For children younger than 3 who are ready to potty train and parents who are able to commit an entire long weekend to potty training, this method can be a lifesaver. Preschool teacher Julie Fellom developed the highly successful Diapers Free Toddler program, but there are other similar approaches you can try.
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Potty training in 3 days
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Clear your calendar.
Clear three days to focus on potty training.
Share that soon you'll be having a “potty party”.
GATHER YOUR SUPPLIES
Potty chairs or seats, toys, books, and rewards.
Get snacks that encourage peeing: Salty snacks, food with high water content, and plenty of water.
Designate one room as your home base for the next three days.
Or, if you have enough potties, put one in every main room and bathroom.
Explain how and when to use the potty.
Show your child the reward for using the potty.
Stickers are fun potty prizes.
So are silly potty dances!
See a sign? Head to the nearest potty!
Depending on what will motivate your child the most.
Tell him he can go naked all day.
Or present her with new big kid underwear.
And make it a big deal!
NAP AND BEDTIME TIPS
Expect wetness during naps and nighttime.
Accidents will happen.
Use a waterproof mattress cover, or have your child wear a diaper over underpants.
Don't discipline your child for wetness. .
Follow the same routine, except head outside for an hour in the afternoon, right after your child uses the potty.
Follow the same routine at home.
Leave the house for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon to practice using the potty and leaving home without a diaper.
After three days, some children are ready to give up diapers, at least during waking hours.
Accidents will happen.
Complete potty training, including nighttime dryness, might take a few months.
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The idea that your child could get comfortable using the potty in a few days – or even just one afternoon – sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?
Although this may seem unbelievable if you expect potty training to be lengthy and difficult, "quick-training" works for many parents. Here we explain the "potty training in three days" strategy, outlined in Julie Fellom's Diaper Free Toddlers program, and give you step-by-step instructions on how to make it work for you.
One thing to keep in mind: Even when your child is using the potty rather than diapers, he may still have accidents.
The Diaper Free Toddlers program
Fellom, a San Francisco preschool teacher, started Diaper Free Toddlers in 2006 after potty training more than 200 children. Her primary motivation was to keep disposable diapers out of landfills by helping parents potty train their children earlier. Her method can work for kids as young as 15 months old, and it's most effective for those younger than 28 months, Fellom says.
Fellom says that after this age kids may be more resistant to potty training. "It's pretty much guaranteed to work for children who try it before 28 months," Fellom says. "The closer you get to age 3, the less likely it is to work."
After a three-day potty training weekend at home, children will be able to reliably go to the potty to pee or poop and have few accidents, Fellom says.
Are you ready for potty training?
Fellom's technique requires commitment, focus, and dedication. It's a "bare-bottomed" method, meaning that for three months after you initiate potty training, your child will need to be naked below the waist when she's up and about at home, and wear just loose-fitting pants with nothing underneath when she's out and about or at daycare.
It's okay to use diapers and training pants at nap time and bedtime, but if you rely on them more often, you'll undo your potty training progress, Fellom says.
What you need for your potty training weekend
- Potty chairs to use at home – ideally one for every main area where you spend time, plus any bathrooms
- Plenty of water or diluted juice to drink
- Snacks that encourage peeing – either salty ones that make you thirsty, such as crackers, or foods with high water content, such as watermelon and popsicles (in addition to regular healthy meals)
- Supplies for cleaning up accidents, including rags, cleaning solution, and a plastic bucket
- Several pairs of loose-fitting pants for your child to wear when you go out of the house Small sheepskin pad to put over your car seat to protect against accidents
- Knee socks or leg warmers to keep your child warm while he's bare-bottomed at home (if it's cold where you live when you start potty training)
Tips before potty training in three days
A month or so before you start:
Watch for signs that your child is ready for potty training. According to Fellom, this includes:
- Staying dry for at least two hours at a time
- Asking to use the potty
- Refusing to wear diapers
- Pooping at a regular time each day
Clear your schedule and plan to spend an entire long weekend focused on potty training. That means canceling all your regular weekend activities, and making sure your potty training partner can be around all the time for at least the first two days to help out.
Make up a "potty dance" with your potty training partner. The goal is to celebrate your child's successes and give her an incentive to continue, so the dance can be anything from a modified end-zone chicken dance to a full-on rumba with accompanying song – whatever feels right to you.
Start educating your child about using the potty. Two to five weeks before your potty training weekend, every time you, your partner, or another family member needs to use the bathroom, take your child along so she can observe the process, including:
- How you pull down your pants and underwear
- Sit on the potty
- Pee or poop into it
- Wipe yourself
- Pull up your pants and underwear
- Flush the toilet
- Wash your hands
You can even have your partner go into the bathroom with you and your child and do the potty dance for you.
Buy several potty chairs or arrange to borrow some. Put a potty in every main room and bathroom in your home.
Prepare your child to ditch the diapers. The week or so before you start, show your child a stack of diapers and explain that soon she won't need to wear them anymore because she can go naked at home for a while. Present this as a fun and exciting development (if your child is at least 2).
How to potty train in three days
- Get up with your child as soon as he wakes up. For the rest of the day, have him go naked below the waist.
- Take turns with your potty training partner watching your child for signs that he needs to pee or poop. When he starts to go, carry him quickly to the potty as you say, "Pee goes in the potty."
- Have salty or watery snacks throughout the day (in addition to regular meals), and drink lots of water so everyone has to pee often.
- Celebrate your child's success whenever any amount of pee (even a few drops) or poop goes into the potty rather than on the floor. When this happens, do your potty dance. You can also give praise, high-fives, and so on.
- If your child has an accident, say, "Pee (or poop) goes in the potty," as you clean it up. Never yell at him or shame him for having accidents because they will happen.
- Tell your child it's time to go potty before nap time and bedtime. (Don't ask your child, because he'll probably say no.)
- Put a diaper on your child before he goes to sleep, unless you feel confident that he'll remain dry.
- Follow the instructions for day one.
- After nap time on day 2, take a short walk outside all together after your child pees in the potty. Plan to be gone no longer than 30 minutes, and bring a potty with you.
- Have your child wear loose pants with nothing underneath – no diapers, training pants, or underwear. (Take spare clothes for your child in case you're not lucky enough to make it home accident-free.)
- Follow the instructions for day one.
- After nap time in the afternoon, go out for about 30 minutes (just like on day two).
- Have your child use the potty just before leaving the house each time.
- Dress your child in loose pants with nothing underneath.
- Bring along a change of clothes and a small travel potty in case your child needs to go while you're out.
After your potty training weekend
After your child manages to get some pee in the potty 10-12 times, you can expect that your child will start to take herself to the potty when she has to go. But to seal the deal, some follow-up needs to happen:
- Have your child go naked below the waist when you're at home for the next three months. (You can use diapers for nap time and nighttime as needed.)
- Dress your child in loose pants with nothing underneath whenever she's not at home – including at daycare.
- Let your child start wearing loose-fitting, lightweight underpants after three months with no accidents. At this point, she no longer needs to go bare-bottomed at home!
- Keep a portable travel potty in the car and notice the closest public bathroom whenever you're out and about.
And if your child doesn't have the hang of using the potty after your potty training weekend, just wait a month or two, then try again. (Or wait until your child is 2 if she's younger than that.)
The upside of potty training in three days
- A potty training weekend can be a helpful and easy-to-follow way to jump-start the process. If you've dreaded potty training, worried about how to start, or wondered how to teach your child to actually use the potty rather than just sit on it, this approach may be a godsend.
- The method works quickly compared with other approaches, even with follow-up and any setbacks.
- You'll save yourself time and frustration.
- Your child will be proud of his accomplishment and independence.
- You'll save money – and protect the environment – by eliminating diapers earlier.
- You won't have to bribe your child into using the potty because this approach doesn't feature treats or other rewards (other than an enthusiastic potty dance).
- Making potty training fun and exciting (by dancing exuberantly every time a little pee or poop makes it into the potty) may win over a child who has resisted using the potty or never shown interest.
The downside of potty training in three days
- Being mostly housebound for three days while you watch your child's every move and whisk her to the potty is draining.
- Getting the same day off to devote to potty training may be hard for two working parents.
- Completing the follow-up process may be a challenge, depending on your childcare situation. Providers may not be willing or able to keep your child out of diapers, underwear, and training pants while she's in their care.
Other methods of quick potty training
If you're interested in quick potty training, here are some other suggestions that might make the process work better for you:
- Use other rewards, such as stickers, treats, or the promise of big-kid underwear, instead of doing a potty dance.
- Use a doll that wets to demonstrate peeing on the potty, instead of taking your child into the bathroom with you. Toilet Training in Less Than a Day explains how to do it.
- Check out websites and books from other experts, like Narmin Parpia and Teri Crane.
If you decide not to use a quick-training approach to potty training, there are plenty of other options. For example, if you'd like to start when your child is still a baby, there's infant potty training as well as Diaper-Free Before 3 by pediatrician Jill M. Lekovic.
There are also plenty of ways to train toddlers and older kids more gradually. Check out our information on potty training your toddler and potty training your preschooler for signs of readiness, do's and don'ts, ways to start, handling accidents, potty training boys and girls, and more.