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Potty training step by step guide

Read our step-by-step guide to potty training

Potty training step-by-step guide

So your little one is ready to ditch the nappies? Read our guide to potty training one step at a time.

At a glance

  • Go shopping
  • Pick your moment
  • How long will it take?

OK, so you’ve done a bit of preparation, and you think your toddler is ready for the big transition to grown-up pants? Here’s how to get started.

Go shopping

The easy bit. You’ll need a couple of potties – quantity is more important than quality here. If you live on two floors, you’ll want one upstairs and one downstairs plus a travel potty. A bit later, you’ll want a training seat for your loo and a step (a few kids prefer to go straight to this stage if they take against the potty).
Take your little one with you to choose their pants. Buy lots: you may get through five or more pairs a day in the early stages. It’s also worth buying a few pairs of cheap jogging bottoms – so much easier to pull up and whip down than tights or jeans. You’ll definitely be retiring the dungarees for a while, too.
It can be a brilliant idea to buy a few books they really, really want so you can keep them as ‘potty books’ – only for looking at when they’re on the potty, to encourage them to sit there for a while. Also pick up a few puzzle and sticker books.

Pick your moment

If you’re about to go on holiday or move house or have another baby within the next month or two, then it might be safer for everyone to take the pressure off and postpone potty training for a while. It works best when everyone is relaxed and there are no looming deadlines. Don’t feel you have to wait until the summer – yes it can be easier, but it’s perfectly do-able at other times. Choose a week when the diary isn’t very full and you’ve already done a supermarket shop. If you can spend a couple of days just at home, that’s perfect.

Day one

Nappy off, into pants: let the fun begin. The trick is to stay realistic: you may catch very few wees today, let alone poos. Even one wee in the potty counts as a major success and deserves praise. Give them plenty to drink and remind them to sit on the potty every 30/45 minutes or so – say things like ‘see if you can do a wee’ rather than ‘do you need a wee?’ (let them help you set the oven timer or phone to remind you). Keep your tone light and positive even if you’re not feeling it, clean up accidents without comment or just an ‘oh dear, shall we try to get it in the potty next time?’ Praise where you can. You’ll probably be counting the minutes until bedtime when you can put a nice, safe nappy on them.

The next few days

They will probably manage a few more wees in the potty (cue praise) and you may need to remind them to sit on the potty a bit less often, but there will still be lots of accidents. Try to stay patient and positive – they’re really doing their best and it’s not easy (remind yourself how long it took you to learn to drive). If they’re not sitting for long enough on the potty to see any action, it can help to bring out the ‘potty books’ and any activity books you have stashed away. Try not to act too anxiously or hover expectantly - they’ll feel pressured. Keep it as relaxed as you possibly can, even if you’ve got through an entire packet of Disney pants and it’s only lunchtime.

Venturing out

You don’t have to stay inside for days on end: venturing out just needs a little preparation: pack loads of pants and at least two sets of clothes, wipes, a travel potty and the essential plastic bags to carry soiled clothes.

How long will it take?

Some children seem to crack it within three or four days with just the odd accident after that, but most take longer and it’s not unusual to get a few accidents months later. Keep calm, clean up and carry on – your new motto. Hit a snag or want more advice? Take a look at our expert problem-solving Q&A

At a glance

  • Go shopping
  • Pick your moment
  • How long will it take?
My little girl loved the sticker reward chart that we made for her

Potty training step by step guide