Why You Should Start Preparing for Potty Training (in 9 Easy Steps)

preparing for potty training

Thinking about potty training, but don’t know where to start?  Start preparing for potty training now, so your child will be easily successful when the time is right!

When it comes to be that time in our toddlers life, it can give us such anxiety!  But if we play it just right, things can go rather smoothly.

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I don’t mean to brag…

…but potty training actually went pretty well with my first two kids. Not perfect, but pretty well.  

I attribute that to good timing, a lot of luck, and the potty training prep I did long ahead of actually starting.

I’m sitting here, thinking about potty training my third, and reflecting on what I actually did that worked well with my other two.  

Please note- I’m not a professional. Just a mom who has had two rather good experiences!

About three to four months before attempting potty training, I implement these nine steps. You will see that these EASY things are all pointing to one idea: teaching your child what it means to use the toilet. 

The whole idea is that you’re teaching and showing your child how the toilet works long before they are ever expected to use it.

This prevents putting too much pressure on the child when it comes time to actually get started.

So with that said, let’s dive in!

9 Steps for Preparing for Potty Training

1.Read potty training themed books.

Easy, right?  I will just casually add the potty training books to our repertoire.  We might read one among other books before nap or bedtime occasionally.  

We will casually talk about what’s happening in the book, but not putting too much emphasis or pressure on our child.  I might say something like, “That girl has to go to the bathroom. See her flushing the toilet?”

This is very different than, “See the boy using the potty?  You have to do that soon.”

Notice how the first just touches on what is happening.  The second instance can cause unnecessary pressure and fear, which we certainly want to avoid.

Our favorite potty training books!

2. Model It.

Okay, I know this might sound strange.  And I’m going to preface this by saying, do what feels right and comfortable.  If you’re the type that goes to the bathroom with kids following you in, this is for you.  If not, feel free to skip!

When your toddler is following you into the bathroom anyway, you’re essentially modeling for them what they will be doing, when it comes time to potty training.  You don’t need to make a big flashy show for them.  Just tell them what you’re doing, and move on.

We often show how other things are done in order to teach our children.  This is just another example of that.

3. Let them flush.

Simple, right? Let your toddler have the opportunity to flush the toilet from time to time. Maybe they’re flushing it for a sibling, or just trying it out. The sound can be scary to some kids, so let them try it out in a fun and positive manner.

With regular opportunities to flush the toilet way ahead of actually potty training, you are preparing your child for part of the job itself. They will be a pro flusher when it comes time for the real deal– and this will give them such confidence!

4. Show how the toilet works.

I don’t know about your kids, but mine have always been fascinated with the idea of the drain! Explain what happens to all the water when it flushes, and how it fills back up again.

Show them how the lid opens and closes. Let them try it! Taking the mystery out of the toilet can help it to be less intimidating to your toddler.

5. Diaper-free time.

This always makes me nervous. But I’m convinced it helps.

Whenever it’s time for a bath, I’m always one to leave the diaper on right up until it’s time to get in, then throw a new one on ASAP after bath.

However. Prior to potty training, I’ll give a little more time before and after the bath for my child to walk around diaper-free. Not a lot of time. Just a couple of minutes while the tub is filling up.

And this is why: It gives them practice maintaining control of their bladder. They naturally don’t want to pee with nothing on.

Like I said, this does make me nervous, and you have to know your kid. But I’ve just started this with my third. And in three kids, we haven’t had any accidents during this time!

6. Put potty training items in the bathroom.

Yes, you can do this months before potty training. Or even just a couple of days ahead of time.

The idea, is that you don’t want to bring all this new stuff into a familiar place, and then have your child feel like they have to perform.

You want them to be very comfortable in the bathroom. Kids can be strange, sometimes. The smallest thing can throw them off.

If you’re getting a new stool and potty seat for the bathroom, just put them in the bathroom a week or so ahead of time. Let those items become familiar to your toddler before they are expected to use them.

7. Talk about it.

Again, light and casual! Occasionally talk about it when it makes sense.

For example, if your toddler is looking for his brother, you might say, “He’s in the bathroom. He’s peeing in the toilet.”

If you bring home a new pack of toilet paper, have your toddler help you put it away. Explain that you use it when you use the toilet.

You don’t have to make a big deal out of it. But just include your toddler in on these parts of everyday life.

8. Layout the expectation, gently.

As you’re preparing for potty training you can tell your toddler that one day, they, too, will be using the potty. You can say it gently and occasionally.

Remember, we aren’t saying it to make them feel pressured about it. We’re simply letting them know what’s going to happen when they get just a little bit bigger.

How we say things is everything, right? For example, if your toddler notices her sister using the bathroom, you might say, “Shelia is peeing on the toilet. When you get just a little bigger, you’re going to pee on the toilet, just like her!”

See how it’s positive? Kids always want to do what their older sibling is doing. This type of comment will most likely intrigue your toddler rather than intimidate.

Avoid saying things like, “You’re going to have to use the potty soon,” or “We’re going to throw out all your diapers.”

We want this to be a light and positive experience!

9. Think hard about timing.

I’m convinced that this is crucial. And part luck. Having just the right timing can make such the difference in potty training.

To me, the time is right when you know that your child has the capacity to tell you they need to go to the bathroom, language-wise. Maybe they don’t know that feeling yet. That’s not quite what I’m talking about.

I want my child’s language development to be strong enough that they are able to communicate all the bathroom things with me. When they have to go, if they need more toilet paper, etc. There’s so much language involved with potty training. If I’m still having a hard time understanding most of what they’re saying, personally, I’m not ready to potty train that child yet.

False Deadlines

Also, don’t create false deadlines for yourself. It’ll just stress you out, unnecessarily.

I was planning to have my oldest potty trained by the time my third was born. I thought having three kids in diapers would be just too wild. But it actually wasn’t a problem at all.

Well, being eight months pregnant, with an eleven month old, and a potty-training toddler just wasn’t going to happen. So, I decided to wait until after I had the baby. I waited until the baby was two months old, after all the brand newness of a newborn in the house subsided. And my energy was a (little) more normal.

So, potty training was delayed for my oldest about three months from when I was planning. And guess what. It was seriously a breeze. She did great. Probably because she was three months older. And I wasn’t a large frustrated pregnant lady trying to potty train. So that was great.

All this to say, don’t make yourself feel like it has to get done at a certain time, when it really doesn’t.

Do what you know will be best for your child, yourself, and your family!


Preparing for potty training sounds just so intimidating. Especially if it’s your first time. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Try out these ideas and see how simple potty-training prep really can be!

And here’s another great potty-training read!

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