Potty Training Before Two (Can it be done?)

Where do you stand on potty training? That’s a question I often ask parents of young babies in my play classes or at a booth in Austin or Cedar Park, TX. Responses range quite a bit but when their baby is young, I generally get a confused look as this isn’t something on their immediate list of baby care responsibilities. My goal is to “plant a seed” to counter the “wait until they are two” or “wait until they are ready” advice they get from many places (magazines, pediatricians, websites, etc.). This advice is backed by much incentive from the disposable diaper industry to get parents to wait until their child is entering that all-important autonomy stage. This is the time when “no!” is often the response to even things children want to do. The diaper industry knows if you wait that long then you will still be buying diapers for your little one for at least another year, often longer. The average age of potty training has moved from 18 months (before disposables) to 37 months today. The diaper industry is alive and doing very well. Don’t get me wrong, diapers are an awesome invention, but they work so well that when it’s time to train, a child often can’t even tell they are wet. That’s good for road trips, not so good when potty training.

Arguing with a toddler is no fun and can make potty training a chore to say the least. But it doesn’t have to be. Simply starting around 12 months puts parents a year ahead of most parents, saves the environment (those little suckers don’t decompose for 100’s of years), and will save you around $2,000 not to mention much less frustration on your part. Most babies naturally show interest in the process around that year mark and if a parent is watching for it, potty training can be done a lot easier at this time (when they still want to please you) than waiting until after two years.

Here’s the poop…..

A child needs three things to be ready for potty training:

  1. Physical Readiness
  • Ability to sense when they need to eliminate
  • Ability to delay elimination long enough to get to the potty
  • Sit independently on a potty chair (preferably child-sized on the floor)

2. Ability to delay elimination long enough to get to the potty

  • Associate the need to eliminate with using the potty
  • Understand simple instructions
  • Signal an adult when they need to go (here’s where Baby Signs comes in…Emotional Readiness (the big one)

     3. Emotional Readiness (the big one)

  • A desire for independence and self-mastery
  • An interest in imitating others
  • A desire for approval

This might be a good time to potty train your toddler while you’re home a little more (okay, a LOT more). If your child meets the first criteria but they are having a little trouble with the third one (emotional readiness – i.e. willingness), the Baby Signs® Program can help. The Potty Training Made Easy Kit teaches five signs to use so your baby can “tell” you when they have to go, etc. It’s a “train” them (Everybody Wants to Get On Board the Potty Train!) that comes with a book for parents, a train whistle, award stickers and the cutest DVD for babies to get them interested and motivated to start training.


  1. A small child-sized potty for them placed in the bathroom near the adult toilet works well to get them imitating the big people in your house. Their feed on the ground helps them feel steady.
  2. If using disposables, place a piece of cotton material between the diaper and child so they can start recognizing that sensation and begin to catch it before it happens.
  3. Positive reinforcement works better than shaming.

Interested in the kit or want to talk more about this or about how to teach your baby to use sign language? Contact the author or see the brochure below with details about the kit: Potty Training Made Easy.

Tina Cavanaugh Baby Signs® by Tina C. www.babysignsbytinac.com babysignsbytinac@gmail.com

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