If you love the idea of potty training your toddler in a week but aren't sure if you can manage it, we want to say we think that the ideas here are great even if you don't stick to the day by day timeline: the timings are definitely meant only as a guide rather than a rule.
We've given a sequence of steps we think it's helpful to do - you can read 'Week 1' for 'Day 1' - or as long as you want or your child needs for each stage of potty training.
(Though if you're interested in sticking to the 7-day schedule, do check out this mum's diary on potty training in a week and see how she got on.)
Because the fact is, there is no one size - or timeline - fits all - when it comes to potty training.
So perhaps read this article through and, only as you feel you're getting to the next 'day' or stage - move on down and see what comes next....
How to potty train in a week...
Goal: Preparation and de-mystification of potty training
Today is all about preparation and about de-mystifying the potty training process for your little one. So, today you need to do the following:
- Make a careful diary of when your child does wees and poos through the day. If you do this over a number of days you’ll soon start to spot patterns that will help you get out the potty at the right times in week two!
- Do some background research to see what kind of potty you want to buy and would suit your little one, always remembering that this is for him not you.
- Go on a potty buying adventure by taking your little one out on a shopping trip to buy his first potty. Make this a fun occasion and stress how grown up this is. Getting him involved as much as possible from the outset will make him more interested in potty training.
- Talk to friends and family about the fact you’re potty training to ensure you’ve got people to call on that are happy to share in your little one’s success. There’s nothing like a phone call to proud grandparents or aunts and uncles to spur little people on.
- While you’re going to the toilet encourage your little one to sit on his potty too. He can even do this fully clothed.
- Encourage him to sit on their potty at every opportunity – to read a book or to watch television – just to get him used to the feeling. This helps avoid the potty fear that that is so common in many toddlers.
- Invest in a potty training story and read it to your child regularly before he starts training. This will help take the mystery out of training and turn it into a fun, grown up adventure.
- There’s one simple rule in potty training: you can never have enough pants! In the early days your little one may well have several accidents a day so make your life simpler and less stressful and stock up on plenty.
- While you’re stocking up on pants, also look out for cheap loose trousers and shorts with elasticated waists. Skirts and dresses are also easy clothes, but tights can slow a little girl up. These will prove to be one of your biggest weapons in increasing your toddler’s success rate as children need clothes that can be removed fast.
- Decide on your reward system. If you – like the majority of parents – decide to reward your child for successful potty trips this is the week to put a system in place and to let your child know about it and get excited about it. It’s worth remembering that whatever you do you have to stick to so don’t set the bar too high - keep costs low and rewards sugar free and get him to help you make a reward chart.
Goal: To establish a potty training routine
- Decide on a start date: Choose a good day to start. It’s likely to be a day when you don’t have lots of (or even any) commitments, so you can focus on the task in hand.
- Start first thing in the morning, the minute your child gets up take her to her potty to see if she can try to have a wee. Most children wake needing the toilet so the quicker you can get your child into the habit of getting out of bed and going straight to the toilet the better.
- Remember hand hygiene and make washing hands a non-negotiable conclusion to every potty visit from day one. When your child is visiting the potty several times an hour this can seem incredibly tedious and there’s a huge temptation to skip the odd wash but hygiene is so important and if it’s made non negotiable it’ll just become second instinct for your little one.
- Keep clothes to a bare minimum in the first 3 days. If your toddler is happy naked – let her be. The fewer clothes she has to fiddle with the less accidents she’ll have and having fewer accidents will build her confidence more quickly.
- Keep her out of nappies as much as possible. One of the biggest debates amongst parents is whether to go all out and bin nappies altogether once you’re training or to keep them to hand. Our advice would be to try as far as possible to keep your child out of nappies during the day while you’re training to avoid confusing them (mastering night-time dryness should be done separately).
- If you’re going on a car journey or out and about for a prolonged period of time, it’s very important to take a handy travel potty with you. You can also buy seat liners for car seats and buggies, which you may also want to use for travelling on public transport. It’s also important to reassure your child and let them know you have this with you.
- Be realistic: if your child is a particularly heavy sleeper, feel free to put them in a nappy for her day time nap but stress that it’s because she’s sleeping and not awake.
- Make everything around potty trips so routine it becomes automatic for your child. Try to even use the same phrase each time you want your child to visit the potty: ‘Shall we see if you need a wee or poo?’ or ‘Is it time for the potty?’.
Give your little one the opportunity to sit on the potty at least once an hour.
- Watch out for signs that she might need to go (a look of concentration, jigging on the spot, restlessness)
- Sit her on the potty as a matter of course 20 minutes after any drink
- Sit her on the potty before she goes down for any day time naps and the minute she wakes up from them
- Give your little one constant reminders as she gets easily distracted while playing
- Try to time any drinks your child has for around 20 minutes before you’re planning her potty trip to maximise the chances of a successful trip.
- Make visiting the potty rather than what happens on the potty the real success story. This takes the pressure off your child to perform.
- Give your child lots of praise every time she sits on the potty – give her high fives or share cheers and claps together. If she performs you can give her an additional reward such as a sticker. If she performs stick to your routine of visiting the potty every hour in the first week or every two hours in the second week.
- If she doesn’t perform make light of it with a stock phrase: ‘Never mind! Next time.’ If she doesn’t manage to perform bring the next trip forward by 30 minutes and be extra alert during that time for any ‘ready’ signals.
- If your child insists on visiting the potty on numerous occasions without performing try not to lose your patience. This is just her familiarising herself with her new friend. The novelty will soon wear off, but it’s important that all potty visits whether successful or unsuccessful and no matter how frequent are encouraged rather than discouraged (no matter how tempting).
Potty training (for all but the very lucky few) will take every ounce of patience you have. Hang on in there! The break through will come, but in the meantime try to set realistic expectations of your little one. Our research shows that on the first day of training:
- A third of children have 3-4 accidents
- One in 8 children has between 5-7 accidents
- One in 20 has more than 8 accidents
The temptation is huge to allow her to have the odd early night (as an excuse to get her in nappies and out of your hair.). Try to resist the temptation though as sticking to established wider routines during potty training is more important than ever. Today you should also:
- Celebrate the successes: Try phrases like: ‘Wasn’t that brilliant when you told mummy you needed to go to the potty and you did!’ or "I was so proud of you when you did a wee wee as soon as you got up today.’ Phone one of your cheerleaders to let your little one share her success stories.
- Mark the end of each day with a ceremonial binning of a nappy to get her fired up for the new day ahead.
Goal: To build on the successes of Day 2 and turn patterns into entrenched habits
If Day 2 went smoothly, today can be about gently encouraging your child to become gradually more independent around their potty routine.
Important: Don’t be tempted to run before you can walk: if your little one is still nervous around the potty or if they’re still regularly having a couple or more accidents a day just repeat the Day 2 programme.
At this stage of potty training, your child’s confidence around their routine is the single most important factor to success, so rushing them on to the next stage when they’re not entirely ready can be counterproductive.
As on Day 2, start by giving your child the opportunity to visit the potty. Keep giving your little one regular reminders of the need to visit the potty, particularly shortly after big drinks, before daytime naps, if they look as if they’re lost in an activity or towards the end of the day when tiredness can make them lose focus.
More like this
Encourage independence. Start building on yesterday's progress by also encouraging them to tell you independently when they want to go. Remember to heap the praise on if they tell you they need to go and actually perform.
If you’re keeping a reward chart, you can invest in different coloured stickers or stars to show which visits were completely unprompted. Your little one will be really motivated to think independently about when they need to go when they start to see this colour overtaking the colour showing prompted visits.
Today is also a good time to think about going out and trying potty training on the go. We've got some great advice on how to do it.
Finish day by sitting your child down and writing a list of their big achievements like the:
- first time you told me you needed to go
- first time you used your potty outside our house
- first time you remembered to wash your hands
- first time you had no accidents all day.
Goal: To encourage independence
As before, only tackle Day 4 if Day 3 went well. If yesterday proved a challenge, stick with what you did that day until you master it. Successful potty training is all about going at your child’s pace.
This is the week to set your little one a number of challenges:
- A reminder-free day: Try having a day (often best tried at home!) when you don’t remind your child that it’s potty time. Talk to them about it in advance and set up a code ‘hint’ eg, a cough that can be used as a gentle prompt when your child loses themselves in an activity. Heap on the praise whenever your child spontaneously remembers a potty trip.
- Hand-washing hero: Do the same with hand washing and try to see how many times your child can go to the potty and remember to wash their hands completely unprompted by you. Again, be ready with rewards, hugs and praise.
- Nappy-free outing: See if your little one can master a full morning or afternoon outing entirely nappy-free. Take a good travel potty with you - it’ll really take the pressure off both of you.
- Using their potty in an unfamiliar environment: If your toddler hasn’t yet used their potty anywhere other than with you, this is the week to see if they can use it at nursery, at a friend’s house or when visiting grandparents.
Today is also the day you might want to think about:
Progressing on to the toilet: It’s around now that many little ones will start to show an interest in this.
Remember that the toilet will seem HUGE to little people so It’s worth investing in a toilet training seat to make them feel secure and comfortable while they’re sitting down. It’s also worth buying a specially designed non-slip step to encourage them to keep up their independence.
But if your little one still seems happier on their potty at this stage that’s fine - it’s all about maintaining a routine that gives your child confidence at this stage.
Nappy-free sleeping: If your child is pretty much accident-free now during the day and if you haven’t started potty training super early (eg. before the age of 2) you might want to consider nappy-free sleeping. You can start with daytime naps and gradually progress to full nights.
Goal: To be aware of what to do to overcome regression, as it’s a typical time for this to happen
As you and your little one relax into the potty training routine, you can relax a step too far. It is very common for your child to start having the odd accident again as, now that they’re not so hung up on the whole thing, they can forget to tune into their body’s needs until it's too late.
Don’t be despondent if this happens. It’s not a permanent step backwards and with our simple steps you can make sure it’s just a passing phase.
Regression can happen for all sorts of reasons. Even if it doesn’t happen to your child now. it’s almost bound to happen at some point so it’s worth reading through our top tips so you’re fully prepared when it does.
Common causes for potty training regression
- Your child growing in confidence in their potty training routine and forgetting to tune into their body’s needs.
- Your child becoming less focused on the potty and increasingly getting into the habit of losing themselves in playing / television watching / eating – until it’s too late.
- A major change in lifestyle can trigger regression too, eg, when a new sibling arrives, if you move home or even when your child starts school.
- Although not common, the start of night time potty and toilet training can cause a child to lose confidence altogether (especially if they find it hard to master) and can cause them to start having accidents in the day again too.
- A sustained time of illness eg. chicken pox, flu, vomiting bug, is a common cause of regression.
What to do when regression strikes: our top tips
- Remember it’s just a passing phase. Try not to get despondent.
- Never let your frustration show. The key to overcoming regression is re-building your child’s confidence so it’s vital you dish out praise rather than criticism during this time.
- Talk to your child to try to establish if there’s any aspect of their routine that is worrying them. Children can suddenly develop irrational fears eg, about monsters being down the toilet. Talking to your child can help eradicate these before they become ingrained.
- Re-visit some of the early days of potty training. Dig out your potty training book and your reward chart. Both can help to kick start the whole process and help your child gradually build their confidence again.
- Warn other people that are also looking after your child eg, grandparents and nursery staff, about what is happening and ensure that they’re consistent in following the routine you put in place and in giving your child plenty of praise.
- Give your child a goal to aim for eg, tell them that they can choose a special outing once they’ve had 3 dry days in a row.
- Be kind to yourself. This can be a really trying time. Reward yourself as well as your child. Try to give yourself time to relax and unwind at the end of a wearing day.
Goal: To re-cap the fundamental rules of success that enabled you to get here in the first place
One of the most common mistakes parents make when they’re potty training their child is to relax completely once training is ‘over’ and to then become despondent when their child apparently seems to regress.
But there are a few fundamental rules to keep at the heart of your day-to-day routine, even after official training has finished, which will ensure you and your little one experience continued success.
Rules to remember for potty training:
- Visit the potty or toilet the minute your child gets up in the morning
- Wash hands before EVERY meal and after EVERY trip to the toilet or potty
- Try going to the potty or toilet about half an hour after a meal or long drink
- Visit the potty or toilet before going out – even if your child says she doesn’t think she needs to go
- Take a travel potty if you're out just in case
- Take hygiene hand gel
- Have a little private code to suggest it might be time to try going to the toilet
- Visit the potty or toilet straight after the bed time story and before being tucked into bed
- Don’t make a big deal about the odd accident. Accidents can happen.
- Still give plenty of praise.