Few things can send parents into a tizzy the way potty training can. From missing the bowl (ahh, boys) to stripping off wet clothes after a long car ride, potty training is not for the weak. But it IS possible to make this painful process a bit less, well, painful (and messy). And, in order to help, we found some no-fail hacks real parents swear by. Keep scrolling to find the ones that work for you—and good luck!

1. Put a potty everywhere. A toilet can be somewhat intimidating to a two- or three-year-old, and during stressful times (like when they have to use the bathroom), kids might forget where they need to go. Scatter small around the house so she isn’t worried about making it to the bathroom. Once she’s used to recognizing when she has to pee, you can remove each one room by room and encourage your little one to make it to the bathroom.

2. Go cold turkey. As Nike says: Just do it. Take off that diaper, throw it away, and don’t look back. This approach doesn’t work for all children, but some kids feel empowered this way. Some children work better with the weaning method—going from diapers to pull-ups to underwear—but others learn that no diapers in the house = you just have to use the potty.

photo: Mike and Shannon Lockard via Flickr 

3. Sit Junior on the toilet backward.
This simple move keeps clean-ups to a controlled vicinity (instead of All. Over. The. Place.), and if you give your little one a dry erase marker to doodle on the toilet seat, you’ll clock in a good 10 minutes of potty time if needed.

4. And, turn the toilet paper roll around, too, while you’re at it. 
T.P. is just too tempting for little ones. Prevent them from unraveling entire rolls by flipping the tube around so that it unrolls backwards—no matter how spin happy your tot gets, it will be almost impossible for him to be super wasteful.

5. Buy the Potty Watch. So much of potty training is about timing. Will they make it on time? Did they forget to go? Instead of nagging your kid to see if they have to go, outfit them in these adorable potty time watches! When it’s time to hit the bathroom, the watch lights up and plays music, ensuring that they won’t miss the next bathroom trip or be too distracted to hit the head. Genius.

6. Use a timer.
In the same vein as the potty time watches, why not make sure you have a timer set? Bringing your child to the bathroom or potty every 15-20 minutes will help them get more comfortable on the toilet but also helps to avoid accidents.

photo: Mommy Erica

7. Offer up treats.
Keep a bowl filled with small and medium-sized treats (stickers, stamps, M&Ms, etc) that kids can choose from after each successful potty attempt. That’s right, attempt. If they made it on time, but maybe missed the bowl? Success! Did they make it in the bowl but forget to wipe? Success! Making it fun for toddlers keeps them tuned in and learning the right way things work.

8. Let them accompany you (if they don’t already) to the bathroom. Yup, parenthood sometimes means giving up your rights to bathroom privacy. You see, a lot of kids learn best by example. So instead of explaining the process over and over again, just let ’em watch. Sure, it’s not fun, but it doesn’t last long, and if it means no more diapers or wiping tushies—we’re all for it.

9. Keep a potty in the back of your car. Because, when a toddler has to go, he has to go. Right. Now. Smaller travel potties, like this one from Summer Infant, are perfect to throw in your trunk or back seat on even the shortest drives. Kids won’t worry about not making it to the bathroom on time and you can buy disposable liners, which make cleaning up a cinch.


10. Use puppy pads for nighttime training. 
Follow along: First, put down one fitted sheet on your kid’s mattress, cover that with a layer of puppy pads, and then top it all with another fitted sheet. If kiddo has an accident in the middle of the night all you have to do is peel off the top fitted sheet and the layer of puppy pads. Voila!

11. Use a coffee filter for easy #2 clean ups.
We get so excited when our littles finally go poo in the potty that we almost forget that we have to clean it all up. Make things quick and efficient by putting a coffee filter into their pot.

12. Make it social. During playdates or lunch outings, why not encourage the kids to hit the bathroom together. Make it fun, make it social. Because that’s what kids are all about. Kids are impressionable, if they see their friends doing it, they may want to do it too.

photo: April Go Lightly

13. Put the potty in a special place.
While you dart to the loo whenever you can (hey, it might be the only five minutes of alone time you get all day), bathrooms can be boring for the under three set. Make it special by placing the portable potty in a “fort” or “palace” or “magical rainforest in outer space.” Get creative mom and dad!

14. Use Cheerios as a bullseye. 
Toss a few Cheerios into the toilet so that your boy trainee can have a little target practice. Note: Dad might have to demonstrate this one the first time!

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photo: Todd Morris via Flickr

15. Let your little one go commando.
Take a couple of days to let your trainee get in some good practice. The key to progress is no diaper (so he or she can see what’s happening) and lots of juice and/or water (so there’s plenty of opportunities to learn). Also, stock up on carpet cleaner for obvious reasons.

16. Download an app.
Nipping potty mishaps in the bud? There’s an app for that, too!

photo: Matthew Bland via Flickr

17. Put food coloring in the toilet bowl.
Sometimes potty training takes a little bit of magic. So here it is: put blue food coloring in the potty and watch as your tyke notices the water turn green when he tinkles. So cool!

18. Give your little one their own potty training bag.
Some kids just need a little bit of responsibility for a task to click with them. Before your next outing pack a mini backpack with all of your kid’s potty training supplies—pull-ups, undies, wipes, etc.—and let her tote it around. The confidence boost your little one will get from being responsible for her own gear might just be enough to get her going like a big kid.

19. Just relax. Remember—no one goes to college still in diapers. There’s hope for even the most frustrated parent. Don’t compare yourself to other parents or your child to other children. Keep calm and potty train on!

What worked for you and your potty trainee? Tell us in the comments section.

—Felissa Allard with Ayren Jackson-Cannady

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