The 3-Day Potty Training Method: A Guide For Parents

Kid playing with water hose

What if you could reduce all the hard work of convincing your toddler to ditch the diapers and move on to the world of potties and toilets in just three days? Many parents swear by the 3-day potty training method. But is it right for you and your little one?

This article will break down just what the 3-day potty training method is, how you can prepare for success, and provide a step-by-step guide to making it happen — along with some caveats and reminders that will help you set realistic goals.

But the first thing to consider before marking your calendar for the training: Is your child ready?

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Is Your Child Ready For 3-Day Potty Training?

 Kid doing 3-day potty training_1

Many milestones in your child’s growth and development can’t be rushed. Without the right physical, mental, and emotional abilities in place, trying to force something too soon usually leads to frustration — for your little one and you.

This applies equally to big steps, such as walking, reading, and yes, potty training. So make sure your toddler is sending you the right signals that they’re ready.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you begin potty training:

  • Do they prefer a dry diaper and not like being wet?
  • Can they walk unattended to a potty?
  • Can they pull their pants up and down easily?
  • Are they curious about the toilet and its use?

For a full discussion of how to know when the time is right, see this article.

Once you see signs they might be ready, how do you know if the 3-day potty training approach is right for you and your toddler? Let’s take a closer look.

The Pros And Cons Of 3-Day Potty Training

Let’s start by exploring the benefits and challenges behind this intense method.

The 3-day method is more than just an accelerated path to cross the potty training finish line earlier. It’s a way for you as a parent to work closely with your child to help them learn by practicing repeatedly over a short period. This helps them understand by doing.

At its most basic, it means ditching the diapers and letting your toddler go bare-bottomed for three days while providing prompts, coaching, and plenty of positive reinforcement for properly using the potty.

In addition to making progress quickly, it can help reduce the frustration that can come with a slower, more occasional pace of learning. It can actually be a fun time for a parent and child to bond.

In getting your little one out of diapers sooner, you may also be doing the planet a favor. No more disposables to dispose of!

That said, there are challenges. For example, make sure you can commit to being housebound for three consecutive days. This can be difficult for working parents, so some choose to try this during a three-day holiday weekend.

It also can be a bit messy. Going diaperless means there will be inevitable accidents and messy misses as your little one tries to make it to the potty in time.

Preparing For 3 Days Of Fun

 confetti for celebrating potty training

With that list of pros and cons in mind, here’s a quick list of things you’ll want to think about in advance and have ready before you start.

Have Supplies On Hand

  • A potty. Consider letting your little one help pick it out so they’re excited about using it. You could also have a potty for each room you and your child will be in.
  • Big kid underwear. Let them pick underwear featuring their favorite animated character or design.
  • Lots of baby wipes. This one is probably self-explanatory, but always be prepared!
  • Comfy T-shirts. Big shirts are perfect for these three days as your toddler won’t be wearing much else.
  • Sippy cups. You’ll want to keep your toddler very hydrated so there are lots of practice trips to the potty.
  • Waterproof or washable mattress. Nighttime potty training will likely be a while in coming.
  • A few good kids’ books for reading during all that potty time.
  • A stocked pantry and fridge. Plan and prepare your meals in advance. This will let you focus on the task at hand — the potty.

Know The “I Have To Go” Signs

In addition to all of the supplies you’ll need, make sure you’re an expert in recognizing your little one’s unique potty dance. It’s important to catch it at the dance stage before it becomes an accident.

Choose A Reward System

Some parents advocate fun rewards for success on the potty. This could range from stickers to commendation and praise. You’ll want to consider both approaches and pick what works best for your family.

Educate Your Child

Before the big day arrives, make sure you’ve talked with your toddler about what the potty is, what it’s for, how to use it, what you will call the different aspects of toileting, and how much fun it will be to wear big kid underwear.

Consider Older Siblings

This may be a good opportunity for older siblings to spend special time with grandparents, aunts, uncles, or good friends. This will allow you to focus solely on potty training, while your older child will have more fun elsewhere!

 Family playing outside

So you’re all prepared, you’ve marked your calendar, the day arrives, and…what do you actually do?

10 Steps For 3-day Potty Training

  1. Say “goodbye” to diapers. This is also known as the “get naked” stage. Many children will relish their newfound freedom. And, without a diaper on, many will be more inclined to look for a place — the potty — when the urge hits them. But keep in mind they’re still learning what the urge is.
  2. Pep talk. Once your little one is sans diaper, encourage them and stir their excitement for what awaits — mastering the potty! Just be careful not to make it more pressure than fun, especially the first time they don’t make it.
  3. Breakfast with an extra drink. Time to prime the pump and increase the learning opportunities.
  4. Potty stop. After breakfast and that extra hydration, take them to the potty and have them sit on it — even if there’s no potty dance or activity once on the potty. This is about establishing a routine. If something happens the first time, great! If not, that’s OK. You’ve only just begun.
  5. Stay home. This one isn’t so much an explicit step as a reminder. Spend those three days at home focusing on your child. Changing environments will only make it that much harder for them.
  6. Sippy cup at the ready. Have the sippy cup and lots of their favorite drinks ready and let them drink as much as they want. If done properly, it will help with the next step…
  7. Potty breaks every 15 minutes. This increases the chances for success, as well as helps your child become accustomed to sitting on the potty. Just don’t make each sitting session a do-or-die “Did you go yet?” ordeal. Make it fun. Read. Sing. Laugh.
  8. No Drinks After Dinner. After a day of “drink all you want,” dinner signals the time to stop the hydration. Again, you want to increase the chances of your child being able to stay dry through the night (even though this will probably take much longer than the initial three days).
  9. The Final Potty Stop Before Bed. Make an enhanced potty stop the last thing in your bedtime ritual. Perhaps save a special book to read or a favorite song to sing. End the day on a high note. And make sure they have their big kid underwear on to sleep in.
  10. The Midnight Potty Wake. Wake your little one midway through the night to sit on the potty. Again, if they successfully make use of it, great. If not, make sure your little one’s bedding is ready for any accidents.

After The 3 Days: Did It Work?

So day 3 finally ends, and you’re freed of diapers forever, right? Well, better keep a supply for a while. Every child is different. Some can make incredible progress in three days and almost totally master the potty.

Others will be part way there. They’ll need your regular reminders and patience. And some children may not pick it up at all. Chances are they weren’t ready for potty training quite yet. So patiently wait and try again.

Above all, don’t expect perfection. And you can always find more potty training tips here when you’re ready.

So many things have to come together — self-awareness, control of unseen body parts, anticipation and planning, and physical coordination. Never underestimate just what a huge leap your little one is undertaking.

What’s Next?


Washable Newton baby mattress perfect for 3-day potty training

The 3-day potty training method is a great place to start for a lot of families, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you and your little one. That’s OK!

Prepare well with a washable mattress, like our GREENGUARD Gold Certified, 100% Washable Kids’ Mattress from Newton, just in case there are accidents during a nap or overnight. Continue encouraging your child to use the potty, and don’t make a big deal of accidents.

Commit yourself to the time and attention it takes, and make it fun. Potty training is a journey. They will get there when they’re ready!

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