Night Training

By Colleen Brunetti, M.Ed., C.H.C

I get a variety of questions about potty training, but they often follow a few specific themes. One of these themes is that of night training – when to start it, how long it takes, and what to expect.

First of all, know that it is perfectly normal for night training to take longer than day training. Yes, there are children who will do both around the same time, or one right after the other, but there are also many who may need longer to develop the bladder control while they sleep.

This is especially true for heavy sleepers, who may be in such deep slumber they don’t feel their body’s signals and thus wake up wet.

Also be aware that some night wetting is considered common right up until about age 6. No, this doesn’t mean you’re stuck with a couple of more years of bed-wetting, but if by chance this does occur, it is still considered biologically normal. Of course, if there is ever any concern, please check with your pediatrician.

There are a few things you can do to try to ease the transition:

  • Make sure your child is going potty just before going to sleep.
  • You may also want to limit liquids in the hour or so leading up to bedtime.
  • Some parents elect to wake a child late at night for a quick trip to the potty. This works well for some, and in others can actually just encourage energetic night waking, which nobody wants. The trick is just to know your kid on that one!
  • You can also try a rewards system for dry mornings – but do not scold or punish for accidents.
  • Keep extra sheets and clean pajamas handy so they are easy to access in the middle of the night or early morning.
  • Finally, know that in time this too shall pass.For more information on night training visit our TIPS page!

Potty Training Tips from the Academy

By Colleen Brunetti, M.Ed., C.H.C.

happy childhoodThe Instructors at the Signing Time Academy come from many walks of life, love to sign, love kids, and just happen to have some pretty great advice on potty training. I’ve compiled some of their best tips for you here. (Tip: Enter your zip or postal code, then click on each Instructor’s name to find out if they have classes near you, or use the search feature to find a local Instructor!)

I think that with potty training there are “windows of opportunity” and if you aren’t in one training will be overly difficult. I used a method of training where we went full force. I don’t really go for pull-ups during the daytime (I think they are expensive diapers). The child makes a decision to use the potty and off we go. I don’t force them to sit on the potty (unless we are leaving the house) but will ask if they are listening to their body. My daughter was trained at 19-months-old,  my son was much later at 34 months. Each child had different needs and I needed to be aware of that.

There is no point in pushing if they aren’t ready. Wait until they are interested and motivated. Try to stay away from external rewards (like candy for every poo). A sticker for random dry checks works so much better- it rewards the behavior you want, dry underwear not the poo. (Kelly Hosna)

I spent a fortune with the rewards I used with my son. I would never do that again. It worked, but it came with a big price tag. So that is one piece of advice, do not select a pricey reward. Kids love stickers and they are cheap. I would use them instead of an actual item. (Monica Blouin)

Let your child take the lead, and watch for signs that they are ready! Also, watch to see what motivates your child! We used the Potty Time chart and I made magnetic stickers that my son stuck on each time he went, and at the end of each row, he chose if we went swimming, to the zoo, park (places that were free for us to go)! Along with the Potty Chart, we used the Potty Time video on a daily basis. I recommend skipping the pull-ups and going straight to the thicker underwear. My son didn’t like the feeling of being wet, so it was another motivation to stay dry and use the potty!

We’ve had regressions at major life events such as a new sibling or death in the family, or even just a switch in your daily schedule. One thing that has helped in the regression stage is to ask our son why he had an accident? And then work with him to solve the why! Sometimes it was an attempt to get more attention, so we made sure we set aside more time with just him. (Amanda Perry)

Make the biggest fuss about the sound of PEE PEE hitting the water or pot and clap like it is a party, but continue to sit on your own potty both of you, especially if the baby does not particularly want to be on the potty anyway. I found practicing the ABCs in sign language was a distraction until the water hit the pot, and then the verbal YEAs were all over the place, along with lots of clapping. (Vanessa McCorker)

Be careful around holidays (or a big event like) moving. These are high-stress life moments and its a time of different schedules…new faces…different foods. It can upset anyone’s schedule…especially little ones!! (Amy McKnight)

We’re using the Potty Time app – search on Google Play or iTunes–the “Rachel Call” is enough of a reward for my daughter. (You can “call” Rachel when there has been an accident or a Yea!) We’ve cleared out the week with lots of diaper-free time so we can both learn her cues. (Melissa Droegemueller)

There is no one right way to potty train. You need to do what is right for you and your family. Regression is part of the learning process. Unless there are medical/developmental issues, it will happen. (Annie Young)

So there you have it! Some of our Instructors’ best tips. What are YOUR best tips for potty training? Sound off on our Facebook page!

Potty Training Boot Camp Goes Big

By Colleen Brunetti, M.Ed., C.H.C

The Little Lighthouse Daycare in Ellicott City, Maryland, is trying something new. One might even call it innovative… and if you’re struggling to potty train just one kid, you might even call it crazy! Nonetheless, the teachers at this daycare are going the distance – and putting groups of kids through potty training boot camp all at once. And they are having success!

Farida, the assistant director, took some time to explain their unique approach to me. They start with the age of the child, focusing on the two-year-olds who are getting ready to move to the three-year-old room. Since the daycare happens to have a transitional room for kids between two and three, this is ideal.

While it is a boot camp approach, they don’t just jump right in. There is a very carefully thought out process that the teachers guide the children through, and the end result is quite promising.

The process is the brainchild of Farida, who was looking for a streamlined, effective, and developmentally appropriate way to support the kids in the care of the center as they went through the potty training process… but not to have it drag on for seemingly forever, which for some children it appeared to be doing.

After careful thought and research, Farida wanted to try something a little radical. It seemed by her observation and research that before age three was a good age to train, and the common denominator amongst all children is that they were showing interest when it was time.

First, a letter goes home to parents a few weeks in advance and parents get to discuss the process ahead of time. The letter details an overview of the daycare potty training program and gives the start date. Potty training can understandably be a rather sensitive subject, so clear communication on the part of the daycare is key. Sometimes there is a little resistance on the part of the parents. It is a matter of trusting the caregiver you’ve entrusted your child to, or following through at home (perhaps with a potty training boot camp weekend prior to the daycare launch). Although each family has their preferred method and time to start, for this to work everyone needs to be on board together.

Next, the work with the kids at daycare begins. There is a designated circle time where the kids who will participate begin to prepare. Each day has a theme and a children’s book to go along with it. Topics like introducing the potty, the digestive system, and “diapers are not forever” get careful coverage.

photo-1A big countdown chart goes up on the wall as kids get ready. There is even a doll named “Potty Polly” (complete with a toilet, underwear, and a toy cup!) that the kids get to play with. This imaginative play, where they are guided to explain to Potty Polly why she must use the potty, is key to ensuring the kids understand what they are being asked to do.

The kids are now informed, and they’re psyched to start because the process is kept fun and inviting. A timer is used to cue them for when it is time to try to go potty, starting at every 10-15 minutes during the day. There is also a big potty party, complete with juice and treats, and then everyone goes and gets on their underwear. And then – as the first day has officially begun – everyone tends to immediately pee their pants.

This is normal, expected, and prepared for, as parents have already sent in stacks of dry clothes.  There may be a lot of back-up outfits to go through the first few days, but nobody worries, as this is all a part of the process while accidents become less and less as time goes on.

Farida stresses that time, patience, consistency, and a positive attitude are all key elements. Even if the children don’t look like they are getting it at first, they are. And in a very short time, the efforts pay off – just check out this sticker chart full of success!photo 2

Have you tried boot camp or a potty party to launch potty training? How does your childcare provider handle potty training? Let us know on Facebook or here in the comments section.

7 tips to start potty training

1. Gather information

Before you start, talk to friends, consult with your pediatrician, and read up on different approaches.

2. Trust your instincts

You are the expert on your child, not your mother-in-law. Go with what you think will work best for your child and for you.

3. Give yourself time

Many preschools require children to be diaper free prior to enrollment. Start well before your deadline to build wiggle room into your timeline.

4. Aim for consistency

Set up your potty training schedule, but don’t worry too much if you can’t stick to it every day. Life happens.

5. Celebrate every step

Potty training is a process. Start by celebrating the little things, like sitting on the potty for a few seconds at a time.

6. Allow for do-overs

If there’s a major interruption in your family’s schedule and your child needs the comfort of the old routine, it’s OK to hang up the undies for a while.

7. Encourage independence
Help your child set a timer to remind him to go. Give stickers or rewards when he remembers to go, whether it’s with the help of a timer or all on his own!

P is for Potty: My Potty ABCs

By Colleen Brunetti, M.Ed., C.H.C

We get a lot of questions on our Facebook page about ways to encourage children to use the potty. One of my personal favorite supports for potty training – and really, all things parenting – is to include children’s literature as a part of the approach.

So, when Paskwa Murunga approached me about reviewing her book, “P is for Potty! My Potty ABCs”, I was more than happy to take a look.

As you might have guessed, it is an ABC book, with each letter of the alphabet corresponding to something to do with the potty. A is for Ask, B is for Bathroom, C is for Clap, and so on.

The illustrations are bright and engaging, and the look of excitement on the potty training toddler’s face just might be contagious – which is good news for parents trying to give a reluctant tike a little nudge into potty training. Likewise, the parents’ roll is portrayed in the illustrations as both supportive and celebratory, cheering on their little one through potty victory, and working through a few accidents as well.

“P is for Potty! My Potty ABCs” would be a nice addition to the Potty Time program. Your little one can use our “Celebrate” song with the toddler in the book as they go through “C is for Clap”, say “I is for I did it”, and move with “J is for Jump”. Likewise, our “Uh-oh, It’s an Accident” song is a natural accompaniment with “O is for Oops!”,

Give this book a try and get ready to read, recite the ABCs, and sing and dance your way to Potty Time success!

Facebook Community Questions

By Colleen Brunetti, M.Ed., C.H.C

We have a fantastic Facebook community where people can come and ask their potty training questions and get some support around the challenges sometimes faced during the training process. Here are a few recent topics that our readers want to know more about! I’ve given my spin on it. What’s your advice?

My sons is doing real good with using the potty during the day and while he’s sleeping. But once he’s up for the day, he goes in his bed then come tell me he peed. Any advice? (Keisha B.)

First – congratulations! It sounds like you’ve already hit two big milestones! How would you feel about a little portable potty at his bedside for now? I wonder if when he wakes up he has to go really badly and isn’t quite alert enough to make it all the way to the potty.

Or, how about leaving a surprise in the bathroom for him to find each morning? A simple toy, a healthy treat, a storybook… what do you think he would love to find? If he knows there will be a surprise waiting for him, he might be motivated to go check it out. Another option would be for you to be the keeper of the treat and right after he goes he has to run in and tell you.

The next two questions are along the same lines…

My 3 1/2 year old seems perfectly content to continue going in his pull up. Nothing works for rewards. I’ve tried stickers, candy, iPod play time. Any advice? (Sandi H.)

How do you get your toddler to understand to go potty when they feel they have to go? My son seems to tell me just as he is going in his pull up. (Misty H.)

Honestly – ditch the pull-ups! They are great for some kids. And certainly they can be helpful in a pinch, or if you need to be out for an extended period of time running errands, traveling, etc. But, the absorbent pull-ups also feel a whole lot like diapers. To a child still learning to read body cues, there may be little physical motivation to get to the potty in time.

When the inevitable wet accidents do happen, have your child take part in the clean up. It’s okay for them to handle the wet mess (you’ll need to handle solids for sanitary reasons). Have the child help wipe up and then go flush and wash just as if they had made it into the potty. Keep the routine consistent, even though the target wasn’t quite hit. We have a great free download for potty routine HERE.

My question is how do you convince a child who would rather scratch your eyes out haw sit on the toilet to sit and try? My 3 1/2 year old wants to train, but if I ask him to sit it is the end of he world. If he chooses to sit he is happy, but if I ask him to before going outside or to bed, he is sooo angry and physically fights me to keep off the toilet. (Nik A)

Oh dear, it sounds like he may be flexing his independence a bit! They talk about the terrible twos, but I personally found late threes (and fours) to be more challenging!

So… how about a game? Are you dedicated to having him sit? If you let him stand just like a big guy, he may like that. In addition, letting him stand can set you up for a game that boys love. Play “Sink the Cheerios!” (or fruit loops, or whatever else is inexpensive and floats and flushes). Throw a few pieces of cereal in the toilet water and tell him to aim and sink them with pee. Another option is to squirt some blue food coloring into the water. When he pees into it (yellow), the water “magically” turns green. He can sit for that one if you’d like.

Another thing you may want to try is taking him at specific intervals, but instead of it being your idea, which he seems to be resisting right now, use a timer or alarm. If you use your phone, let him choose a special ring tone he likes. Set the alarm for whatever interval seems appropriate for him (30 minutes, an hour, etc.), and also set it for 10 minutes before you need to leave the house. Make it a game: when the music goes off it is POTTY TIME – YAY!!

And speaking of Potty Time – if you have a smart phone, you may find the features on our free app helpful. You can find the download for that HERE.

Tips for Potty Training During the Holidays

By Colleen Brunetti, M.Ed., C.H.C

The holidays can seem like a daunting time to start or continue potty training. But with a  little pre-planning and flexibility, you can get through it!

restroom sign

1) Plan ahead, then plan some more: Plan your trips shopping so that you know which stores have the most accessible (and cleanest!) bathrooms. Plan your distance trips to the relatives with a few extra built-in potty stops. Plan for extra clothes. Because while all the planning in the world is great, accidents still happen.

2) Up the ante: Build in some extra incentives around the busy holidays. A new sticker chart, use our FREE APP for the first time, or a special few calls to Grandma to brag about a potty win. I personally don’t suggest using Santa’s visit or the Elf on the Shelf as extra incentive, but that’s a personal family choice too.

3) Keep an eye on the schedule: Make sure that amongst the holiday festivities that your child is getting adequate rest. A sleepy child is going to have a little bit more of a challenge making it to the potty or feeling cooperative on a potty schedule.

4) Easy on the treats:  Enjoy the holiday get-togethers with your kiddo, but be mindful of their nutrition this year, particularly as it relates to potty training. Make sure they’re getting enough fiber in the form of fruits, veggies, and whole grains to balance out the cookies and candy canes, and plenty of water to stay hydrated while enjoying the occasional hot chocolate or fruit punch too.

5) Remember it is just a season: While the holidays can be a bit of an overwhelming time to tackle potty training, it is totally doable! But… if you or your child need a break, particularly if they are quite young or new to potty training, that’s okay. January will be here before you know it and you can dust off and start anew (perhaps with some fun new underwear gifted just for the occasion!)

Wishing you a warm and lovely holiday season

What About Number Two?

facing toilet trainingBy Colleen Brunetti, M.Ed., C.H.C

We have a very active Facebook community, where people come to ask questions, get support, and share success. One of the most frequent questions I get goes something like this, “My little one has mastered peeing in the potty, but can’t seem to get poop in there. HELP?!?”

Okay, first, deep breath there Mom and Dad! This too will come, in time. You should know that it is absolutely normal for a child to master one before the other. The muscles needed to control the bowels are a bit more complex than the bladder. Sometimes, it just takes a little time for the child to grow and mature.

In the meantime, here are some tips to ensure you are setting up the child for success in the long run.

Get set up: If you choose to use the big potty, there are two things you’ll want to make sure you do before expecting your child to start using it for pooping.

The first is to get one of those insert seats that goes over the big one. That hole over the potty is very big for little bums!

Secondly, make sure your child has a stool to rest little feet on. This is actually a physical necessity for many children. Feet firmly planted on a hard surface allows them to bear down on the muscles they need in order to release the bowels effectively. If little feet are dangling, these muscles are much harder to control!

Prepare for the long haul: Sometimes a child needs to sit for quite some time before they are relaxed or ready enough to go. While sitting and waiting for the big event, sing songs, read stories, or check out our Potty Time App together! Or, check out our huge list of potty training book reviews and choose some to read together. Make it relaxing and even a little fun so your child is more inclined to stay as needed.

Handle accidents with the desired result in mind: Yes, you’ll probably have to pick up a few rounds of total unpleasantness.  Remember to try your best to keep it light and not scold (and definitely don’t punish potty accidents). While you will need to do the clean-up for sanitary reasons, your child can still take part. Take the poop to the toilet and dump it in. Have your child then finish the potty steps from our free sequence cards by completing the WIPE, FLUSH, WASH steps just as if they had made it to the potty. Makeyour message clear: “Uh-oh, it’s an accident! But this is where the poop goes and we can try again next time!”

Good luck! I promise this will come in time!

Potty Time Sequence Cards

Book Review: Teeny Totty Uses Mama’s Big Potty –Transition from Potty Chair to Toilet

By Colleen Brunetti, M.Ed., C.H.C

Written especially for the potty training toddler who has a little trepidation about moving from the potty chair to the big potty, Teeny Totty Uses Mama’s Big Potty, by Yvonne Jones, is an adorable book that builds confidence and sets the stage for a successful transition.

The illustrations are done in a style called ‘Chibi’, meaning “little” or “cute”, which is a form of the popular Japanese Manga cartoon style. The prose is set to a nice rhyme and rhythm that will draw children in.

The book starts with the early morning routine, and lays the ground for what is to come with the very positive statement, “Today is the PERFECT day to learn something new! Something that only BIG kids can do!”

This “something” is of course transitioning to the big potty, and when Teeny Totty masters this, he will have Potty Powers! (A concept many young children are going to love!). The book goes on to talk about some common fears, such as the big seat and maybe falling in, and then addresses the fears with great strategies, such as the potty insert and a stool (we at Potty Time always recommend a stool for little feet!).

After a successful potty venture, the child is taken through the steps of FLUSH and WASH, and of course lots of praise – a perfect time to CELEBRATE! (click on the link to hear a clip of the song).

Parents may also appreciate the comprehensive list written just for them about transitioning from potty chair to potty. This list is found in the back of the book.

While this book, with its positive spin, would be just fine for any potty training method, it is especially nice to have one that addresses the sometimes dicey time going from potty chair to big potty.

Is Potty Training Bootcamp Right for Your Child?

By Colleen Brunetti, M.Ed., C.H.C.

There are endless ways to go about potty training. From diaperless babies, to waiting for signs of readiness, to pull-ups or underwear or commando… parents actually have a lot of decisions to make when embarking on potty training!

One method that is popular with some parents is a “potty training boot camp” – in short, these programs (which you often purchase) promise that with a determined attitude, solid plan, hard work, and an intense few days, you can have a fully potty trained toddler, often in three days (or less!).

But does this method work? And is it best for kids?

The answer, much like the choices described above, completely depends on the kiddo and the family! Remembering that each child and family is different, and that Potty Time does not endorse a particular method, read on to learn some first hand stories from families who tried, succeeded, or moved on to something different.


Heather is the mom of two-year-old twin boys, Callum and Cole.  She learned about a boot camp method from a friend. With the cost of diapers being high, and concern that potty training could take what seemed like years for some people, she was ready to give it a try when the boys were 25 months old. Most of all, she looked forward to no more poopy diapers, and “one more thing off my plate”.

It started out very positive. Supplies were ready, Mom and Dad were both home, and it was time to go! Callum got the boot camp method within an hour! For him, it was a complete success.

Cole, on the other hand, took a different path (as children often do!). It was more frustrating with him, with frequent accidents and a period of time where he just didn’t seem to be getting it. At first, Heather felt really bad about it, like she might be pushing him too hard and he just wasn’t ready. However, on the sixth hour of the third day, something clicked! Cole too had mastered potty training, and Heather says she got a reminder of what faith in your kids’ ability can be.

Heather recommends parents who want to try the potty training boot camp method stay strong and positive. She says you need to be 100% committed to the process, and has personally observed that people who try the method and stray too much had much less success.


Jenna is the mom of three-year-old Ryan. With preschool looming in the coming months, and a new baby brother in the house, it was time to seriously commence potty training. Jenna looked forward to jumping right in, rather than taking a slower months-long method and Ryan was very excited to be the big brother and big boy in the house, and showed all signs of readiness. With friends on hand who had had previous success, and her husband home for three days with her, they began.

The potty training boot camp started out very positive, but it also soon became incredibly challenging. Ryan would miss the bathroom by seconds, and one day had nearly 20 accidents. Carpets, couches, and even a favorite toy, took a hit, and it became too stressful and discouraging for both child and parents.

Jenna said she found the program too rigid for her boy, for whom the boundaries were just “too tight”. She began to make tweaks to the program, choosing vocabulary that worked for Ryan and things that he would better respond to.

After about five days (instead of the three in the program), Ryan had made great strides and was successfully potty trained.

Jenna says the potty training boot camp she chose had great advice, but you have to make these programs work for your child. She recommends not doing it alone, but have a partner or friend home with you too. Tag teaming becomes very helpful. Further, she felt age definitely made a difference for her son. Although at age two Ryan could sign “potty” and showed some signs of readiness, it seems it was the extra year of maturity that made potty training a success for him at age three.


Misty is mom to Hobie, now age three. Misty has tried the boot camp type approach twice. The first was when Hobie was about age two and a half. While Hobie was going naked from the waist down, and could understand the concept of going potty, the boot camp method was a huge struggle for him. Misty could tell he just wasn’t ready and did not continue past Day 2.

The second time she tried the method he was just over age three. At this point Hobie would sit on the potty, but he had very frequent accidents. This time Misty tried for a full week (programs generally promise about three days), and again felt it wasn’t right for him. She returned him to diapers.

But just a few days later, Hobie announced he didn’t want any more diapers. After he agreed to stay clean and dry, it was pretty much smooth sailing. As Misty says, “I guess it had to be his idea…note to self for the future.“


As you can see from these stories, a potty training method can be a flying success for one kid and an epic crash for another. It truly depends on the family dynamic, readiness of the child, and philosophy of the parent. The good news, as always, is they all eventually get it somehow at some time! So choose the method that you know works best for you, and carry on!