What first lead me to attempt a potty training bootcamp when Genny was 21 months old was simply this: I was ready to be done with diapers. They’re expensive, gross, and super inconvenient. The second reason we decided to jump in was that Genny had begun telling me when she went in her diaper and even in her swim diaper. Some friends and relatives had recently navigated the precarious waters of potty training, and based on their tips and some other blogs and videos I came across, we crafted our own potty training bootcamp.
In no way did I (or do I) consider myself an expert on the subject. I simply got some ideas from different places, pieced them together so they’d fit for our life, and gave it a shot. Sounds whimsical, but it was, in reality, laborious. Tedious. Infuriating. Disheartening. Yet in the end (I’ll just go ahead and tell you), it worked! Here’s a brief overview of our two-week potty training bootcamp.
For the video version of this post, click below!
Gear and Prep
We didn’t use much gear. Just a Summer Infant Toilet from Wal Mart (priced at $9.89 online) that happened to be the least expensive option. I let Genny sit on it in the store, and she was all excited about it. Of course that was three or so months before we did the potty training bootcamp. I got the toilet sometime in May, but she was obviously not ready. We had a few accidents, and she was getting frustrated, so I called it quits on that operation.
To prep the room, I cleared living room, rolled up rugs, put toilet in the middle of the room in front of the tv, got towels and disinfectant and paper towels on hand. We were ready for anything. I brought some easy to clean toys and books out for her to entertain herself without having to be in her carpeted bedroom.
The plan was to let her eat snacks and watch TV all the day while sitting on the toilet and running around bottomless. Every 30 minutes, I was going to have her “try”. Of course, she still didn’t know what “trying” meant, but that was part of the fun! Did I say fun, I meant lesson.
For an incentive, I invested a whole dollar at Dollar Tree on sheets of Dora stickers for when she made it in the toilet. At the time, Dora was her current obsession. Vaminos!
Potty Training Bootcamp
Goal: Go in the toilet at all costs.
After a long, long time of waiting and sitting and watching tv and eating snacks…….. she finally went potty in the toilet. The whole day, she went around with no underwear, watching Dora and eating snacks until she happened to go in her toilet. At naptime she got a pullup (we aren’t that ambitious), and it was actually dry when she woke up!
She went potty again in the toilet later. No regrets in using Dora as bribery…tv really worked because it got her mind focused on something besides sitting on the boring toilet. I wasn’t worried about her creating an association between watching tv and using the toilet because 1) there is no tv in the bathroom, where the toilet would end up being, and 2) I first wanted her to simply go in the toilet at all costs. After we established an association between poop and pee andthe toilet, we could move on to the next step, which was holding it, then making the choice to go sit down on the toilet.
At the end of the day, she only had 1 accident. Not a bad start.
Goal: Holding it, sitting on the toilet, and going.
She had a dry pullup in the morning, which yielded a Dora sticker. Then she miraculously sat her down on the toilet and actually WENT! Praise Jesus.
This told me she understood what the toilet was for and she was ready to move on to the next step. Our goal shifted to focus on when she needed to go and to then make the decision to wait and go in the toilet.
Nothing else was getting done around the house. But oh well.
One blog I read suggested I have her drink juice all day so she would have to go more often. Wellllll that plan backfired. Literally.
She went poop in the toilet once, and that was great. I thought she was done for the day, or at least that hour. But no. Let’s just say she…well…there were a couple of explosive events. Yes, it was everywhere. Twice.
the experience wasn’t entirely for naught, I learned something important. I mean besides giving a toddler two cupfulls of Naked juice in one morning wasn’t a good idea. Apparently pooping in the toilet is oftentimes a scary thing for little ones. She almost seemed to get scared whenever she had to poop and would stand up if she was already sitting on the toilet. Then of course it doesn’t always all make it into the toilet. Actually it hardly ever does.
Later that day though, we drove to my sister in law’s house (25 minutes one way), and I daringly had her wear her underwear. We brought her toilet along with us in the great big orange bag. She didn’t go the whole time we were there, BUT she didn’t have an accident in the car. Again, praising Jesus. When we got home she actually made it into the toilet. Major victory in my book, despite the…well set back earlier.
Goal: Holding it, sitting on the toilet, and going. + Getting used to wearing underwear all day.
Dry pull up in the morning! Probably coincidence, but we’ll take it. Needed major coffee that morning. At this point, the potty training bootcamp was wearing on my body and soul. Who knew following a naked little toddler around the house waiting to clean up excrements would take a toll?
She was still sitting and watching tv all day, but I put underwear on her so she could get used to wearing it and taking it off when she needed to try. The day consisted of lots of reminders and prompts! At the end of it I felt like a broken record.
4,000,000 times of asking her if she had to poop or pee later……. She finally said yes, so I helped her with her underwear then plopped her down on her little toilet. Nothing.
That night, she ended up peeing in the bathtub and on me as I tried to pull her out. Two afternoon accidents…big ones. I was near the end of my rope by the time I made it to bed.
Goal: Try every time the timer went off (every 30 minutes).
Really tired this day. I decided to focus on the timer. Every 30 minutes, Genny would have to sit down and “try”. We were still developing this concept of trying, but she was starting to seem like she understood.
In the morning, she went in the toilet after getting up. That was a win! Ryan left his lunch at home, so we had to make the 25 minute drive to take it to him. That meant car time. Still more of the same, tedious, asking and trying. It seemed long and endless but slowly but surely she began to make progress. She made the car trek successfully, and after having her try every 30 minutes, she started to get the hang of waiting and going in the toilet.
Crazy day! We were also in the middle of remodeling our living room (because I’m insane), so moving things and setting timers and sitting her down to try over and over…
She had an accident in the morning, but at least it was only #1. We went to my parents’ house that evening, and there she had a second accident (this time #2…). Because we were in a new environment, Genny was really thrown off. She hadn’t gone poop all day, so I knew she needed to go. Despite thefact that I forcibly had her sit on the toilet for about 30 minutes, she refused to go and instead cried as though she had no clue what I wanted her to do. Yes, this was 5 days later. I understood she was disoriented and just wanted to play, so I finally gave up but had her stay in her underwear. Of course, she ended up going poop right on my mom’s rug not ten minutes after I let her go.
People told me she was too young and I should try later, but I was determined to see it through for about 2 weeks. It was discouraging though to see her make so much progress at home then act like she hadn’t learned anything once we went out. That is why most people won’t even leave the house for two weeks during potty training bootcamp, but that just wasn’t something I wanted to do. I had to get out of the house or I was going to lose it. At the same time, I still felt like Genny was getting the hang of it.
Goal: Get into the routine (hold it, sit down, go, flush, wash hands, sticker).
Still in the middle of remodeling, we spent the day packing things to prep for painting and then painting the ceiling. All whilst potty training. Fortunately, she ‘d only had one accident with #1 in the past 3 days, so I was feeling encouraged! It was still a long haul, but the routine of going in the potty, flushing it, washing hands, and then getting a sticker was becoming more familiar and comfortable to her. She loved washing her hands, and I made her do it with soap and water every single time she went to establish the habit.
That night, all on her own, she chose to go sit down on the toilet and then went potty!! HUGE STEP! Of course she was still wearing her underwear, but that act told me she was starting to be able to hold it, go TO the toilet, then sit down and go.
Goal: Continue the routine, regularly trying, and normalizing pooping in the toilet.
One full week down. It was a long week. There were tears. Mostly mine. She was starting to get better about going potty in the toilet when she needed to, but going poop was still kind of a traumatic event. This day was more of the same, working on our routine and establishing a habit.
After week 1
I committed the next week to continuing our little boot camp, too. It was only another three or so days before she really had it down. We were very ambitious and even ventured out to the Houston Theater District Open House with Genny only wearing underwear the whole time. Guess what? No accidents. Not even kidding.
They said it couldn’t be done – ha!
We lugged around her toilet in the big orange bag, and I made her sit down and try every time we came upon a bathroom. She went the whole afternoon without having a single accident. Beyond that, she also made the drive to and from (about 20-30 minutes each) without incident.
Don’t give up!
I almost gave up on her a couple of times. I doubted whether or not she was ready, and I second-guessed my methods about a billion times. Ultimately though what Genny needed was for me to be dedicated. We persisted! Because I listened to her cues, we stuck with our routine and made it out the other side.
Now, 10 months later, she has still not had a significant regression. She does have an accident now and then, but usually it’s because she’s been distracted by playing or we haven’t made her try in awhile. She now uses her Little Bear Big toilet seat on the “big toilet”, and at Grandma’s house she has little toilet seats there as well. Our next step is learning to pull down her pants and underwear so she can go on her own. She’s done it successfully a couple of times, but sometimes it can get frustrating trying to pull down her underwear.
Look for the signs
My biggest piece of advice would be to listen to your child, and whatever he/she is telling you, go with that. If it’s a green light, then go and stick with it! May God be with you on your quest! If it’s a red light, then put it aside for awhile and wait until there are signs.
Some signs to look for are:
- She tells you when she has gone in her diaper
- She tells you when she needs to go
- You begin to see a pattern in time of day or event (i.e. an hour after lunchtime, she usually goes in her diaper)
- She touches or pulls at her diaper when she needs to go or has gone
- She tries to take off her diaper to go or after she has gone
These are all signs that your little one might be ready to try potty training! You can use each one of these signs to introduce the wonderful world of not walking around with a yucky diaper.
Another tip is read potty training books to your little one. We read Bye Bye Diapers still every once in awhile because she likes the story. It shows Little Miss Piggy going from a life of stinky diapers that would give her a rash to using a Big Girl Potty and Big Girl Pants.
What are your tips, hopes, fears, and thoughts about potty training? Share with me by commenting below!
Love, Emily XOXO