How to potty train before age 2

by Marcie

How I potty-trained all 10 of my children before age 2 and how you can too!

Potty-training Your Baby

When my oldest was 17 months old I read a book about how to potty-train babies. From what I remember you put them in cloth diapers and then notice when they go (every hour, every two hours, etc.) Usually it’s when they’re nursing so while they nurse you put a bowl under them. When they go you say a word, “Tee-tee”, “pee-pee”, “tinkle”, whatever. You do that every time they pee and eventually you can just say the word and they will go. Most babies potty-trained between 5-12 months old and only a few as late as 14 months. That’s great if it works for you but I didn’t know how it would work as I nurse in public places a lot (church mother’s room, friends’ houses, baby showers,) and I really didn’t mind changing diapers, so I never did try it. If you want to try it out, check out the book and let me know how it goes!!

Potty-Training at 22 Months

Diapers have never been a big bane of mine. So why did I potty-train before 2? Because that’s when I felt they were ready. When I saw all the readiness signs books talk about, I started planning a good week.  I also balanced it with when was a good time for me: right after a baby was born and I was home all day anyway, a week of nice weather so the child can just go around in underwear or shorts, a week we didn’t have much going on, a week after we came back from a trip and were ready to stay home and play.

Turns out almost all of mine were trained about 6 weeks before their 2nd birthday so that is the magic age I suggest. 🙂 But I have helped friends toilet train their toddlers anywhere from 18-24 months. Closer to 18 is sometimes better because they’re more wanting to please their parents and are going through a clean phase. Hitting 24 months and they seem to want to do their own thing and don’t care anymore. I would have trained mine closer to 18 months if it had been good timing for us. I suggest picking a week in there where you don’t have trips or plans or visitors or holiday celebrations. Then go for it!! Sign up for a coaching call and I’d love to coach you through it. You can do it!

How to potty train before age 2

My Method

1. Pick a week when you don’t have much going on. After a trip or holiday or visitors or first week of summer vacation is always a good time because they’re excited to stay home and play with their toys and wind down. Balance this with their age readiness too. If they’re ready now, do it! Don’t wait until the perfect week because it may not come and then they’ve passed the best window.
2. Get mentally ready. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be frustrating. It’s going to feel like your child will never be trained. Don’t worry, she’ll get it! It may be a very long week, but she’ll get it!
3. Buy underwear and get rid of the diapers. If your child still needs them for night time then just hide them. Put them up high so she can’t reach them. I’ve had toddlers refuse to put underwear on and run to get themselves a diaper but not be able to find one. Then they finally give in and put underwear on.
4. Get a potty seat. I got one from a yard sale for $1 that fits on the toilet. It had its own little lid and handles that the kid liked using. It worked for all 10 of my kids so I recommend that. I never did use one of the little potties so I can’t comment on that, but I’m sure it works fine too.
5. Monday morning put underwear on your child instead of a diaper. Be super excited. “Guess what?! You get to wear big girl panties today!! Aren’t they so cute? I love the stars on them. Do you want to put them on?” Most kids will be eager to put them on. Only older kids will be so comfortable with their diaper that they resist change and might say no. I still suggest asking them so that the decision is in their control. Some moms would say, “Let me help you put them on” instead of “Do you want to put them on.” But my kids can feel that I’m being bossy and won’t have it. Asking them shows respect that I’m allowing them to choose this. If they do say no I would follow up with, “You don’t want to wear the stars panties? Are there any other cute ones you would like to wear?” I only had one child not want to wear underwear and run for a diaper but couldn’t find one so he finally gave in and put underwear on. Sometimes I had to walk away and go do something else and within minutes the toddler was at my side with his undies asking to wear them.
6. All morning ask if they need to go potty or want to sit on the potty. Usually they don’t but they’ll go on the floor sometime between breakfast and 10am. I follow them around all morning so when they go I’ll see it and kinda cheer, “Yay, pee-pee come out. That’s pee-pee. Mommy pee-pees in the potty. Let’s clean this up and next time you can sit on the potty and push the pee-pee out into the potty.” I have the child help me clean it up (they love spraying cleaning spray) and the whole time I’m still talking positively about going in the potty. Send the child to get new clothes or go with her and help her change and put her clothes in the laundry basket. The more she participates the more she’ll take responsibility for her own potty-training.
7. Keep asking all day. Put the child on the potty several times, especially if it’s been 2 hours and you think he’ll need to go soon. I sing songs, recite chants (“This Little Piggy”) and read a lot of books to keep him on as long as I can. Sometimes I let him get off fairly soon just to not wear him out. Other times when he’s woken up dry or it’s been 3 hours then I keep him there as long as I can. I turn on the tap or put his feet in a bucket of warm water. The nice thing about the potty chair is that kids can’t get down by themselves so I can walk out for a minute and watch him from around the corner. Some kids will go without an audience so I hang out for a few minutes in the hallway and let him relax and go.
8. When she goes, go in and do a huge dance and cheer. But make sure to wait until she’s completely done. Going in as soon as you hear the pee will startle her and make her stop only to pee on the floor a few minutes after getting off. So wait until she’s done and then go cheer and offer her a treat: one M&M, chocolate chip, mini marshmallow, raisin, whatever. I also do a sticker chart hanging right on the wall and let her put a sticker on.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What age do you recommend? 

A: I recommend about 6 weeks before their 2nd birthday because that worked for almost all of mine. But anytime between 18-24 months is great.

Q: What are the readiness signs? 

A: Interested in cleanliness: wiping up spills, putting toys away, wanting his hands washed. Interested in bathroom: coming in when you’re going, wanting to help you wipe, wanting to help scrub the toilet. Noticing his own bodily sensations: going into a corner to poop, peeing in the bathtub and watching it.

Q: What kind of toilet do you recommend?

A: I only used a small seat that snapped onto a big toilet. I got it at my neighbor’s yard sale and I used it for all 10 kids. Yes it’s hard to have a seat on your toilet all day or to continually take it on and off. My first 4 kids were trained in our tiny 761 sq foot house with only 1 bathroom. So I get that. In our next houses we had more bathrooms but I was still taking it on and off because I chose to train on the most used toilet because it was right off the living room. (But most of the kids just sat on it too or found another bathroom.) So that can be inconvenient. But the nice thing is that after a couple of weeks they don’t use it anymore and they’re fine going on the big potty so it’s all done.

I’ve never used a small potty before and could see it would be convenient to put in front of the tv or in the living room so the child can sit for long periods of time and hopefully go in it. It’s also nice that the child can reach it by himself and doesn’t need a stool, another hassle with the big potty. But then you have to dump it, clean it out, and eventually train on the big potty. I’ve never used it but ask a friend who has! The toilet doesn’t matter as much as just doing it!

Q: Do you use Pull-ups?
A: No, I’ve never once used Pull-ups. I was too poor to ever buy those. (Well, while I was potty-training my 6th I could have afforded them but I’d never used them with the others so why start now?) My method is to buy underwear and go cold turkey. Put underwear on every day no matter where you’re going and get rid of the diapers. I believe they will catch on quicker than using Pull ups, which is too similar to a diaper. It also teaches the child “I’m not sure you can do it. I can’t trust that you’ll stay dry. I don’t want to embarrass myself in public so I’ll put a Pull up on you.” In my opinion Pull-ups would be confusing to a child. He’s in the middle of playing and he doesn’t know if he can go or not. He has to stop and think if he has a diaper on or underwear. So I would think there are more accidents because they don’t want to stop and think. You’re welcome to try Pull-ups and see how it works for you but I would never recommend it.

Q: When should I make my child sit on the potty? Some books say every 10-15 minutes.

A: I don’t put mine on until it’s been about 2 hours since their last accident. After a few days of accidents you’ll figure out their timeline of when they usually go. Usually it’s once they wake up in the morning, between breakfast and lunch, right before naptime, right after naptime if they didn’t go before or within an hour of waking up if they did go before, then around 4:00 and at 7pm. The hardest one for me is the one after lunch and before naptime. I’m in a hurry to get them to bed but I wait and wait hoping they’ll go before naptime but they won’t. So I finally put them to bed only to have them wet it. You can do a diaper for naps if you don’t want to wash sheets but I went cold turkey and let them wet so that they didn’t learn to hold it all day and just pee in the diaper at naptime. Most started staying dry for naps right away (especially if they peed before naptime or if I put them to bed right after lunch) and I’d run in their room the second I heard them and rush them to the potty to get a success. This was the most predictable time I could get a success. Anytime you can get a success leads to more successes. I’d try to keep them there until they go but if they cry to get down then yes, I try again in 10-15 minutes.

Q: How do you keep your child on the potty for very long?

A: When it’s been a couple hours since they last went or had an accident then I’m pretty confident the child will need to go soon and I’m determined not to let them get off until they go. I just want that success! So I read them a lot of books and point to pictures and try to distract them from the potty business so they’ll relax enough to go. Sometimes I give them a dum-dum (I’m normally anti candy and food dyes but this is one exception) and let them suck on it while I stand around the corner, run to put clothes in the dryer, etc just to pass the time and hopefully they’ll go. I’ve also done Smarties with some of my kids and those take a long time to eat. Experts say no food on the toilet but it worked well for me. It’s not a bribe, just something to occupy the child so he’ll sit there longer. I sang a lot of songs too: 

Eensy Weensy Spider

Wheels on the Bus

If You’re Happy and You Know It

Five Little Monkeys

This Little Piggie

You got this, Mama!! It’s really not that hard and can be a fun time for the whole family. I enjoyed potty-training. If you need help shoot me an email and we can schedule a phone or zoom call. Good luck!!

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