Potty Training: How I Get My Kids to Use the Potty So Early

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Potty training is happening in my home once again. Layah has been working on how to use the potty for a month, now. I should probably mention for all the new readers out there that Layah is just shy of 16 months old.

Do you think I’m crazy/silly/delusional for potty training such a young toddler? It’s cool. You wouldn’t be the first!

potty training: how to potty train

But the fact of the matter is this: our first child was 100% potty trained by 20 months using the same method that we are using now, and so far, so good with the second one. So for those of you out there who are interested in potty training tips, especially for younger toddlers, I’d love to share with you what we do!

How to Potty Train

Let me preface by saying this: every child is different. I am not claiming to have a method that will work for every child. But I don’t think my children are exceptionally gifted or exceptionally rare when it comes to potty training abilities. I think that early potty training is a possibility for many children if they are given the opportunity to try it out! I also think that parents need to read up on different approaches and develop a strategy BEFORE their child is ready to potty train. You want to be prepared so that if your child starts to show readiness for using the potty, even before you thought they might, that you are ready to get started!

I would call our approach “laid-back” early potty training. This is not the method for anyone who wants to be all done in 3 days or 24 hours or anything like that. We worked on potty training with our first starting at 13 months and while she was all done by 20 months, you can see now that the process of potty training took 7 months. But it also came without any tears and with remarkably few accidents. Here’s what it did take: LOTS AND LOTS of time in the bathroom, sitting on the potty. Reading books. Waiting.

What you need:

1. an infant potty seat. We have a two-story house, so we actually have two! Our current favorite is one Prince Lionheart recently sent our way, the pottyPOD Basix (I always shop at Amazon, but Buy Buy Baby and Bed, Bath and Beyond also carry this particular seat). It is very important for a child to have a seat that they can hop on and off that is at their level. It gives them more of a sense of control, and also rapidly increases their comfort level with potty training. We had the potty seat out for a few weeks before we even talked about it with Layah, giving her time to get used to seeing it and to develop her curiosity about it, without feeling stressed.

potty training tips: sign language

2. sign language. Communication is a key part of potty training, no matter the age. Your child needs to be able to tell you when s/he needs to use the bathroom, or when s/he just used the bathroom (either in a diaper or in the potty). We started teaching baby sign language potty training terms to Layah at the same time that we introduced the potty seat. Since she already uses sign language, she was very quick to pick up on the sign for “potty” and within a month, was using the sign gleefully any time she sat on the potty. She also started telling us when she just went potty in her diaper. That’s a HUGE step forward for potty training, as a child has to be aware of her bodily functions before she can exercise control over them.

3. a potty schedule. Currently we are in the phase of potty training where we put her on the potty as soon as she wakes up in the morning, as well as right before bed. We have a pile of books in the bathroom to read to her while she sits (be sure to have a potty time book in the pile!). The longer we can get her to sit there, the more likely she will go potty. But we don’t force it. If she is adamant about being all done with her potty time, we tell her that we are going to put a diaper on her now, and then we go on about our day. Currently, she is using the potty about 25% of the time that we put her on it, which isn’t too bad!

After your child gets very used to morning and evening potty sessions, begin to incorporate potty time 10 minutes after every meal that you are together. I am just about to get started with this phase, and it will involve setting the timer so that I don’t forget! You will notice your potty success rate go up dramatically when you add this step in, and along with that success, please do heap on the praise for your child for using the potty. This will build their confidence and their own joy about using the potty instead of their diaper.

4. a plan for wrapping things up. We knew that our first was ready to totally finish her potty training once she started going to a corner and hiding when she pooped. So at that point, I told her all about big girl underwear and how she was ready to start wearing it because she knew when she needed to potty, she knew how to tell us, and she even knew how to sit on her potty seat. Over a 2 day period, we gave Darah lots of water and juice and put her on the potty every 2o minutes on day one, and every 30 minutes on day 2. She wore big girl underwear all day. And she had 2 accidents on the first day. She actually told me about them, believe it or not! She was accident-free the second day.

Overnight Potty Training Tips

After she was fully potty trained during the day, we immediately began potty training for night-time. She has been receiving a bottle before bed, so over a 4 day period, we reduced the amount of milk she got in her bottle. And I’m going to tell you the truth, folks. She was cool with it for the first 2 days, but by day 3 she was NOT happy with how little milk she was getting. This was the only time in the whole potty training experience that crying happened, and it wasn’t because of having to use the potty, but rather, because of giving up her bottle. BUT…the drama was over fairly quickly, and because she was no longer drinking 6 ounces of fluids right before bed, she pretty much stopped using the bathroom at night! I do brag about the fact that we never purchased a single package of Pull-Ups. Our checking account was SO thankful! I will say that at 20 months, Darah did sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and ask to go potty (we could hear her thanks to the monitor). So be prepared for possible middle of the night potty breaks.

So that’s how we potty trained our first by 20 months, and it is the path we are currently on for our second. It definitely takes a lot of time, but it is a powerful example of just what little ones can accomplish if you give them the chance!

Looking for a Different Approach?

I fully understand that the approach we took with potty training isn’t right for everyone. If you are looking for something a little different (perhaps for an older toddler who might be ready to train quickly). In this case, I’ve heard rave reviews about blogger Becky Mansfield’s ebook, Potty Train in a Weekend. It’s definitely worth a look to see if that’s a better option for you!

Affiliate links may be included, always at no cost to you! 

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  1. Kayla says

    I started potty training my son at 6 months and I feel that we have the same approach. I do have a question however… How did you wean the bottle/sippy before bed? My son absolutely refuses to go to bed if he doesn’t get warm milk first. I tried limiting the amount so we are down to only a couple ounces.. But if he doesn’t get the couple ounces he will scream. HELP PLEASE :)

    • says

      It may be the case that some amount of crying will just need to happen. Obviously that’s a decision best left to you and not to me, though! You might also want to try adding something different to your night routine to help him focus on something new in place of the sippy cup at bed. You might also try giving him his milk at the very beginning of the ritual (maybe right before bed time) and explaining that this will be when he gets his milk now. Just some ideas!

  2. Brooke says

    My daughter is 15 months and struggling with diaper rash making me very determined to potty train. However, she weighs 20 pounds and can’t find 18 mon sized underware, just 2T. Any suggestions?

    • says

      Oh yes I remember how diffifult it was to find 18 month underwear! I would suggest going for sized cloth diapers and then removing the inserts (you could do this gradually, having one insert at first, and then as she gets closer to being fully trained, removing the insert). I hope that helps!

    • Allison says

      Our little guy started a Montessori daycare at 17 months and they don’t allow diapers. We had the hardest time finding underwear to fit him. We used gerber training pants. Most stores only sell them in 2T but we bought them online in the 18 month size. They still fit him at 20 months old (35 inches tall).


      There have a little more absorbency than underwear but they still let them feel that they are wet. If it is a huge issue gerber makes the covers for these as well or you can buy some cloth diaper covers to go over them.

      Happy to say that he has only 1-2 accidents a week. He still wears a cloth diaper at night but most mornings he wakes up dry. We love having him trained early, best decision ever.

      Good Luck!

    • Kayla says

      I have actually found a couple pairs of underwear that fit my son and he is only 24 lbs. Amazon also has training underwear for 18 months ( which the weight limit starts at 20lbs-25lbs)

  3. jan says

    Can’t potty train until a child’s muscles in that area are developed so early isn’t the key- readiness is. Otherwise, set child and parent up for failure and lots of frustration.

    • meg says

      Not True!! My 15 month old stays dry an average of 4 nights per week and will frequently hold pee until I take him to a potty. (When we are shopping, for example.) I do not consider him potty trained because he doesn’t necessarily tell others when he needs to go (like when in daycare or with our nanny). But children/babies, certainly have the capacity to “hold it”, at least for a few minutes. It is modern/mainstream culter that has “trained” babies to go in their diapers– and I find that simply gross.

  4. kb says

    Like the advice and LOVE that you advocate that each child is different. Both of my children were using the toilet “potty trained” at a reasonable age. Both continued to wet the bed until the middle of second grade… not due to “potty training” failure, but due to genetics and physical development of the bladder. “Bed wetting” is an issue that so many parents do not understand and it is extremely frustrating even for parents who do get it. Thank you for acknowledging that what works for one child may not be the best for another. All you mamas out there with kids having nighttime accidents… hang in there! It will come to an end, and your sweet babies will grow up to become beautiful individuals regardless of the time spent changing sheets and wearing sleep pants. You are not alone :)

  5. says

    Our oldest son potty trained at 16 months old. Our youngest son potty trained at three years old! Worked really hard with our first son, but didn’t work as hard with our second. We were a little more laid-back and not so strict. It didn’t really bother us.

  6. Stephanie says

    I am so glad you are able to find a way to potty train your children younger. The only thing is that you should make sure you do the research on why younger is not better. There are studies out their from the medical side of potty training and pediatric urologists staying that early training isn’t good because they are not meant to hold it that young. Therefore, they are seeing more kids with blockages, UTI’s and scar tissue build up around the bladder. I was big on the earlier the better. I am a professional nanny and have trained many children. I found out all this info 2 years ago and changed how I viewed training (what’s best for their developing bodies vs being done with diapers sooner). With the last child I trained we waiting until 3 and he was very ready and got him trained in a few days. No tears. No accidents. Stopped being wet when asleep. etc. Best training experience ever. And I feel better knowing I gave his little bladder and other things more time to develop like they should. Of course, I am not judging at all! You found a great method that can help others too! I just want people to be fully informed!

    • says

      Thaks for chiming in, Stephanie! I think “follow the child” is the very most important thing you can do when potty training. My first was ready at a very young age. My second has shown some interest, but she is definitely slower to commit. I’m actually backing off a little bit right now and letting her tell me when she is interested. She seems to love to try her hand at the potty in the morning and just before bath time. Otherwise, she’s more resistant. I want potty training to be empowering, and not something for either one of us to stress over. We utilize the suggestions above and just keep a laid-back attitude about it. Bottom line: if you child isn’t interested, it is going to be a bad experience for you both! And every child is different. :-)

  7. Rene says

    My granddaughter flat out says she doesn’t want to use the potty! When asked who’s in control- she is. She admits she is afraid of the potty and getting older as well! She will be 3 this month. She can communicate when she’s going and ask to change diaper. Or hide in a corner. It’s hard because I only see her once a week. I bought her a potty watch and pull ups. She just seems so antagonistic! :/

  8. Mia says

    Great to see others doing this. So many parents think their kids have to be in nappies till they are 3. I always find it extraordinary: Babies are not born with nappies on, it is not natural; Do they spend huge amounts of money on pampers, or use up valuable water cleaning nappies in developing countries? of course not; We had family who lived in China and told us how they start potty training babies there from 8 weeks and they do not use nappies!
    Our first always insisted on sitting up to do his poos from one month on, so my sister inlaw, who lived in China, asked why we didn’t just put him on the toilet or potty when he asked to sit up to do a poo? We thought she was mad! He was only 3 months old! But hey, ok, we tried, thinking he would hate it, but no he loved it! At age 6 months he did his last proper poo in his nappy; at 15 months we took the nappy off, used the Gina Ford model and never put a nappy on him again during the day. By 20 months it was off at night as well.
    Now we’re on to baby number two, did the same exact thing. He has been a bit more rebellious but there have been a lot of upheavals with guests and travel, so I don’t blame him. However, he is now 18 months and we have consecutive days of no accidents (he does not wear a nappy during the day) and although he wears a nappy at night, it is always dry in the morning and he always asks to get up at night to go to the toilet if he needs to.
    I find my boys are so confident and they seem to understand so much. Sometimes as parents we underestimate them. I truly believe “early” potty training makes for confident and happy boys and parents and a healthier bank account and environment :)
    Thanks for sharing your story and advice. Sometimes parents look at me like I’m a terrible mum for doing it.

  9. jodi zimmerman says

    We were doing so well before the flood! Our town was destroyed by the flooding in Colorado and we have moved 3 times since then. I had to stop using cloth diapers because we didn’t always have a washing machine. We moved into a cabin until we can figure everything else out, but Berkeley (who is now 28 months!!!) has completely stopped wanting to go on the potty. I got a job so he is in daycare full time and they are telling me that he doesn’t even want to sit on the potty half of the time! I leave his potty out in the bathroom and every time one of us goes I offer but most of the time he is just not interested :(

    • says

      Oh Jodi! I’m so sorry to hear that you were so affected by the flooding that occurred. Thank goodness you all are safe, but I can only imagine that being uprooted like that has been a struggle.

      As for the potty training, my advice for what it is worth is to just take a break from it. I think regression is a normal thing, especially in the face of so much change. Maybe just take a month off, and even put the potty seat away. He may feel more interested in it when it becomes “new” again.

      • Mia says

        Yeah Hugo had a set back as well after our holidays. Would sit on the toilet, the insist on coming off, running away from us for a bit, then turn around, smile and then pee his pants, And if he pooed his pants, he would laugh at us!! Those were 5 frustrating days. So it was either putting the nappy back on, which I think is fine, but we tried getting all his potty books out again and reading them, I made a new reward chart with his favourite characters and some cool stickers and the next day he was back on track. I think it all depends on the situation and child. Good luck and just don’t stress, they can tell immediately.

  10. Sindy Murray says

    My son is not too young, he is 3yrs old and he can go pee in the bathroom but when it comes to poop he doesn’t. I potty train all my kids early by age we were done with diapers but I have taking it too easy on the last one. I do want to get him completely potty trained before next year starts.

  11. Anonymous says

    My daughter is 17 months and has been showing signs for about a month and a half. People think I’m crazy for wanting to potty train so early. I don’t expect consistency, but at least start talking about it. When I go to the bathroom, she comes too because she wants to sit on her potty. I just take her pants and diaper off and she sits when I do. Nothing yet, but figured she thinks it’s fun for now, so maybe we will get something soon. Never hurts to start them on knowing what it is and why they are sitting.

  12. Beth Poff says

    Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful tips! I was curious if you, or anyone else might have some tips on #2 in the potty. Our daughter is 3(birthday in September) and she is going unprompted to pee pee in the potty with no accidents. After much encouragement, many “accidents” with #2 she finally went in the potty while out with her Daddy. The kicker is, she will NOT go at home to #2. She wont go in her potty or in the big potty. We’ve encouraged, offered rewards, offered tons of praise, etc but nothing works. She won’t go. She hasn’t needed to go elsewhere(at the store etc) so she ends up doing it in her pants :/ I’m lost and looking for any tips that may help. Thank you!!!

  13. Megan says

    This is pretty similar to what we’ve been doing with the little guy I nanny. Last year we successfully trained his older brother and the other girl I was watching within about 2-3 months time but it was such a nightmare ordeal. I think a lot has to do with the readiness of the child and I don’t think the girl was ready. The boy was and he was done very quickly (they were both about 2 years old). This time though little brother was only 21 months when we started. He seems to understand a lot and we have gotten him from naked hiney to underwear and no accidents in awhile but it took about two weeks for that and he is not yet asking to use the potty so we are still obviously taking on a schedule (and she is using pull-ups when she takes him out although he doesn’t often pee in them!). I just think this comes from the young age. If you wait until they are 2 or (gasp) 3 even to potty train that is when you can do the whole potty train in 2 days types of things. I am expecting my own little man in February so we will see how things go when it’s all up to me to potty train alone and I don’t have other parents getting in the way. 😉

    • says

      I totally agree with you about the readiness part. Our 17 month old, who we are currently working with, just doesn’t seem as ready as her sister was at this age. We are still putting her on the potty, but we aren’t stressing out over this. The student must be ready for the lesson! :-)

  14. Krista says

    My daughter is 22 months and has been potty trained for 2-3 months. We started at 18 months, cold turkey. All the diapers (cloth) went away. Naked for a while til she got the idea, then started introducing underpants, clothes. The biggest (and hardest) thing was to not get upset. For me, this meant getting rid of the rug in the living room (we have wood floors) so I didn’t have to deal with cleaning it. For nights, she was in a crib. We just put down some cloth diapers or towels over the mattress. If she wet the bed, dry towel over it, clean it all up in the morning. That took much longer, but she now has jut occasional nighttime accidents.
    Having her potty trained is the most wonderful, freeing thing in the world! With my next, I think I’ll start a bit later, 19 or 20 months, but not much. Naked butt all the way. We found the book “Toilet Training without Tantrums” extremely helpful!

  15. says

    My 2 yo has been day trained since he was 20 mos but im not sure how to go about night training him any advice? I am also beginning to set a potty routine with my one year old. Basically just letting him sit on the potty before bath time so he gets used to sitting there. Any advice or additionalasuggestions welcomed. Thanks. Great post btw.

    • says

      Definitely make sure you cut off the liquids an hour before bedtime, and make sure the last thing he does before crawling into bed for the night is use the potty. Those two things helped us alot! Good luck!

  16. Kayla Lee says

    I nanny for a two year old who needs to be potty trained and this post has some great tips. I hope I can get through it!

  17. says

    My oldest we kind of let him train himself. When he was ready he was ready and from that day we were done with diapers. My youngest is going to be 2 in 2 months and we just started having the potty out and teaching him on to sit on it.

  18. Kristie D. says

    My niece and nephew are potty training. Thanks for the tips that I’ll pass along to my sisters. My niece is faster than my nephew. But my nephew is doing well and he likes going at school like a “big” boy. kristiedonelson(at)gmail(dot)com Thank you.

  19. michelle says

    I have 8 children. All trained in less than a week at 12-14 months old. Toostie rolls! Put one in the bathroom & they get it when they potty. It’s that easy!

  20. Julie Goetz says

    My daughter will be 2 next month and she is ready. She sits on the potty but hasn’t gone in it yet. When I tell her lets put a diaper on she will run back to the potty chair. Thanks for the great tips.

  21. crystal smith says

    I gotta say I’m impressed with both you and your children! My oldest son was not potty trained until he was about 3 1//2 (it was a struggle- new parents that had no idea what they were doing and a little guy who had no interest in learning to use the creepy potty lol) My second son was much easier, and much younger, to potty train- but he took most of the initiative himself because he wanted to be like his big brother. I’ll have to pass these tips on to my friend who is trying to start potty training her little girl who is about 18 months :)

    • says

      I hope it helps! I have to say, I don’t think there’s a thing you can do to force the situation if you child shows NO interest…and every kid is different! But I think if parents watch a little more carefully, they just might see signs of interest and/or readiness sooner than they might think!

  22. Sarah Hayes says

    This was very helpful! Im starting to think about PTing for my 16m old and am trying to find the best potty for her. Hopefully we can give it all a shot soon. Thanks for the tips!

  23. Kimberly Gorman says

    My son is 2 and uses the potty somewhat. I think I am being too laid back with it. I need to put him on a potty schedule. Thanks for the tips.


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