3-Day Potty Training Boot Camp: A Mom-Tested Guide to Success

I tried the 3-day potty training boot camp and found surprising success! Here are the tips I learned along the way that could help you.

Published July 21, 2023
mom with son potty training

Three-day potty training seemed like a ridiculous notion to me, but I had a friend swear by it, so I had to try it out. We took the plunge, pun intended, and I have to say, it was a surprising success!

Don't get me wrong, there were accidents, but my son started peeing in the potty on day one! For the parents who want to learn the 3-day potty training method, I detail how it is done and give you some firsthand tips that will make the potty process easier.

How to Potty Train a Toddler Using the 3-Day Method

The 3-day method is exactly what it sounds like -- three days dedicated to just potty training. It's best if both you and your partner are available to focus all your energy on this endeavor. The reason is that you'll need to be watching your child like a hawk and running them to the potty whenever they seem like they may need to go!

little boy on potty

A Quick Look at the Next Three Days

Day one will involve your toddler running around the house naked. This allows you to better notice when it's time to go and it helps them to see exactly what is happening. Day two will essentially be the same, but they can wear clothes on the upper half of their body. Finally, on day three, the goal is to let them wear their big kid underwear and loose-fitting clothes so that they can get to the potty quickly.

Define Your Potty Training Space

For the next few days, your toddler will be naked, or at least partially naked, so accidents should be expected. The best way to avoid too many headaches is to block off carpeted areas and clear out furniture that you don't want redecorated.

Prepare this space the day before you start training. This can make for an easy transition once you get started.

Helpful Hack

I quickly learned on day one that my son liked his privacy when going potty. In order to keep him in the main room where we planned to have our potty training boot camp, I took the toys out of his Little Tikes playhouse and turned it into his potty room. This was great because I could still monitor him, but it made him feel more secure.

Start Your Day With a Trip to the Potty

On your first day of potty training, get your toddler up and head straight to the bathroom. Remove their diaper and have them "try" to go potty. Even if they don't go, praise them for their effort! Parents should do this every single day, even in the days following your 3-day potty boot camp.

Ditch the Diapers

The next step in this method is to make a big show about how the diapers are going to go. Present them with some cool 'big kid' underwear and let them know that they will no longer be going potty in their pants!

Now in my case, my son was not ready to make the switch to underwear at night, so we didn't physically throw away his pull-ups, but if you are making the full transition, this can be a great visual to help them understand that poop and pee are only for the potty.

Load Your Child Up With Liquids

little girl with sippy cup

The more they drink, the more they will pee, and the faster they can practice this crucial life skill! Therefore, make sure their sippy cup is always full throughout the next three days! I found that sugar-free popsicles also helped to keep things moving and he was very eager to eat them.

Be Ready to Rush to The Potty

As mentioned above, there will likely be accidents in the first few days, and even the first few weeks of potty training a toddler. The goal is to catch them before these mishaps occur. Parents should be on the lookout for squatting, squirming, and the holding onto the genital region. These are all signs that they might be about to go.

For germaphobe parents like myself, I recommend stocking up on disinfectant wipes and having extra potty pads and trash bags at the ready. I also lined his training potty with trash bags, which I bought for a dollar at the grocery store. With a walking one-year-old who likes to put his hands where they don't belong, this kept things clean during our 3-day potty training.

Helpful Hack

To avoid big messes, we set up our potty camp in the main room, which has wood floors. I also took puppy pads and lined the sofa cushions and then covered them with old sheets and towels. This made accident clean-up much easier.

I also placed our training potty in the same space, with puppy pads underneath as well as a potty ladder and seat in my son's bathroom. This gave him options.

Remind Them to Go, Often

Prior to this moment, your toddler has never had to think about their need to go potty. They just went. In order to keep them on track, have them "try" to go potty at least every hour. The easiest way to do this is to set alarms throughout the day.

However, if you need to leave your home or a nap or bedtime is approaching, have them try more than once before it is time to go.

Need to Know

We found the 3-day method to be very effective, but my son still needed reminders to try to go potty in the following days and weeks after our boot camp was over. Potty watches are a solution that many parents find helpful because they can remind the child directly, taking the task off mom and or dad's plate.

Keep the Focus on Them

This is an important milestone for your child, but it is also a big moment for you! Not only will you not have to change diapers anymore, but you will also save tons of money once you no longer need those diapers. In other words, put your phone away, put your work on hold, and be present in the first few days of potty training!

Make the experience fun by bringing in books, their favorite toys that are easily washed, and music into the bathroom or whatever room you plan to hold your 3-day potty training boot camp in.

Praise, Praise, Praise

We made a big show out of any potty progress! There was cheering and clapping any time he made it to the potty or any time he realized that he had started to pee, stopped, and ran to his training toilet to finish the job. Once he was done, we used a sticker chart to mark his progress. Since my son loves stickers, this was a big hit!

When to Start 3-Day Potty Training

little girl potty training

No matter what method you choose, parents should wait to start potty training until their child is ready. For some parents, this comes when the child is 18 months old. For others, like myself, it doesn't happen until after your child's third birthday.

However, once your child is ready, the process is actually much simpler than you think. If you want to learn the signs of readiness, what items you need, and tips for success, make sure to check out our full potty training guide below.

Another important thing to remember is that daytime and nighttime potty training are two very different animals, and that your child may be ready for both OR one and not the other. Many parents don't realize that they can do the 3 day method for just daytime hours.

In our case, my son still wakes up every morning with a very wet diaper, so we chose to only train for the day. He wears his big boy underwear during the day and his pullups at his nap and bedtime. This will continue with this until he starts waking up dry because that is the sign of readiness for that transition.

3-Day Potty Training Tips: Our Biggest Hurdles & How We Overcame Them

Everyone will experience different hurdles throughout the potty-training process. These are the ones we experienced and tips on how I handled each situation.

  • Staying on the Potty (for more than 3.5 seconds): This was actually the only time that chocolate was involved in our potty training journey. My son was VERY eager to sit down, and then pop right back up again. In order to help him feel more comfortable sitting down on his little plastic potty, we had a very slow disbursement of Reese's Pieces. If he would sit for a minute, he would get another. This went on for about 20 minutes.
  • Remaining Centered Over the Hole: This is likely less of a problem for girls, but with a boy, I quickly learned that it was important to remind him to point his penis downwards into the hole. The easiest way to make sure this occurred was to announce "point your penis into the hole!" every single time he sat down. If he was too far forward, we talked about scooting back so he had more space. Within a day, he was checking his placement every time without a reminder.
  • Being Naked All Day: My son likes to be dressed, which made being naked for long periods of time very upsetting. Since we have a little brother, I chose to have my youngest just in his diaper for the day. As soon as my older son recognized that he wasn't the only one without clothes, he became comfortable quite quickly.
  • Using the Big Potty: Even with the ladder and seat attachment, the big potty was a bit scary at first. We overcame this by sitting in the bathroom together multiple times. I sat on a step stool so that we could be at the same level. After a few tries, this space suddenly became very exciting.
    • Since I also have a one-year-old, safety around water became another priority during our boot camp. You cannot babyproof the potty when your child is potty training, so we taught my son how to take the ladder on and off the potty and to always close the lid before we washed our hands. This is good for keeping my youngest safe and for when guests come over and forget to put the potty ladder back in its place.
Need to Know

There are differences when it comes to potty training boys versus potty training girls. Make sure to read up on the tips and tricks for the specific gender of your child. This can help you find success sooner!

What We Are Still Working On

Pooping in the potty is a scary thing for most kids, including for my son. He seemed like he needed to poop all afternoon on day one, but it wasn't until the bedtime diaper came on that he pooped. We are still trying to get him to go poop in the potty on the days following the boot camp. When we can manage to say deuces to the poop in his pants, I will be sure to post an update on how we found success!

3-Day Potty Training Can Be a Big Jumpstart

The 3-day potty training method is a fantastic way to jumpstart permanent potty use. However, just like with any other toddler transition, turning actions into habits takes time and consistency. This means that parents should continue reminding their tots to try to go potty throughout the day and to watch for signs that they may need to go. Be patient and know that diapers will disappear soon!

Also, continue to praise their progress, even when it seems like they have it down. Potty training regressions can occur when illness strikes, during times of change or stress, and even during the accomplishment of other big milestones.

Finally, if your kids are returning back to school or daycare after your boot camp, make sure their teacher knows that they may need to take a few more visits to the potty and always pack extra pants and underwear in case of an accident. Also, let your child know that need to say "potty please" to their teacher when they need to go.

Find Potty Success in the Right Way for Your Family

While the 3-day method can be a great option for many families, there's really no right or wrong when it comes to the potty journey for your family. Maybe the 3-day method works exactly as planned, maybe it actually takes longer, or maybe you go a slow and steady route that takes weeks or months. Regardless, if you follow your child's readiness cues and stay positive, you can't go wrong.

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3-Day Potty Training Boot Camp: A Mom-Tested Guide to Success