Potty Training Bootcamp


Potty Training Bootcamp | Duluth Moms Blog

Potty training seems to be one of those dreaded stages that no mother likes to enter into and every mother rejoices when they’ve reached the other side. After successfully potty training three before the age of three, I’ve honed the craft to where I’m confident that my Potty Training Bootcamp method is your best bet to turn your tot into king of the throne.

My Bootcamp Philosophy

Prior to enrolling any of my toddlers in Bootcamp, I made sure they were developmentally ready. They were dry through the night for several days at a time and they were able to comprehend the entire process. All three of my Bootcamp graduates were potty trained at two and a half years of age. While that may not be the magic age for all enrollees, it was this age where all three seemed to be capable, and appeared to be the sweet spot to start training.

Before I get into the actual process, I want to clarify my normal parenting practices are typically in direct opposition to my serious Bootcamp approach to toilet training. I’m very child-led in nearly all I do, for example, I practice baby-led weaning, I do not sleep train, I’m an advocate for child-led learning, etc. I share this only to make the point that I’ve found that a very parent-led, rigid, and regulated approach with potty training has shown its effectiveness in spite of my typical contrasting approach.

Let Them Enjoy the Anticipation

Prior to beginning Bootcamp, we excite out enrollee about the new milestone they will soon reach. In the weeks leading up to our anticipated start date, we talk about the toilet, we read stories about the process, we demonstrate it, we let them pick out underwear, a toddler toilet seat with their favorite characters, and even their own toilet paper selection. We have one strict rule for the enrollee during this “excitement time,” there is absolutely no sitting on, or using the toilet prior to Bootcamp start date. We continue to build it up until it seems it’s a daily discussion and focal point for our toddler. We then mark the day on the calendar and begin a countdown with them. The day that diapers will be thrown out and Bootcamp will begin. Yes, I said, “the diapers will be thrown out.” Did that scare you?

Bootcamp Checklist

What to pack for Bootcamp: toddler toilet seat that fits onto a regular toilet, lots of freshly picked new toddler underwear, books for toilet entertainment, stepping stool, extra set of sheets, two waterproof mattress protectors, towels, your favorite floor cleaner, and lots of patience.

You may have noticed that Skittles or stickers did not make the packing list. I have never given rewards for using the toilet. Bootcamp graduates get the pride and satisfaction of achieving Big Kid status. I place emphasis on this title and the accomplishment itself rather than a material object. It seems to have worked!

Also note, no fancy separate toddler toilets or potty chairs are allowed. Everyone uses the same toilet, big or small, we just make it adaptable with a stool and smaller seat. Using the toilet in public places becomes a lot less of an ordeal and scare factor if it’s not much different than what’s offered at home. It also saves me from cleaning one more thing.

Bootcamp lasts a total of three days. Before beginning, clear your schedule and plan on not leaving the house, or yard, at least. No shopping trips or appointments which would require the enrollee to leave camp.

Day One

We like to strip down to just underwear for the first day. Strip and search! Throw away the diapers, search high and low for every last one, they are not going back on! I prepare my surroundings, putting lots of towels in hands reach for floor accidents and we begin. We play, they finally get to sit on the now famous toilet, and we operate our day around bathroom breaks, using the potty, wiping up accidents and imparting a general idea of how it feels and what it looks like to use the potty both correctly and incorrectly. They learn how it feels when underwear gets wet and how much work it is to clean up the floor when accidents happen. The clean up is a joint effort and it’s important to note we do not punish for missing the mark or having “accidents.”

Naps and nighttime are the most challenging parts of Bootcamp Day One. It can be a bit frightening to just jump right in, but this is why I strongly feel we’ve had such a high rate of success, no falling back on diapers and disposable training pants. The Bootcamp recruit goes to bed in underwear and is learning to use the toilet before they lay down to sleep. If a middle of the night trip to the bathroom is needed, we teach our toddler to wake us for assistance. To make up the bed, I suggest putting a complete bedding set down with a waterproof mattress protector between the sheets and mattress. Then follow this up by placing a second waterproof mattress protector and fitted sheet on top. If you have a night or nap time accident, you can quickly peel off the top layer and have a dry bed made in a matter of seconds. Beyond the Bootcamp training period, we have had no nighttime accidents with any of our kids.

Day Two

This day looks like a repeat of the last, only you should be able to notice an improvement on timing and less accidents happening.

Day Three

We dress today! Underwear is worn under normal clothing, and we now practice pulling down pants in the bathroom when the urge to go is felt. Emphasis is placed on being a big kid in real clothes and underwear. There are less accidents, if any at all, in Bootcamp Day Three. Typically we venture on a walk or play outside in the yard, a bit further away, to practice timing. If success is found on day three, permission is granted to leave the house on Day Four. Prior to venturing out, use the bathroom immediately before leaving, when you arrive at your destination, and prior to returning home. Plan for your trip out of the house to take quite a bit more time with the extra bathroom stops. We have never been a family with a traveling toilet in the car. We stop our road trip, even if we are only a block away, and locate the nearest toilet.

A Flexible Day Four Option

If your young recruit is still not showing the needed confidence to graduate from Bootcamp and is still having accidents during the day, take one more full day to stick around home and push training into Day Four. Sometimes you may need to be a bit firm about what’s correct and what is not, but I reiterate, we practice a punishment-free zone when it comes to potty training. Phrases often heard in Bootcamp as corrective measures:
“You are only allowed to go potty in the toilet.”
“It is not fun to play in wet pants.”
“You are not allowed to play outside unless you first try to use the bathroom.”

We did have a recruit who needed an additional day.  Success was found on Day Four for this graduate.  

Potty Training Bootcamp | Duluth Moms BlogBootcamp During Daycare Days

We’ve had to make some concessions for daycare policy since we are a two-working parent household. Understandably, throwing a newly potty-trained tot into a larger group of similar-aged youngsters can evoke fear for a care provider. Especially when a Bootcamp Method user screams, “He’s been diaper-free for three days, he’s graduated, and I threw away all the diapers!” We’ve had to keep Pull-Ups on hand for just this issue, and this issue alone. We present it to our new graduate as, “Miss K just needs to see how you are a big kid, who uses the toilet now, before you can wear your underwear in her class.” After a few days without accidents, and the support of the caregiver, we take the daycare training wheels off too, with underwear being the only thing going through the doors in the morning.

To further stress our success rates with the Bootcamp method, we have had zero, I repeat zero, accidents outside of the first few weeks after graduation. It was rare that any of our three had accidents outside the three day training period, but they did happen. After a solid month however, all three were always accident-free! Again, we have found success in part, I believe, to never returning to disposables as a safety net. I found myself thinking, “I wouldn’t force my child to crawl after they learned to walk, or put the training wheels back on their bike after having learned to ride it without.” Our Bootcamp graduates stand proud, and our wallets smile, as we throw out disposables once and for all!

I share my method only as encouragement and a success story, fully recognizing that special needs, medical complications, and other developmental issues may prevent some from toilet training in such a matter. Do what you feel will work best for your family and your child, Bootcamp has worked the best for mine. March on and don’t look back, dry night and days are ahead!