If you’re not careful, attempting to potty train 2 and 3 year olds can easily end up in tears, for all parties involved! Frustration typically comes when a child is made to do something over and over (like sit on the potty every 10-20 minutes).
Despite the fact that many popular potty training resources advocate that parents set potty reminders every 15 to 20 minutes to have their little ones try to use the potty, this method typically backfires after a while, leaving them, and you pretty frustrated.
So what’s the solution to this? Typically toddlers don’t inform us of their bathroom needs until they’ve been potty training for some time, so relying on them to tell us isn’t going to work either. What does tend to work well is having a potty training schedule or routine.
Toddlers love routines and predictability; in fact they tend to thrive on schedules. Ready to potty train your toddler without the frustration? Here’s how to create the perfect potty training schedule for your 2 and 3 year old.
Potty training schedule for a 2 and 3 year old
Developmentally speaking, by age 2 your toddler should be able to hold their urine for a brief period of time. In fact you may have noticed your 2 year old wakes up from a nap with a dry diaper, which is why 2 is a great age to start potty training.
While no toddler likes to be told what to do, (hello terrible twos!) I find that young 2 year olds are more okay with gentle reminders than toddlers who are 3 or are close to turning 3.
To avoid resistance reminder which comes after repeated reminders that come too frequently, a potty training schedule or routine is a better solution.
Here’s a sample potty training schedule that you can tweak depending on your toddler’s bladder habits. Adjust this schedule as you notice patterns, but if it’s been more than 2 hours, it’s a good idea to get them on the potty.
Sample potty training schedule
- 7:00 am wake up and potty
- 8-8:30 am finish breakfast and potty
- 10:15 am potty before or after snack time
- 12:00 pm potty before or after lunch time
- 1:30-2 pm potty before quiet/nap time
- 3:30 pm potty after nap time
- 5:15 pm potty before or after dinner
- 6:30 pm potty before bath
- 7:30 pm potty right before bed
Beyond after wake up, before bed or nap time, and after or before meals (depending on how long your toddler can hold it) it makes sense to have your toddler try to use the potty before outings or playing outside.
I always suggest this potty training schedule be followed from day 1, rather than just constantly hovering over your toddler and insisting they go potty every 10 minutes those first few days. Yes, there will be accidents, but trust me, there will be accidents no matter which method you choose. Better not to annoy your toddler to the point of resistance.
Why a potty training schedule or routine works better than the kitchen timer method
At this age, getting “buy in” from your toddler is extremely important at getting them to go along with new or scary things, like learning to use the potty for the first time.
If a toddler experiences deep frustration those first few days when learning how to use the potty, it may be weeks or months before their resistant behavior subsides, and they’ll express this by accidents that could have been avoided and/or refusal to sit on the potty.
Constant reminders to use the bathroom typically create an on-going power struggle and usually the only way out of it is to let the toddler take the reins. For a toddler who is especially resistant, you may find you have to forget all reminders and simply model behavior by simply announcing to your toddler that since you’ve just finished your lunch you need to now use the restroom, etc. They love doing what you’re doing and before long, it’s likely to be their idea to use the potty during routine times.
If modeling doesn’t seem to kick your toddler’s reminder resistance you may need to brainstorm an incentive. Typically incentives work better when they are time-limited, rather than just another toy. Perhaps at the end of a good day they could watch a show for 30 minutes or go on a wagon ride or run through the sprinkler. You’ll have to involve your child in this process to make the reward worth their while.
Need more resources to help potty train your toddler? Read more about how to potty train a toddler here.