Time to Ditch the Diapers! 10 Parent-Approved Potty Training Techniques

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by: Lindsay Hutton
See ya, diapers! If your child is ready to foray into the world of big kid underwear, it's helpful to have a few potty training secrets up your sleeve. Try some of these parent-suggested tips to help make your experience as easy as possible. From realistic to funny to imaginative, all of these tricks are tried-and-true from our own readers, so don't forget to add your own in the comment section!
Young boy reading on training toilet
Turn it Into a Game
All you need for this method are some cheerios or food coloring — whichever you have on hand. If you've got a little boy, put Cheerios in the toilet and tell him to aim at them. He'll likely think it's a great game to play, and will want to pee in the toilet every time he has to go (assuming you've got a constant supply of cereal!)

Another good trick that boys, as well as girls, will love is to put some food coloring in the toilet water. Your child's "deposit" will be an interesting lesson in science and art: He'll get a kick out of seeing the water turn colors!

Says one parent, "At the preschool I work at we put food coloring or bathtub colors in the toilet so when the child pees it changes color. The child gets very excited and often likes to show other children who are training." Hey, whatever works, right?

Training pants
Skip the Disposable Underwear
Some kids look at training pants as just a fancy diaper. Try going directly to underwear. When your child has an accident, she'll realize quickly that her clothes will get wet, and she'll need to change them. While this method can work wonders in just a few days, make sure to stock up on some extra laundry detergent in the meantime.

One reader who tried this says, "We had a lot of laundry, but only for a couple of days. My son was recently potty trained in less than 48 hours with this method."

Green training toilet and toilet paper
Ease Their Fears with Fun
Some kids are afraid of the toilet. Look for ways to ease their fears of that big, dark hole in the bathroom. For example, one mom says, "Have your child sit on the potty at regular intervals. Tell him that fish will show up in the potty and swim if he goes wee wee and there will be an alligator if he poops. Then when he goes, slip a toy fish or alligator into the potty and when you flush the toy swims around in the water. The kids love it!"

Another suggests using a musical toilet. "Just before my child turned two, he would not wear diapers but refused to use the potty. So the search began for something that worked. I finally found something that really worked. This potty has a moisture activated sensor in the bottom that plays 'Old MacDonald had a Farm' when and only when your child 'goes.' It uses music as a reward. My son went from being scared of the potty to proudly singing E-I-E-I-O when he had to 'go.'"

Colorful chocolate candies
M&M Reward
Here's an oldie but a goodie — every time your child goes on the potty, she gets an M&M. One candy for number one, two candies for number two. All kids like candy (right?), so it's a good incentive. One of our readers said it worked for all three of her kids, and they'd always do the "pee-pee in the potty dance" on their way to reap their reward. We aren't sure what that entails, but we're guessing it's a fun one!

If you'd rather not use candy as a reward, pennies work like a charm, too!

Gold star sticker on index card
Make a Chart
Here's another tried-and-true method — a personalized potty training chart. You can either make your own, or print this one off. Let your child pick out some stickers, and use those to put on the chart every time he uses the potty.

Some parents chose to give their child a big reward once they are completely trained and don't need the chart anymore.

Child's feet dangling from toilet
Make Your Child Feel Important
Most children want to feel "grown up" and independent. Use potty-training as a way to help your child feel proud of getting bigger and more self-sufficient.

One reader says, "After my child showed many signs of being ready, I got him pumped up for pre-school and made sure he understood that he had to go in the toilet. I put big boy underwear on him and off to school he went. Although he had an 'accident' at the end of class the first day, I told him how proud I was of him and that he can try harder each day. Since then, he has stayed dry all day and loves using the toilet."

Mom giving daughter piggyback ride
Lead By Example
Every time you go to use the bathroom, take your child in with you so he can observe. (You lost your privacy when you had your bundle of joy, right?) Then ask him if he wants to take a turn. Setting an alarm to remember to take your child to use the toilet every one or two hours will help with consistency.

One mom notes, "I would take my son with me every time that I went, then show him what I had done. He caught on fairly quick."

Baby on toilet against white backdrop
Naked and $75
Allow your child to walk around the house naked all day long for several days. Put the potty out so it is constantly available to her, and regularly remind her to use it. The idea is your child will realize the sensation of having an accident is unpleasant, and will quickly learn how easy it is to go to the potty to avoid that feeling.

And what about the money? Our reader says, "The $75 is for carpet cleaning." Another (cleaner) option if you're training during warmer months, is to try this method while playing outside (in the privacy of your own backyard, of course).

Top view of training toilet on floor
Bring the Potty Everywhere You Go
Bring the training toilet into whatever room you and your child happen to be in. At regular intervals, sit your child on the toilet, whether he thinks he has to go or not. Sometimes the mere act of going on the potty is enough excitement to make your child want to keep doing it.

One mom says, "When I potty trained my daughter, we took the potty chair all over the house. If I was in the kitchen, so was she and the potty chair. Every half hour or so, I would put her on it, and sometimes she would surprise herself and go! Then it was exciting for her. Within about a week, she had graduated to the regular toilet, and never had an accident after that."

Young boy holding roll of toilet paper
Let Your Child Decide It's Time
At the end of the day, you can't really train your child if he doesn't want to be. Watch for signs that your child is physically and emotionally ready to be trained before expecting him to use the toilet. Some signs include:
  • Has dry periods for at least two hours at a time.
  • Can pull his pants up and down himself.
  • Dislikes the feeling of a wet or dirty diaper.
  • Desires independence and takes pride in accomplishments.
  • Shows interest in learning to use the toilet.
Let him decide when it's time to start using the toilet, without any parental pressure. When he does show interest, start by showing him your potty and what it's used for. Don't ask every 5 minutes if he has to go, as this may discourage him.

Says one mom, "My son 'trained himself' in a few days, but only after we stopped forcing the issue."