My daughter was 23 months old when we started potty training using the Oh Crap Potty Training method. She showed many signs of readiness and frankly, I was ready to have her potty trained before welcoming our second baby the following spring. Much like my baby sleep advice, I am no expert. Just one mom telling you about our experience in hopes that you might find some inspiration, ideas, and if nothing else, solidarity.
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I started by reading the book Oh Crap! Potty Training and was quickly making notes and highlighting like crazy. I love how practical and simple this method is. If you’ve been following my journey as a mom or just know me as a human, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that we love routines. Some parents will swear against it, but routines are so, so important for kids. Having consistent and practical processes to follow has been key in our house. It was the same with sleep training, breastfeeding, baby led weaning, and now potty training. Consistency is key.
Whether or not you like the Oh Crap potty training method, I encourage you to find a method and stick to it. Whatever works for you and your family. Something as big as potty training will take a lot of effort, sacrifice and diligence on your part. It will be well worth all the hard work, just like everything else in parenthood!
how we prepped
How did I know my daughter was ready? The author of the book states that “when is almost more important than how”. I think that’s a great reminder. We will all go about this in different manners but the key it just doing it. Potty training is supposedly easiest between 20-30 months, with 24 months being just about ideal. Those statistics combined with the fact that Kennedy had been talking about going potty, having her diaper changed, and showing a lot of curiosity gave us the full confidence to jump right in.
First thing I did was choose a date on the calendar when we’d begin. This wasn’t an on the whim type of decision. It was something my husband and I talked about and prepared for weeks leading up to the big day. Days before, we started talking with Kennedy about it and telling her how diapers were going to go bye bye and she was going to use the potty like a big girl.
It’s important to choose a date because for the first three days, minimum, you’ll barely be leaving the house. Plan to be home, have activities ready, and not to be busy with work or other commitments. AKA clear your calendar for a few days. I tried to look at it as special, uninterrupted time with Kennedy. The first couple days were long, but they were really sweet and fun, too.
We decided that once we started the potty training process, that was it. Diapers would be gone and full commitment to potty training was happening. The day before we started I was nervous and second-guessing myself but knew that if I didn’t have confidence in Kennedy being successful, she certainly wouldn’t either. It felt like a big leap of faith but deep down we knew she was so ready.
I purchased a potty chair, two actually, one for upstairs and one for downstairs. We also got a couple potty seats that sit on the actual toilet. The book recommends a potty chair, for sitting on the floor, where their feet can touch. We purchased the BabyBjörn potty chair per the book’s suggestion.
I will also say that we never put the potty chair out until the morning potty training began. There wasn’t a need for her to “get used to it” and I definitely did not want the potty to seem like a toy. (Another reason why we didn’t get a potty that made noise or had any “bells and whistles”)
The morning we began potty training, she saw her potty for the first time, sat on it, and was excited to use it. The magic hadn’t been lost, which was awesome.
I encourage you to read the book fully if you’re interested in the Oh Crap method. Essentially, day one we said goodbye to diapers first thing in the morning and the rest of the day she was completely naked. The book breaks up potty training into “blocks” and each block has certain parameters around it that you should feel comfortable with before moving on to the next block. The blocks are not defined in days. Instead, we focused on moving from one block to the next. It was about progress and not perfection.
I will also give the caveat that unlike other popular potty training methods, the author is not a fan of treats or rewards. The logic is that rewards need not be given for expected behavior. Not everyone will agree with or follow this piece of advice but we opted to move forward without using rewards.
I will say that because we didn’t use any sort of treats, Kennedy had a huge sense of pride and became extremely motivated right off the bat. We praised her, celebrated and made a big deal each time she went and in turn, she immediately developed confidence and motivation to keep going. All without having to give her treats and then figure out how to break that habit later on.
Back to the potty training stuff. We laid down a couple plastic tablecloths over our big living room rug to protect from any accidents and avoided sitting on the furniture for the first couple of days. *Side note: there WILL be accidents, so don’t think otherwise. Just remind yourself it’s okay and accidents are part of the learning process. Make it a really big point not to shame when an accident happens and instead remind them where we potty and encourage them to try again.
Kennedy and I camped out in the living room that first day with tons of books, puzzles, blocks, colors, etc. I got her a few new things to play with and read, which gave us some new entertainment. There was zero screen time that first day. I watched her like a hawk. I wasn’t on my phone at all the entire day and truly did not take my eyes off of her. As soon as she’d start to go, I would say, “hold on, pee pee goes in the potty” and sit her to the potty. The first block is basically just that – watching and waiting.
Once you get a sense as to what your kid’s sign or tell might be, you’ll have a better chance of getting them on the potty before an accident happens. Unlike other potty training methods, Oh Crap does NOT encourage you sitting your kid on the potty in timed intervals and/or until they go. Letting Kennedy start to go before I put her on the potty helped her connect “feeling” to “doing” very quickly. It was way more work on my end that first day and believe me, I was absolutely exhausted that evening. But again, things clicked so fast for her using these approaches. Keep in mind she wasn’t even two years old at the start of all this. It still amazes me!
After the first day, I felt like enough progress had been made to move to block two. Blocks two and three have you adding clothes back on them and introducing small outings. The exact run downs for those blocks are in the book with much greater detail, of course. Oh Crap strongly encourages you waiting to put on any type of underwear until WEEKS after potty training. This may sound silly but again, we just followed the book’s approach and it couldn’t have gone better.
KEEP IN MIND
One thing I think is super important to keep in mind is that this isn’t just a three day event. Many potty training methods will define potty training that way and I think that sets really unfair expectations.
The first three days were absolutely when we were in the thick of it, but the consistency and habits extended far beyond three days. It will take conscious efforts and planning to help your child continue to succeed. I just think it’s important to keep that in mind and give yourself a lot of grace! This is a really big deal and if you’re starting with a younger one, like we did, you need to have your head in the right place. Remember, it’s a PROCESS.
NAPS AND NIGHTTIME
So the Oh Crap potty training method actually suggests that the easiest way to potty train is doing both days and nights together, which in a lot of ways makes sense. Everything will click at one time and become second nature even faster. For us, it didn’t feel like the perfect option because Kennedy is still in a crib and honestly, I just didn’t want to do it haha. Your babe being in a crib shouldn’t discourage you though, as many parents will night train while still in a crib.
For naps and nighttime we used pull ups until she moved into a big bed, after turning three. We’ve built potty time into our naptime and nighttime routine by having her go right before bed. As soon as she wakes up, she goes again. When she was in a pull up, it came off right away and we never made a big deal about her wearing one.
Expert advice says that you need to address nighttime training by 3-3.5 due to the bladder development that’s happening at this age. If it’s put off beyond then, the chances of muscle atrophy are much higher meaning bedwetting will likely become an issue. With that knowledge and the fact that I wanted to get her out of the crib and into a bed first, we tackled those after she turned three.
She had been waking up with a dry pull up (in the morning) for many months, so we knew she was ready and it wasn’t going to be a big deal. After she started asking to wear undies for her nap, we sort of followed her lead. After a few days of that we got rid of the pull ups entirely and that was that. Some children will require you to take them to the bathroom, sort of like a “dream pee” similar to a dream feed. Others might be fine not going overnight, which has been our case. Again, each child is so different and the Oh Crap method and book gives so many great tips on how to handle all those scenarios.
Pause for a quick mom-to-mom chat
If you’re reading this and thinking, oh my gosh, my kid is 3 or 4 and we haven’t done any of this and/or we’re still using pull ups, etc… do not freak out! This post is NOT meant to mom shame or make anyone stressed or fearful in any way. I am not an expert and am just sharing the information I’ve read from my own research and through using the Oh Crap method.
The book gives lots of thoughts and advice on starting late or tackling nighttime training with an older kid. Nothing is a lost cause and you are not a bad mom if you haven’t figured this all out yet. We are all doing our best and each child/family is unique, so do what is working for your family. Zero shame and zero comparison. No one knows your child or is a better parent to them than you are.
WHERE WE’RE AT NOW
At just under 3.5 years old she is fully potty trained and nearly entirely self sufficient, aside from needing help wiping when she poops. She handles pee, taking herself to the bathroom, getting undressed/redressed, and washing her hands all by herself.
Initially, it took a couple weeks for self-initiating to begin. Once she started telling us that she needed to go, that was a game changer. We have always used changes in activity to prompt her and that is a really helpful tactic as well. For instance, leaving the house (or wherever), going outside to play, before/after naptime, before mealtime, etc. We never ask her, but instead tell her that she needs to do a potty break before x.
We also took our time introducing underwear to her and also spent a lot of time teaching her how to manipulate her own clothing early on. Talked about “pushing your pants down” (because “pulling your pants down” doesn’t make any sense to a toddler if you think about how literal kids are).
She can now fully dress herself and that is just incredible and so freeing!
I’ll finish this post by sharing some of our potty training essentials with you. None of these are perfect or one size fits all. So again, you do you and figure out what is going to work best for your family. There are SO many options when it comes to methods, potties, underwear, pull ups, and more. It can be overwhelming but I’ll say it again, just choose something and just stick with it.