The First 3 Steps of Potty Training

First 3 Steps of Potty Training
The must have potty training seat by Jessa Leona! Get yours on Amazon!

I have been provided products for inclusion in this post. I also use affiliate links. Regardless, the opinions and ideas are 100% my own.

My son, Cam, is now 20 months old. He is showing a lot of interest in potty training but of course everyone is telling me he is too young. That doesn’t mean he is too young to introduce him to the first 3 steps of potty training! I like to think of these steps as the introductory period of potty training. It is not serious potty training – yet. I am not actively encouraging him to go into the bathroom constantly, but am introducing him to these three things.

Step 1: What Happens in the Bathroom

It is no surprise to any mom that we never get any privacy in the bathroom. Only my 4 year old daughter gets privacy because she insists that no one can be in the bathroom when she is. I agree…so why don’t I get privacy?

So when Cam decides to follow me into the bathroom, I always verbally tell and try to show him what I am doing in there. From talking about the toilet that I am using, to showing him his very own mini potty and very own potty training seat for the big toilet, I am letting him know the truth about what happens in the bathroom.

It may seem weird, but I let him know that I am peeing so he can hear what it sounds like. I let him look into the toilet when I am finished and he flushes. If you are constantly shutting your children out of the bathroom, trust me that they are going to be nervous when they are being told to now go in there all of the time. Make your bathroom at home a safe space. Teach your children that being in the bathroom is 100% natural and normal.

Step 2: Learning The 3 P’s


I like having options available when introducing children to potty training. My daughter preferred to use the mini potty when she was potty training. She also had her own potty training seat for on the regular toilet, but it never fit the toilet right so it didn’t get used. I wanted to provide those same options for Cam so I set out to find a potty training seat that would actually fit my oblong shaped toilet. I found out that this potty training seat made by Jessa Leona works best for my toilets. Cam is comfortable on it! It doesn’t wiggle around, the inside ring isn’t slippery like a regular toilet seat, and it has a lower urine splash guard so he won’t have to jump over that hump before sitting down.


Cam knows the American Sign Language signs for poop and pee. I show and say both to him when I am doing either. I also sign to him when I believe he is doing either in his diaper. There is always talk about his poop and pee when changing his diapers (and has been forever!) because it is important for children to learn what is in their diaper and why it is being changed. Listen, if you’re a parent, this is just every day chit chat with your kids. If you aren’t talking about poop and pee, go ahead and start because EVERYONE does it and it is better to teach your children about what is coming out of their bodies earlier rather than later.

The First 3 Steps of Potty Training - The Choosy Mommy


He is also starting to hide when he is going poop. A lot of people have told me that this is a key sign that he is ready to be potty trained, but let’s remember that he knows what his body is doing (pooping). For Cam, he shows me the ASL sign for poop AS he is pooping. GREAT! Good start! But the difference is that he needs to recognize that he has to poop PRIOR to actually going so we can make it to the bathroom in time. This is why I don’t think it is time to actively potty train. But I am saying and signing as he is trying to hide and poop that we need to be going into the bathroom instead. I also try to get him to run to the bathroom if I think he hasn’t finished in his diaper yet. Sometimes, even if he did finish in his diaper, we go into the bathroom and put his poop either in his mini potty, or I put his potty seat on the toilet and put the poop in there so he can see where it is actually supposed to go. Bye bye poopy!

Step 3: Proper Bathroom Etiquette

It is never too early to teach your children proper bathroom etiquette. If you are going into the bathroom, then you should be washing your hands before you come out. So even if I am just running Cam into the bathroom to put his poop in the potty, I still help him wash his hands before he leaves.

Additionally, other bathroom etiquette that I believe are important are:

  • Always flushing
  • Putting the seat down when you are done (we’ll get to that when Cam is tall enough to stand and pee)
  • Never leaving an empty roll of toilet paper on the hanger
  • Hanging up the hand towel after you are finished drying your hands

A lot of those things come with age, but it is never too early to talk about them since you are already in the bathroom anyways! Cam loves to flush the potty, and I encourage him to do it after he checks out what I did or if his poop is in the potty. Of course we wash our hands and I hang the towel when we are done. His sister is even starting to tell him what she is doing and encourages him to sit on his potty. She praises him, tells him good job and claps along with him when he does sit down (even if his pants are still on!) It is all a process and we are going one step at a time!

Potty Training Takes Time

I am a firm believer that potty training just doesn’t happen overnight. It took my daughter months before she was 100% pee potty trained. It was a breeze getting her to poop on the potty because she hated that in her diaper, but pee was another story. I didn’t even worry about nighttime potty training until she mastered daytime potty training. But if you are interested in how I helped her out with that, you can read my post about when to start potty training and the trick I used for nighttime potty training.

My goal is for Cam to be 100% daytime potty trained by December of 2017. That gives both of us a year to master it. He will be 5 months shy of 3 years old by then. But you never know. Every kid is different! I won’t be upset or mad if he isn’t 100% trained by then. At least I know that I am trying. We are eventually going to master this skill.

The Choosy Mommy came to life as I began writing for the Choosy Kids ( blog from the mom perspective. We also have bloggers who are teachers, nutritionist, pediatricians, dental experts, etc. and I share my two cents on food choices, physical activity, and daily health routines plus so much more! I have a ton to share but didn’t want to take over the Choosy Kids blog so I decided it was best to grow The Choosy Mommy brand.

38 thoughts on “The First 3 Steps of Potty Training

  1. Y

    Hi. My son was less than a year by the time he was 1 year old he went potty on his own. Never wet or pooped in his pants & never wet the bed. Like gosh children absolutely absorb what you tech.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      You were so smart to start early. Part of me believes that children eventually learn it is OK to just go in their diaper because we, the parents, aren’t telling them to potty somewhere else. Congrats!

  2. Great tips.. I didn’t really think about shutting them out of the bathroom like that. Makes it a little more scary and unusual when they do go in there. I’ll be sure to remember that when this little one needs to be potty trained

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      Yea…because who wouldn’t like to just close and lock the door while in the bathroom? Letting those little people in while you do your business can help them understand what is going on 🙂

  3. As a new(ish) mom, I have not been through potty training yet. I have experienced it a little with my niece and nephews. I think these are great tips. I think it is important to educate children on proper language, what is going on and what to expect, and what they need to be doing. Great tips! I pinned for future reference.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      For many people it is super stressful trying to potty train kids. At least you have some experience prior to trying with your own. I bet you learned some good tricks too while working on it with them!

  4. I have a client dealing with potty training right now. i am going to share this post with them. Thanks for the tips.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      Excellent! Good luck to them and remind them that it really does take some time. I am not a believer in it happening overnight 🙂

  5. Thank you for these great suggestions! I had very different potty training experiences with my first two children (My daughter took a month and then was fully trained day/night by 19 months old. My son took nearly a year and even then still had accidents at night for a while later). We are now having conversations about when is the right time to start with our youngest (now 18 months). He is expressing a lot of signs of readiness. I LOVE your suggestions for connecting the action to sign language. I hadn’t even thought of it. He knows and uses a lot of sign language and adding these signs will be great for him. Thank you!!

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      Were you stressing out about the differences in times to potty train or were you prepared? I bet your kids are kind of opposites by the sounds of it. Mine def. are so I bet we have a similar experience to yours.

  6. You are so right about talking to them about what is happening. They absorb so much information before we ever see signs of learning. I also used sign and words to describe EVERYTHING we were doing from very early on. I also like that you are claiming that your method will work in “5 days guaranteed” or other sleezy sales type lines. Potty training takes time and as much as we want to control the when and where, it is really up to the little one since they are the ones that actually have control of the pee and poop! CHeers!

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      Yea…I don’t think anything magically works in 3-5 days with kids. Especially potty training, and especially at my house. But some people do have kids that are just completely over their diapers and use the potty 100% from the get-go. I bet they are very mature kids 🙂

  7. My little guy is way past this stage now and lately I’ve been missing his baby stages. But reading all of the potty training stuff makes me realize I don’t miss THAT part of it! lol This is great advice- I will definitely share with my mom friends!

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      Awe…bringing back the memories 🙁 Thank yo so much for sharing 🙂

  8. Kate

    The open dialogue about what goes on in the bathroom is so clever – we’re going to start this! We had three poop explosions today… sigh.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      Uhg….explosions?! Uh oh. Those might be hard to even make it to the bathroom in time! I also watch for decent poops in order to start really trying. None of the mushy baby poops anymore. 😛

  9. Krystal Miller

    I’m about to potty train my third. My oldest (boy) was really easy to train. My middle (girl) was much harder, so we’ll see what my third little princess has in store for me!

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      Isn’t it amazing how they are all different?! Good luck to you! And be sure to check out my Facebook page for a giveaway of the potty training seat that I mentioned!

  10. I am not looking forward to potty training again. My daughter was fairly easy, but I have heard that boys can be more difficult.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      My daughter was so hard! Every kid is different, hence why I am hoping my son is the easy one…and then I am ALL DONE!!

  11. Yikes….. the word makes me nervous. I attempted potty training my son twice now… and he just wasn’t ready. Hoping he will be sooner than later. These are great tips for me to think about!

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      How old is he? Not that age matters, but my pediatrician said his kids weren’t potty trained until almost 4. So my point is that sometimes kids are ready super early, and sometimes they aren’t. You also have to be ready to commit to it too and stick to it. Enter my giveaway on FB (@thechoosymommy) for a chance to win this potty seat. Maybe he’ll like that! Good luck!

  12. It’s great that you’re teaching your son bathroom etiquette! It grosses me out to think of how many people don’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom. So many germs!
    Good luck!!

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      I know, right?! My husband is one of those gross people and now my daughter yells at him to wash his hands. Maybe he’ll listen now! LOL!

  13. I dreaded potty training, but it turned out not to be so bad! We invested in a big container of dollar store toys. A few dozen cars later for my son, and he was all set! We realized for him the secret was he wanted to stand up to go. Night time training came slower, but I think that is very developmental! I loved your comments about bathroom conversation. It made me laugh because kids understanding when “potty words” are acceptable is one of the fun parts of preschool. HAHA!

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      My son wants to stand up too!! So did you not even bother with the whole sitting thing then?? It is really awkward when he does stand at his little potty. What did you use to train?

  14. Good luck on your potty training adventure. We are going through it as well. Great tips! My downfall is consistency. I need to be more consistent in order for this to work.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      YES! the parents have to stay consistent too. Very good point

  15. My best advice to wait until you are 100% sure your child is interested in going potty and wearing big kid undies, and to go full-force and don’t look back. (No diapers half time or anything like that) I was so worried about my first son potty training but I listened to this advice from my brother in law and my son was potty trained in 3 days! Also, potty parties! Everyone in our family would full on dance blast music do silly string and give him m&ms and stickers every time he went poppy in his potty! I have a 2 year old And am excited and anxious to see how he does too!

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      I agree with going full force, 100% when you are sure they are ready. My 20 month old is NOT 100% ready, hence why we are just teaching him about the bathroom. But when he is ready, you better believe I will be all about it!

  16. I hope my Doll will be easy to potty train! Because I’ll have a baby by the time we start and A)it’ll be tough teaching her without another baby to worry about! and B)it’ll make life so much easier with a baby if she is potty trained!

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      My goal was to have my oldest out of diapers before the new baby came. The stress of a new baby was hard enough on her so I was glad I did that. Good luck to you all!

  17. this is a great post! where was it when I was potty training my little man?! 😛

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      There are always new tricks that I see AFTER the fact that I think, “Wow, that could’ve really helped.” But somehow you managed without!!

  18. Bre

    Proper etiquette is something I wish I had realized was something super important when Potty training my little girl. I mean, she had no problem flushing the toilet when she was learning because that’s like the most fun part of using the potty right?! Lol. But now that she’s six, she forgets all the time! And she rarely ever changes the empty roll!

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      Yea…flushing is fun! Hence why my 20 month old just threw something random in the potty…so he could flush it!! LOL!! Those darn 6 year olds. She is in probably such a hurry! Just take time to slow her down and review 🙂 A good reminder goes a long way.

  19. It’s definitely so important to remember that it takes a lot of time and patience – but teaching some things from the get go ESPECIALLY bathroom manners is a great way to instill those skills and lessons. I’ve been working on potty training with my 2 year old and, though it’s slow going, we’re definitely getting somewhere. Thanks for these awesome tips! <3

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      I agree 🙂 As parents, we have to remember that technically we were just training them to use diapers in the beginning. So now we have to train again for them to NOT use the diaper and to use the potty. No wonder kids have a hard time grasping this concept at such a young age! Good luck with your training!!

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