Did you know it’s possible to potty train your toddler over a long weekend? Get the facts on the three-day potty training method, with tips for easing the transition from diapers to toilets.

By Nicole Harris
Updated September 17, 2020
Toddler on potty
Credit: Shutterstock

Every parent wants to move past the diaper phase as soon as humanly possible. Thankfully, transitioning to the toilet doesn’t need to be a drawn-out process, thanks to a method known as three-day potty training. “Toilet training takes a weekend. You just have to pick the right weekend,” says Ari Brown, M.D., a Parents advisor and co-author of Baby 411: Clear Answers & Smart Advice For Your Baby's First Year. Keep reading to learn how to potty train in three days, with tips for making the method work for your family.

Is Your Child Ready for Potty Training?

On average, healthy kids will start potty training between 18 and 30 months. How do you know if your little one is ready to ditch the diapers? Look out for the following signs.

Body awareness. Your child senses the urge to have a bowel movement and often hides behind the couch or waits until they’re alone to do their business.

A desire for cleanliness. Your child dislikes sitting in a wet or soiled diaper, and they might alert you when they need a diaper change.

Muscle mastery. They can walk to the bathroom independently, pull down their pants, and sit on the potty unassisted.

Once your child shows these signs, you can begin the three-day potty training method, says Dr. Brown.

3-Day Potty Training: How It Works

Parents can choose any three days for this potty training method. However, since it requires lots of time and effort, moms and dads usually prefer doing it on the weekend. (Bonus points if it’s a three-day weekend!) Prepare to spend most of the time at home.

To begin this so-called “potty training boot camp,” all you really need is easy access to the toilet. If your child is intimidated by the potty, you can use a kid-sized toilet-seat insert or a stand-alone potty chair instead. 

Follow this step-by-step guide to potty train your boy or girl in three days. 

Step One

Put those diapers aside! Some parents and experts recommend that your child stay naked—or at least without bottoms—during the three-day potty training method. That's because underwear might feel similar to diapers, which could lead to accidents. It's also easier to place your child on the toilet ASAP if they're already naked on the bottom.

Other parents use pants with elastic waistbands, dresses, or training pants (reusable, specially designed cotton underpants with extra layers of fabric between the legs.) Decide what option will work best for your child.

Step 2

Give your child slightly more fluids than normal, in the form of water, juice, popsicles, watermelon, etc. They’ll have to use the bathroom often, which helps them practice potty training.

Step 3

Coax your child to listen to their body, and sit on the toilet when they know that pee or poop is coming, says Dr. Brown. You'll probably have to watch your child for signs they need to use the restroom; take them to the potty immediately upon recognizing them. Also bring them to the toilet as soon as they start peeing or pooping.

Step 4

Direct your child to the bathroom first thing in the morning, before and after naps, after meals, before bedtime, and every two hours if they don’t already do it themselves. Also ask your child if they need to pee or poop regularly. 

Step 5

Consider whether you want to use diapers for naps and bedtime; the decision is up to you. If you choose to use them, have your child go potty before putting them on at night and taking them off in the morning.

Step 6

Don't punish your child for accidents because they will happen. Praise success when they use the bathroom correctly; you might also consider setting up a reward system.

Keep up these steps for the remainder of the three-day period. If your child is doing well, you might schedule a few short outings, such as walks or trips to the grocery store. 

Determining the Success of 3-Day Potty Training

If your child still leaves puddles on the floor at the end of the three-day period, or if they couldn't care less about having numerous accidents in their training pants, they aren’t ready for potty training. Go back to diapers and try again another weekend, recommends Dr. Brown.

If they wear training pants for the weekend and regret having an accident or two, mission accomplished! Your child can wear training pants every day and graduate to big-kid underwear once they regularly use the potty.

For more information, check out 3 Day Potty Training by Lora Jensen. 

Parents Magazine

Comments (3)

December 30, 2019
We took our just turned 3 y/o grandson to our lake cabin for PTBC! We followed the guidance of blogs and outlines knowing it was time and a new sibling 5 months ago delayed the process. We have no memory of potty training our 4 Kids so parents...relax. That said we took the process seriously and took away the seriously tall stack of pamper. Game on. Day one we were optimists with repeated disappointments. Lots of sitting cheering and encouraging with few results though no mention of diapers and no turning back. Day two a bit better and we were all getting the hang of this mantra “listen to your body and say when you need to potty” ( we made it into a rap, a poem, a dance, a cheer, a Prayer...) and each success (3 on day 2 out of a dozen or so visits) was met with the enthusiasm usually reserved for a touchdown. Slightly concerned by mid Day we returned to the bloggeshphere where moms and dads wrote of the bang your head against the wall moment when it feels like kid is winning and adults are fools. Hang on! We did and night 2 our underwaring boy was dry all Night and easily used the potty the next morning. Only one accident day 3! And then day 4: handoff to parents. We drove 3 hours to meet them and had to stop at a northwoodsy gas station rest room for his first ever road trip potty break. We were nervous wrecks. Off he went with my husband sporting his paw patrol seat liner on his arm - proud and mighty he marched passed the moose head and deer antlers mounted on the gas station wall. He had business to take care of and boom...he did. That was two days ago and no accidents and many successful potty trips later we are believers. Thinking of going pro. It’s not rocket science. If kid is ready, clear your calendar, lock the doors, stack up on overpriced training pants (made a huge difference) and don’t give in. Be patient, persistent and do what it takes. Incentives and stickers and prizes? Sure! You will be exhausted and over invested and wonder if this is the right thing. And then the kid pees in the potty and you are happy dancing like a maniac. Woohoo. Just be there and stay in the process as intense as it can get. You will Likely forget what happened anyway.
March 19, 2019
I potty trained my boy using this excellent method I found here
December 3, 2018
It was very difficult to potty train our kids but that all changed when we found Can really recommend it!