloons. We danced and played all morning (in between trips to the bathroom and a few initial accidents).
In the afternoon, Jack asked where the cake was. Thankfully, I had a cake mix in the pantry. So we baked a cake (bare bottom and all). We topped it with sprinkles, then ate it on paper party plates with our colorful party hats on.
Jack did eat a piece of candy almost every time he went potty, and we put some stickers on the chart here and there, but truly celebrating this milestone was the biggest win for him.
Though I didn’t plan for this experience to be an actual party, Jack and I really had fun during our potty training weekend. The three-day method went really smoothly and naturally, and Jack caught on pretty quickly. Somehow we had stumbled on a way to turn this chore into a fun celebration.
When it’s time to potty train little brother Henry, I’m going to throw him a potty party too.
Were you pleasantly surprised by your potty training experience? Anyone have potty training tips/tricks that worked best for you?
Here are a few of my potty training pro tips:
- If you have three bathrooms, get three of everything: Seats, step stools, wipes, treats, etc. You don’t want to rush all the way upstairs every time your little one says “I’ve gotta go potty.”
- Buy flush-able wipes. Learning how to wipe a poopy bottom is a process. The wet wipes make this a LOT easier. Just get some.
- If you’re potty training a boy, buy the potty seats with a lip in front. There’s a reason for this, and you’ll quickly realize why you need it. These seats will save you a LOT of cleanup time in the long run.
- Stock each of your vehicles with a change of underwear, pants, and socks (plus extra shoes if you have them), a set of wipes, and some plastic bags. Getting a portable potty seat for each vehicle is also a fantastic idea. They come in handy.