As a first-time mom, the idea of potty training my toddler scared me to no end. If done incorrectly, I imagined pee and poop gracing every inch of the house and the hours I would spend cleaning the carpets.
Once I finally reached my breaking point of trying to tackle a toddler for diaper changes, I decided I would give this whole potty-training thing a go.
Now, after potty training both of my children, I can tell you what age is best to potty train, potty training age statistics, differences for girls and boys, all about potty training naked, and what worked and didn’t work for us.
What is the normal age for potty training?
From my personal experience, most parents start potty training when their child is 2.
But to really answer this question, we need to look at statistics.
Potty training age statistics
Here are the most illuminating statistics surrounding potty training:
- Developmentally, a baby can’t hold pee or poop until 12 to 18 months. (source)
- Most children start potty training between 24-36 months. (source)
- Over time, the age at which 60% of children potty trained has increased from 18 months in 1947 to 36.8 months in 2003. (source)
- Most are not fully 100% potty trained (day and night) until 5 or 6 years old. (source)
What does this tell us? The age varies widely and it is a process that takes years to complete. Additionally, there has been a generational shift of parents waiting to potty train until a later age.
Best potty-training age for girls
From personal experience and from speaking with other moms, the consensus is that it is easier to potty train girls.
Overall, girls tend to be more advanced in skills necessary for both training like language. One study found that girls tend to complete potty training 3 months earlier than boys.
So what is the best age to start for girls? My answer is when you see the ready signs.
- Aware of body signals
- Ability to communicate
Best potty-training age for boys
Since the age difference that boys and girls potty train at is pretty minimal in the grand scheme of things, I think it is fair to say again, start when you see the ready signs.
I know a lot of moms who had success potty training at 2 with a boy and others who had a terrible time and decided to wait until 3.
I will tell you that no matter the age, teach them to pee sitting down. It is an easier and less messy task to learn. Also, do this because poop sometimes comes with pee.
At what age do you start potty training?
While there is no magical age that is right for every child, I would focus on when your child shows signs of readiness.
There are really advantages and disadvantages at every age. As they get older, their skill set needed to go to the potty such as pulling down their pants get better. However, as they get older, it also gets harder to change diapers and they might be more resistant to the idea.
Any advantage to potty training earlier?
Besides getting to pay for less diapers, your child will get less diaper rashes. Our littlest was very prone to diaper rashes which was a huge incentive to get her out of diapers sooner.
Now, how to potty train naked?
Potty training naked is one of the easiest and fastest ways to potty train. We were able to successfully potty train the first time around with both our kids over a weekend.
If having your child run around naked all day isn’t an option, then have them run around in a dress or long shirt with a bare butt.
1. Use a little potty, not a toilet kid seat
The reason is because once your child can pull down their pants, they can go on their own. The little potty gives them the ability to use the potty independently. After a few weeks, my toddler wouldn’t even tell me, she would just run to her potty and go.
Also, put the potty near or in the bathroom. Or at least have a very specific location for the potty that won’t change. We have one potty near our downstairs bathroom and one potty in the upstairs bathroom.
How many little potties do you need?
I would get one for each floor on the house and also one car potty. Once you potty train, you will need to pull over for potty stops. Keep the potty in the trunk and then you don’t need to worry about finding somewhere quick.
2. Pick 3-4 days with no commitments
You want to have no appointments, required activities, trips, vacations, etc. Get your grocery shopping done before these few days. We picked a few days in the middle of winter when we were snowed in anyway.
3. No pants, diapers, or underwear (aka potty training naked)
This step is CRITICAL!
Now for the 3-4 days, let your kid run around butt naked from belly button down. This step is critical. If they are wearing something, then they will think they can pee because it will feel just like a diaper. Until they make the connection with the feeling of needing to pee and peeing, it is just too confusing for them.
When they start learning to use the potty at first, they probably aren’t going to tell you they need to pee, and they probably can’t get their clothing off by themselves. Instead, they will just go to their potty. If they are naked, they will have a lot more success of actually using the potty.
4. Pick a good play space
Find a good room or floor of the house to play in that you can make accident safe. Cover your furniture with towels and pull up rugs if you will be upset when they get peed on.
Speaking of play, make sure to read plenty of books about going to the potty. This will really help your child process the new experience. There is even an AMAZING episode on Daniel Tiger about going potty. My child loves to sign the lyrics: “if you have to go potty, stop and go right away” as she races to the potty.
5. Do not ask “do you need to pee?”
Over and over and over again. Honestly, they can’t even answer the question yet anyway. The first part of potty training is for the child to learn to associate the feeling of needing to go with I need to go to the potty.
Additionally, think of how annoying that would be. It might freak your kid out or make the whole experience unpleasant.
6. They will pee
And most likely it won’t be on the potty. But that is okay. They will probably stop and watch it run down their leg not really sure what even happened. This is great. You need to be so excited about this.
When they pee, says “yay you went pee!” and bring them straight to the potty. Have them sit on the potty for a bit, maybe read a board book about potty.
The first time, they might not get any pee in the potty but as long as you keep them naked, they will start to pee and feel it immediately. As they keep practicing making that connection with the feeling, they will automatically start stopping earlier and earlier and make their way to the potty.
And then use your reward system.
7. Pick a reward system
A lot of parents do stickers or something like M&Ms. I think stickers is really good especially if you get their favorite character or something. Just make sure you can keep up this reward system for at least a few weeks so don’t go overboard. We bought a gigantic book of small stickers that could be put on a poster board we put on the wall.
8. When you finally leave the house
No underwear or tight pants such as leggings. They will automatically think they have a diaper on. I put my kid in sweat pants. Be sure to bring back up pants and socks (since it will run down their leg).
And honestly, your kid is going to pee their pants the first time they wear pants. Try to make your first outing somewhere kid friendly where there is a potty close by. Most kid places are super understanding, I promise your kid won’t be the first to pee there.
When you get there, ask if they want to go and check out the cool potty. You can make a big deal about how cool it is that they get to use it. You can also ask them if they want to try it. If not, that is totally okay.
Follow the same rule as before, when they need to pee or start peeing, be excited. Tell them that they need to pee so let’s go find the potty together. It will take about a week of wearing clothing out and then they will have made the connection between feeling the need to pee while wearing something. You are basically step by step un-training them to pee in a diaper.
9. Naked at home and only loose pants when out
For at least a month after you start, you want to follow this rule. Basically, this will give you the highest chance of hits over misses. The more they recognize the feeling of needing to pee (or peeing a little) and then using the potty, the better they get at it.
10. Avoid the pee before we leave
Without a doubt, after driving for 5 minutes, your kid is going to need to pee. I would just travel with a car potty in the trunk instead of getting into battles about peeing before you leave. Here’s why. By demanding they pee when they don’t think they have to can change potty training into a power struggle. The last thing you need is that.
Also, you want them to tell you when they need to pee and not only when you ask. Keeping it as their responsibility to tell you results in fewer accidents overall.
11. Know about why the big potty training regression happens
Your kid is now potty trained and you don’t have to tackle a difficult toddler to the ground anymore for diaper changes! Life is great and then all of a sudden they are having accidents left and right. You never manage to get to the potty without wet underwear.
This is actually great news. They have moved on to the next step of potty training. They are trying to learn how long they can wait until they need to pee. This is 100% normal and is actually a good thing. They will continue to test out just how long they can wait before they really need to go.
During this phase, you might start asking a lot more frequently if they need to pee and they will say no. Then not even a minute later sometimes they are yelling, “I need to pee!”. While this is extremely frustrating, know it is normal and a good thing. Let them do their thing and soon they will learn just how long they can wait, and you will be through it. It can take a few weeks or even longer.
12. What about nighttime potty training?
So, when we potty trained our oldest, we decided to not do nighttime potty training at the same time. In addition to night potty training involving a different developmental skill set that usually comes at a later age, here is why we waited.
We had a baby and I was already getting up a lot at night. I needed the sleep and knew that if I wasn’t up for it, that I shouldn’t do it. The last thing my child needed was me being upset that she peed at 3 am and having to wake up and change the sheets.
Secondly, because she didn’t nap much, I didn’t want her up for the day at 5 or 6 am when she needed to pee. A lot of my friends who did night potty training struggled with a tired toddler because after going pee at 5 am, they were up for the day. My toddler needed to sleep till 7 or 7:30 am to get enough sleep for the day.
We didn’t use diapers at night and instead opted for pull ups with the cooling sensation. We called them her nighttime underwear and it had absolutely no effect on her daytime potty training.
We thought we would eventually have to do nighttime potty training. Instead, our kid just automatically did it a year later.
Additional Resource: Oh Crap Potty Training Method
If you are still feeling nervous about potty training, then check out this fantastic book, Oh Crap. The Oh Crap potty training method is a potty training naked method and basically what we followed.
Pursue potty training naked Today
Potty training seemed like a daunting task that I didn’t want to take on. And honestly, it isn’t that bad once you learn about the process. Those 3-4 days of being home with a butt naked kid really made the difference.
Following up with a reward system was key to keeping my kid’s motivation high. Lastly, I had to know that they were going to have accidents and that was part of the learning process and that it was okay.
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