The (Im)Perfect Guide To Potty Training

“Is your toddler potty-trained yet?”

There’s a question guaranteed to start a riot in a roomful of parents.

Since joining the club I’ve realised it’s such an emotive issue, up there with breast vs bottle, and dummies.

I can see why. Having a child who knows how to use a potty is a mark of pride and moving out of nappies is also a major milestone in growing up, so it can bring out the worst kind of competitive parenting. Conversations can go something like this:

“So is he still in nappies then?”

“Well we’re starting potty-training soon, he’s not quite ready.”

“Isn’t he at nursery soon?”



And wrapped within that tiny interjection is the unspoken judgement; you are a BAD parent. Alongside the unspoken boast that their little angel was peeing and pooing on command from six months.


What’s The Right Age To Start Potty-Training?

Now, I’ve read about some children turning up to school in nappies and frankly I think that’s not good for the child, who must be aware that other children are using the loo, let alone the poor teacher.

Sometime between 18 months and three seems to be the usual range so I was aware we were pushing at the boundary when we took the plunge this month as Little B will be three in March.

We would have started sooner had his little brother not come along shortly after his second birthday but Mrs B could just about manage to care for a new baby (who had silent reflux) and deal with cuckoo toddler syndrome. Trying to get our eldest to give up nappies in the midst of a fervent desire to kill compete with the new arrival was out of the question.

But as the end of maternity leave loomed we knew it had to be done. And with hindsight (two weeks on) leaving it until he was older seems to have made it easier in some ways.

Little B was aware of other children his age using the potty; he had started to make comments about being a big boy, comparing himself to his baby brother. So we began introducing the concept of not wearing nappies during the Christmas holidays, talking about it in a positive manner but without putting any pressure on him.

Potty Training Shopping List

We’d had a potty in the bathroom for months (did I mention we’d been putting it off?) so we now invested in all the extra kit. I’m not saying you will need all of the following but I’ve given reasons for each item as a guide:

  • an extra potty  – if you are not always going to be near the bathroom,
  • a ‘big loo’ seat – this is for sitting on the real loo when they’ve mastered a potty,
  • a step to help him reach the sink – washing hands is very important,
  • travel potty and liners – for when you’re out and about,
  • a protector for the car seat – for in-car ‘accidents’,
  • some potty-related books – to help introduce the concept (we went for Pirate Pete and a Thomas the Tank Engine one.)
  • a sticker chart – to encourage potty use.
  • lots of big-boy/girl pants – because you will be changing them a lot at first!

Potty Training Diary

Day one:

We’d built up to this with lots of chat and reading his special books at bedtime but we were both nervous about removing Little B’s nappy after breakfast and putting him in his new pants. I think we both expected to be mopping up wee and poo all day long.

He seemed quite happy about wearing his dinosaur pants but didn’t want to wear anything else. So for an easy life, as it wasn’t cold indoors and we weren’t planning to leave the house, Little B got to spend all of Saturday wearing only successive pairs of new underpants. Like a reverse of ‘going commando’.

Considering he’d been going to the loo in his pants for his entire life it’s not surprising there were some accidents in rapid succession, including a poo.

We were timing his wees at first to get an idea of how often to encourage him to use the potty. Bit shocked to see that it was every 15 minutes, but we think that was a combination of him being a bit nervous about having an accident and the feeling of a breeze around his willy.

Getting a poo out of his underpants wasn’t really any more disgusting than changing one of his poomageddon nappies. He was very excited to wave his poos on their way to their underground holiday: “Bye bye poo! Have nice time!”

By lunchtime the hit rate with the potty for wees was around 50%. I kept talking to him about what it felt like when he needed a wee to get him to try to spot the sensation. Mrs B felt I was best equipped to describe the funny feeling in his willy. It seemed to work because by the mid-afternoon he was regularly saying he needed a wee and making it to the potty in time. Lots of stars on the chart!

We spent the day playing his Animal Soundtracks game and brought the Brio train table downstairs to stop Little B wanting to go and play in his room. We were all tired by the end of the day but chalked it up as a success.

Day two:

Everything we’d read said to stay in the house for a few days (the ‘experts’ must assume you’re either not working or ready to spend your holiday hovering around your child’s bum) but by day two  we were starting to get a bit stir-crazy so we decided to venture out.

It took longer to leave than normal with having to remember all the extra kit but once Little B had got over the weird toddler panic about sitting on his seat protector he was happy running about in the park.

We kept asking if he needed a wee as the previous day he’d been going so frequently, but today he seemed to be able to go for much longer; probably being distracted by the park and perhaps because it wasn’t so new and the potty wasn’t there in front of him.

In fact we all started to relax (not too much) into it and I almost forgot he wasn’t wearing a nappy. He managed to wait until we were back at the Brown and Green cafe before I took him into the baby changing loo and managed to get him to use the travel potty (with a bit of wee on me).

We made it home with no accidents and he used the potty as soon as he got in and by Sunday night we were feeling very pleased with how things were going and Mrs B was a lot less worried about being alone with the potty challenge for the next two days.

Bye Bye Nappies

Two weeks on I can happily report that despite the occasional accident Little B is very happy using his potty, travel-potty, and has even started asking to sit on the big loo using his special Thomas The Tank Engine seat. Poos in the potty have proven a bit trickier but I have read this is often the case. But there have been several days with no messes to clear up and he hasn’t needed the encouragement of getting stars.

We think him being older and having already used the potty on occasion has definitely helped. Having said that I think we will definitely be training his brother earlier. Not having to change two lots of nappies is amazing and I am feeling slightly less guilty about the environment.

Overall we both feel very proud of Little B and have not tired of praising him for his new-found loo skills. He still wears a nappy at night and until he is consistently dry in the morning we are sticking with that. I’d rather that than having to get up in the night to deal with an upset, wet boy and bedding. He is fast becoming our Big Boy, and that’s ok because we still have our baby in the house too.

So if you’re thinking about potty-training I hope this has helped and allayed some worries. Feel free to post questions in the comments! 🙂

PS. We have two boys so I’ve no idea if potty-training girls is different, other than not having to say: “Point it down into the potty. NO! DOWN!” So if anyone has thoughts on this do leave a comment below.

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