Getting Ready To Potty Train? Ten Strategies You Didn’t Know You Needed

Have you decided to take the plunge into potty training? Have fun! There are so many different tried-and-true methods that you can rely on, but no matter what you choose, here are some tips and tricks to make any method easier and survivable both during the initial potty training boot camp and in the months following.

Bear in mind, no matter what you choose, arm yourself with the understanding that there will be lots of poop everywhere for a long time, and like midnight feedings, diapers, and everything else gross in parenting… it will all eventually come to an end. 

Cloth Diaper Sprayer

You’re not a cloth diaperer? No matter. We have one of these bad boys which conveniently attaches to (and is supplied by) the toilet tank. On days where your little one leaves large gifts in their underwear, a cloth diaper sprayer can easily rinse away the insult right into the toilet where it belongs. Be sure to let your kiddo flush it on their own so that together you can say, “bye-bye yucky poop!”. It’s all part of the delightful process.

Flushable Wipes

Check first on your plumbing systems for this one, but flushable wipes (while still not great for your pipes) are a lifesaver. Regular wipes end up in the trashcan during potty training, which in turn stink up the bathroom and quickly. For every poop, we go through about 20 of them. I don’t know why but we use more wipes for poop now than when we did with diapers. Just be sure to flush in between sets so you don’t make the same mistake I did and get the overflow.

Travel Spray Bottle

This one is a game-changer. We all know that sometimes those poops can get crusty and stick to our poor tot’s bum, making it rough and painful to scrub off with wipes at potty time. I keep a travel-sized spray bottle filled with a mixture of water and their baby shampoo next to the toilet and spray directly on my daughter’s private areas to help rinse away yucky stuff and to make it easier to wipe her more gently.

Scissors & Old Plastic Grocery Bags

Call me crazy – if you use Pull-Ups, this will help you. Just keep them out of reach of your child. After nap time or first thing in the morning, if my daughter has pooped in the Pull-Up, I have her “stand in the bag” and hold still. I then carefully cut the Pull-Up off on both hip sides so that it falls right off of her, it doesn’t drag poop all down her legs, and it lands right in that bag. I have her step out of the bag, I tie the bag up with the poopy Pull-Up in it, and toss that thing out. Many thanks to my local Wal-Mart for bagging every single item in my curbside pickup order; I now have enough bags to potty train for the century.

Yoga Skills

If you have never tried yoga, now is your time. No need to become a master: if you can teach your kiddo how to do downward dog, you’re all set. I learned this from a professional mom and preschool teacher friend of mine. When wiping a dirty bum, have your kid do “downward dog”. It makes it much, much easier to wipe and to do so more thoroughly. 

Toddler Underwear

This is obvious, but you’ll want to stock up on a lot of this. You can find them in 7 packs at your local retailer like Target or Wal-Mart with prints of all of your child’s favorite characters. Throw them in the wash before you use them; sometimes packaging, ink, and other hands in the store have been on them and it’s gentler on your tot’s skin if they are laundered before their first wear. I would recommend at least 20 pairs to get started. Trust me, you’ll end up throwing many of them away. 

A Timer

I’m a teacher by trade, so I set timers for everything in life. I have a timer set for every hour during the day when my daughter is usually awake. When that timer goes off, she knows it’s time to go potty. It’s Pavlovian. 

Water Wow

Have you ever enjoyed a few moments to yourself on the toilet just browsing Zillow or reading a book? Oh wait… you’re a parent. Well, even if it’s been a while since you’ve been to the restroom alone, it’s understandable that sometimes when nature calls, she takes her time. The same is true for toddlers. I never rush my daughter once she’s on the toilet, and to teach her that sitting on the potty is a great thing to do, I provide her with all sorts of books about the body and even those Water Wow magic-reveal pen and pads. She loves “painting” while she sits on the potty. Who knows – maybe Monet got his start this way?


Some methods of potty training might have you avoiding treats. If you’re open to it, however, rewards can be great motivators for children learning to use the toilet. Some things that work well for us are Sesame Street “letter cookies”, jelly beans, or M&Ms. One tinkle or poo on the toilet equals one cookie, jelly bean, or M&M. Whatever treat you use, do not allow your child to eat any food without supervision and observation so as to avoid choking. 

Plumbing Enzymes

Our neighbor turned me on to these when we had a joyous backup of our toilet, shower, and laundry all at the same time. Plumbing enzymes are essentially bacteria that eat through whatever is clogging up your pipes and they are natural and generally safe for all plumbing systems (check with your plumber first). And if you’re potty training, you will get clogged pipes. I recently flushed a pair of my daughter’s underwear – and it was my fault, not hers. Trust me, you’d much rather start using those enzymes than to be on your knees with a drain auger during naptime hoping against hope that you don’t get sloshed by whatever comes back up. 

All in all, potty training is a very exciting (and somewhat life-altering) change for you and especially your toddler. Give them as much grace as you can, try to laugh at the inevitable poop and pee that will end up in places you’d never imagine, and celebrate the little victories because they are very big for your big little kid.

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