Kickstarting Toilet Learning (Potty Training): Preparing for Success


Parents should understand that the toilet learning journey requires commitment.  Inconsistency between partners/parents, school and home are contributing factors to delayed toilet learning. 


Do not leave the house during these three days. Clear your schedule from Zoom meetings and phone calls so that you can focus on your child every moment of their waking hours. Just put the phones away! No visitors, no shopping trips, no walks, etc. Enlist the help of another adult/partner so that you can get a break when you need one!


Explain to your child that they will be learning to use the toilet, just like Mommy and Daddy and their siblings! Show enthusiasm and communicate with your child in advance so they can mentally prepare for this major change. “In 5 days…” “Tomorrow…” You will also want to include them in the preparation process (see below).


Your child has a better chance of success if you prepare the environment for them to be independent. “The first aim of the prepared environment is, as far as it is possible, to render the growing child independent of the adult.” ~Maria Montessori

  • Toilet: can your child independently sit on the toilet? If not, purchase a child-sized portable toilet for them to use, or place a “potty” seat securely on your toilet and ensure your child can safely climb up, sit down, and get back down.
  • Sink: can your child reach the sink without assistance? Consider purchasing a stool and/or a faucet extender. You will also need to ensure your child can reach your sink easily without assistance, to wash their hands (consider Floor. Set yourself up for easy clean-ups by removing rugs and blocking off rooms that have carpet. Try to confine you and your child to wood or tile floor areas of your home.
  • Books: consider placing a basket in the bathroom with books in it – having something to quietly read/look at, encourages your child to sit and relax while sitting on the toilet. Please note, avoid reading books out loud to your child or trying to entertain him while he is using the toilet. The goal is independence, not dependence!
  • Clean up: part of learning is the process of cleaning up. We encourage you to allow your child to experience the natural consequences of not using the toilet, such as needing to take the time to clean up afterwards. You can prepare and make accessible a spray bottle of soap water and rags so that your child can assist in cleaning. (You can follow up with a sanitizing spray.)


hand washing at preschool
  • Laundry hamper: is there a laundry hamper that your child can easily access? Cleaning up from misses includes changing clothing and placing of soiled clothing in the hamper.
  • Timer: this comes in handy for cuing a child to a “toilet try” – initially you will set it for every 20-30 minutes, so your child hears that cue and remembers to use the toilet.
  • Invite your child to choose: your child may be more enthusiastic about toilet learning when you invite them to make choices. When choosing a potty seat or a timer, show them two kinds and ask them which one they want. When choosing special books to place in the bathroom, ask them which three books they would like to be in the basket.
  • Confined area: choose an area of your house, preferably with hard surface floors for easy cleaning. It should also be a room where it is easy for you to keep an eye on your child (no hiding places!). Close doors and partition off rooms where you do not want your child to go.

toddler looking at book at preschool 1

We strongly recommend the bottomless 3-day weekend. If you absolutely must have your child use underwear, we recommend using regular toddler underwear. Vinyl covers are another option to help with containing messes. We do NOT recommend using thick training pants or pull-ups.

Why go bottomless?
• Your child will see what happens when they eliminate
• Your child will better feel what happens when they eliminate
• You will better be able to observe the signs that they are about to eliminate and can guide them to the toilet
• Using underwear/pull ups/training pants mimic the feel of a diaper, encouraging your child to eliminate into them out of habit/muscle memory.
• Having to pull bottoms down and up is an extra step for your child to take when they urgently need to use the toilet, and may result in a toileting miss (“accident”).

During the 3-day toilet learning kick off, you will want to give your child watery foods like grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, etc. A water bottle should always be available and offer them juice and water at frequent intervals to encourage more frequent elimination.

Now that you have set up environment, you’ll want to come back and join us next week as we continue this three-part series by exploring step-by-step instructions for your three-day potty training weekend!

Note: Montessorians general refer to potty training as “toilet learning”. We will use the terms interchangeably on our blog, as we know that most parents are familiar with the term “potty training.”


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