Scared of Potty Training? Don’t Be.
by Julia Deak Sandler, PhD - Sustainability Blogger at

Teaching toddlers to use potties and toilets is no more difficult than teaching them other skills. Catch your little ones at the developmentally appropriate time, and they will learn quickly and successfully. So…when is that?

For most of human history and in most places around the world, kiddos have been quitting diapers before their second birthdays. In 1957, four years before disposable diapers were introduced, 92 percent of 18-month-olds were potty trained. Lisette, an online commenter writes:

"You mean people are waiting until their children are THREE??? For mercy’s sake, why, unless the child is developmentally delayed?My kids all got trained by 17 months. Even though one was a late walker, she was still able to tell me when she needed to go. Our routine was absolutely consistent; bedtime, naps, meals were at the same times every day. All I had to do was put them on the john once during the night, upon getting up, after meals, after naps, after playtime, and praise lavishly for successful use of the toilet. Yes, they needed help with the details of dressing, but so what? They got the basic idea, and I got out of spending a fortune on diapers."

By consistently sitting toddlers on potties or removing diapers and pants for long stretches of time, caregivers have helped them connect the dots between the sensation of having to go and the pee/poop that follows.

Those who’ve been using cloth diapers have an advantage, because they’ve always felt a bit more wetness and kept that cause-and-effect connection that their disposable-wearing friends might have lost.

Who’s to Say When We’re “Ready”?

Learning to “run run run to the potty” is a fun game for kids around their second birthday, and they resist learning this new skill much less than 3-year-olds do. The recent trend of letting kids tell us when they want to ditch their diapers was started by disposable diaper manufacturers in the 1960s, and boy, was their strategy profitable!

Kids at the right age for potty learning may not even be able to express such wishes. They look to us for guidance. We -- parents and diaper consumers -- have been fooled, and our children have been humiliated by potty accidents way past the age when these should happen. We certainly don’t want to force children into this, but as clever parents, surely we can get kids excited about the potty when we see that the time is right instead of waiting for them to get enthusiastic at some random time in the future.

Not only do we face mighty battles indeed if we wait until our sweet toddler has turned into a three- or four-year-old ace negotiator, but every 6 months we delay potty training means 600 more diapers used. That translates to 335 gallons of trash or up to $500 in diapering costs. Even with cloth diapers, we are having an unnecessary impact on our environment if we continue to use energy and emit greenhouse gases by transporting and washing diapers when our child is capable of using a potty instead.

It would be a shame to miss your child’s magical window of trainability because you weren’t prepared, so read on to find out what to do now.

Get Ready to Roll with These Easy Steps?

  1. Educate yourself with how-to info about the potty learning process so you’ll know how to proceed. Watch our Toddler Potty Training Video, borrow a copy of Oh Crap! Potty Training with your next diaper delivery. If you’re confident, ready and determined, you are bound to succeed!

  2. Get a potty or two for your home so that your kiddo will have an easy, non-scary place to run to and sit whenever the need arises. The bigger the house, the more potties you’ll need. Don’t let these become toys! It’s all right to let your child try them out, but to avoid dragging potty training on too long, be consistent: either they are required to use them from now on, or it’s totally optional or stashed away for now.

  3. Search your calendar for a time when no big changes are happening, everyone is likely to be happy and relaxed, and you can take some time to stay home and focus on potty learning for 3-10 days. Talk to your child’s other caregivers about letting them go commando (no underwear or diaper under their clothes) for about a month. Developmentally, children are capable of being potty-taught when they are able to communicate their desires and hopefully walk or run to a potty. If they are retreating to a private place to poop, that is a sure sign that they are ready to learn this skill!

  4. Work on related skills like hooking thumbs into pants and pushing them down or pulling them up (though they don’t have to master this before you start). Read books about kids and animals pooping, peeing and using potties. Get your kiddo excited about becoming a big boy/girl and wearing fun undies after they learn to use the potty! Our cute trainer underwear is great for naptime or as “travel pants” when you want extra insurance!

  5. Consider getting a mattress protector and extra sheets if you don’t already have them, as well as a car seat piddle pad. It also helps to have kids’ clothes that are easy to manipulate. Skirts or pants with simple elastic waists are best.

Summer is a Great Time to Start

Around the world, parents take off diapers and pants during hot weather to keep kids cool while also helping them learn how to recognize when they need the potty. With summer right around the corner, now is a great time to get your potty game on.

It might take a minute for your little one to perfect the art of keeping pants and undies dry. You can’t expect 100% success right away, and neither will anyone else, if your child is barely 2! But thanks to your best effort, optimism and determination this summer, your little guy or gal will be rocking the dry pants by pre-school time and saving you lots of money in the diaper department, too.