The Preschool Trick to Potty Training a Toddler in No Time

After my daughter turned 2 years old, conversations about potty training and preschool frequently came up among family and other moms. During those conversations I hoped to pick up fabulous potty training tips, but I was adamant that I was not enrolling my kid in preschool.

Fast forward to year 3 and I started to get frustrated. Potty training would not stick. What was I doing wrong? Why couldn't she get it? What finally convinced her to ditch diapers surprised me.

Rissa started showing interest in her special potty chair around 2 years old. She sat down on it, fully clothed, and looked through books. She hid toys inside of it. Since she accompanied me almost every time I used the bathroom (seriously, why is it so hard to pee alone?), I kept hoping she'd be one of those kids who suddenly starts using the bathroom on her own. I was afraid to put too much pressure on her, especially with little brother's arrival.

More From The Stir: How I Potty Trained My 3-Year-Old in 2 Days

After going on it a few times, she was excited to transition from regular diapers to "big girl" diapers she could pull up and down by herself. Unfortunately, she lost interest, so I stopped pushing it. Having two in diapers is no joke, but trying to focus on potty training while caring for a newborn was not happening in our house.

We attempted potty training off and on, doing our best to follow our daughter's lead. We tried sticker charts, singing, dancing, candy, and toys. She picked out big girl underwear. All of those things provided short-term motivation. If coaxed enough, she would try going to the bathroom, but she wouldn't go on her own. Accidents didn't seem to bother her very much.

I was at a loss.

Then a few months ago after dance class, Rissa asked to go to preschool. The other girls in her class were also working on potty training and getting ready to start school in the fall. My daughter had been paying more attention to our mom chatter than I thought.

"If you want to go to preschool, you have to learn how to use the potty like a big girl," I said, holding her little hand in mine as we walked to the car.

The next morning, Rissa refused to wear anything but underwear and asked to go to preschool again. All my reasons for not wanting to enroll her meant nothing if she really wanted to go. I agreed to sign her up if she started using the bathroom all the time. Seeing how determined she was that first day, we set up a tour. That made her very excited. She suddenly got it and was mostly accident-free within a week. Once I unlocked her motivation, there was no looking back!

What motivated your child to potty train?


Image via Darcy Zalewski

potty training

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Tracys2 Tracys2

Mine weren't that extreme, but yes- preschool.


My 2nd would have trained a lot faster if my 1st hadn't convinced her she'd be flushed away. My 3rd went a year earlier and trained a year earlier, though she still struggles at night.

Jeana... JeanaJaybird

I tried everything under the sun for months and months to no avail. What finally worked?? Completely ditching the diapers. Yes, we had one week full of accidents.. but that was it. One week. I never put him in a diaper again after his 3rd birthday.. After my experience, I pretty much believe that you can't put your child in a diaper and expect them not to rely on it/use it. My daughter isn't even 18 months yet, but I already know with her I will be doing the same (except on her 2nd birthday) ;-)

Colie68 Colie68

Yep I agree with JeanaJaybird, you have to ditch the diaper completly and put them in real underwear. I had to take my son every hour to sit on the potty at first and we had very few accidents and he just got it. He starts pre-school in 2 weeks and he is so excited.

Medic... MedicturnedMama

ABC Mouse is what finally worked for my oldest. He was a super late trainer (4.5 years old). He just didn't care. We tried everything (toys, stickers, candy, treats, special trips, even money), but he couldn't be bothered to do it. When he had to earn time for ABC Mouse he started doing so much better. He only has occassional accidents now. I just need to figure out what is going to work for his younger brother!

Jeana... JeanaJaybird

MedicturnedMama, I will have to pass the idea about ABC Mouse along to my friend who is having difficulties with her 4 year old son! She has tried everything, too!!

nonmember avatar Jenn

JennaJayBird has the right of it. If you're not training your child from birth (seriously, look into "elimination communication"), taking away to diapers is the only way to go.

RiotP... RiotPixie

With my son, he was 3 1/2. I was pregnant with my first daughter and I really didn't want 2 in diapers. It took a lot of bribery, and tons of little Hot Wheels cars, for him to finally stick with it. Little did I know then, that I'd still have 2 in diapers. I got pregnant with my second daughter when my first was only 5 mowoohoonths old.

P.She... P.Sherman

My son was easy. He hated diapers and would rip them off any time he had an accident. We decided to ditch the diapers and have him run around the house naked. He quickly learned and was potty trained by 2 and a half. I am hoping my daughter (18 months right now) will be that easy.

nonmember avatar Adrien

Those pullups are a nightmare. They just allow the kid to continue to be in diapers. Fro about two weeks, every moment we were not in public, my kids were nude from the waist down. The potty was in the living room - gross, I know, but whatever, so is crapping your pants at 3 years old. The children are more in tuned with their bodies when there is no bulky diaper on them. There is no struggling with clothes when they have to go, they can just go. Worked 3 times for us, all were trained by 2.5 years old.

SamNS... SamNStefanMommy

I did naked potty training with all of mine. Of course, it works best if you have a fenced in, private back yard they can run in haha My oldest had major potty fears and the naked thing was suggested by our doctor. She suggested I take away all diapers and clothing for 3 days and see what happened. It worked! He peed down his leg once and decided he didn't like that so started peeing in the toilet. Poop was a little more difficult but once he realized that it was his leg or the toilet he again chose the toilet. Since it worked so well for the oldest I did it for the younger 2. It works like a charm! (Also, keep in mind these were 3 year old boys who loved to remove their clothes whenver they could so the nakedness was in no way a punishment for them)

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