3-day potty training: how to do it

How can you potty train in 3 days? Truthfully - it's probably more likely to take at least a couple of weeks - but if you want to give 3-day toilet training a go, we've got some great tips right here

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No, no, no – there’s no need to thank us simply for providing the answer to your potty training dreams! But you can repay us by being totally realistic and following our instructions to the letter.

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Because while potty training can be done in just 3 days, it’s more likely to be at least 7 – if you focus fully on it – and even more if you can’t give it 100% of your attention or you have other stuff going on.

In fact, in our recent potty training survey, we found that between 2-3 weeks was the most common time frame – and even then, there was a lot of stopping and starting before the final successful period.

MFMers told us, via our survey, that:

  • 11% of kids took under a week to potty train
  • 21% took 2-3 weeks
  • 14% took a month
  • 6% took 6 to 12 months.

But your mission, should you choose to accept it, can be accomplished in 3 days if your child is totally ready (check these 10 signs) and you can devote 3 full days, working at it full-time and full-on.

How to potty train your toddler in 3 days….

Day 1

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.

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 nature to your little one.

Keep clothes to a bare (ha!) minimum. 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.

Make everything around potty trips so routine it fast 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 and:

  • 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
  • don’t you forget to give your little one constant reminders as she gets easily distracted while playing.

Make visiting the potty rather than what happens on the potty the real success story. This takes the pressure off your child to perform and give her 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. And 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 (eg. restlessness).

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!).

At the end of your first day, it’s likely there’ll be two tired and frazzled people in the house – you and your tot! 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!).

But do try to resist the temptation though as sticking to established wider routines during potty training is now more important than ever.

At the end of today, talk for 5 minutes with your child about the successes of the day: ‘Wasn’t that brilliant when you told mummy you needed to go to the potty and you did!’ and ‘I was so proud of you when you did a wee wee as soon as you got up today.’

Phone a friend or family member who knows you’re doing it to let your little one share her success stories. And mark the end of the day with a ceremonial binning of a nappy to get her fired up for the new day ahead!

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Day 2

As day one, the second she wakes up, whisk her off to the loo. And then, keeping calm, carry on as you did yesterday. Give your little one the opportunity to sit on the potty at least once every two hours. Remain vigilant and watch out for signs she might need to go.

Then sit her on her potty:

  • as a matter of course 20 minutes after any drink
  • before she goes down for any day time naps and the minute she wakes up from them
  • at any times you’ve identified as peak weeing times for her.

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.

By half-way through the second day, things should have significantly improved and you should start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

But be prepared for accidents to happen, because our research shows that at the end of the first whole week of potty training, let alone the first day:

  • 4 in 10 children are still having 1-2 accidents a day
  • 1 in 8 parents are still having to smile through 5 accidents a day!

Keep at it and treat yourself to a long soak in the bath once your champion potty user has gone to sleep. Lord knows you’ve earned it!

Day 3

Repeat days one and two, basically. To recap:

  • Dress your child in pants or knickers and clothing that is easy to remove
  • Stick to the routine – have your child sit on the potty or toilet when she first wakes up, after meals, before getting in the car and before bed
  • If your child looks like she needs to go, this is the day we tell her what to do, not ask! Say, ‘Let’s go to the potty!’ or ‘Potty time!’ Do this so regularly, you’ll go hoarse.
  • Boys and girls both can learn sitting down. Teach your son to hold his penis down. He can learn to stand when he’s tall enough to reach.
  • Your child must relax to go, so read a book together, tell a story, sing or talk about the day.
  • Make hand-washing a fun part of the routine. Keep a step stool by the sink, and have colourful, child-friendly soap.
  • Praise her when she goes.
  • Expect accidents, and clean them up calmly.

And make it clear the rules are that we:

  • visit the potty the minute we get up in the morning
  • wash our hands before EVERY meal and after EVERY trip to the potty
  • try going to the potty about half an hour after a meal or long drink
  • visit the potty before we go out – even if we don’t think we need to go
  • take a travel potty with us just in case!
  • take hygiene hand gel too so it’s not an issue if we can’t find somewhere to wash our hands after using our travel potty
  • have a little private code to suggest it might be time to try going to the toilet
  • visit the potty straight after our 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!
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With these golden rules in place, using the potty and eventually graduating to the toilet should soon become the most natural thing in the world.

Look out, though – day 3 is where you might sense a little regression. If so, don’t get despondent, because this, too, shall pass. And it’s only day 3! So keep in mind the following points:

1. Never let your frustration show. Keep your kid’s confidence high by doling out praise by the bucketful and ditching anything critical you might be about to say.

2. Talk to your child to try to establish if there’s any aspect of their routine that’s worrying them. Children can suddenly develop irrational fears about monsters being down the toilet etc, so do talk to your child to help eradicate these before they become too ingrained.

3. Never let your potty training books and reward chart go! Keep hammering the message home to help your child quickly build up their confidence.

4. Warn other people who may also be looking after your child about what you’re trying to do and ensure that they’re consistent in following the routine you put in place and in giving your child plenty of praise.

5. 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.

6. And finally, keep your eye on the prize! You’ve both come a long way in just 3 days (or however long it’s taken), so give yourself a pat on the back (or a box of Mr Kipling’s fondant fancies) and celebrate her successes.

Try to remember there’s no guaranteed ‘right’ way to potty train your toddler – or ‘correct’ amount of time it should take.

Just go with whatever makes sense to you, keep the process as casual as possible and expect the odd setback. Never show you’re cross when she refuses to use the potty, though – wait, remain calm and your patience will eventually be rewarded.

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