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How to (Gradually) Potty Train Your One Year Old

Have you had it with dirty diapers? Do you think your one year old may be showing signs that she’s ready to start potty training? 

There’s no magical age of when you should start to potty train, but there are many children that are developmentally ready by 18 to 24 months of age. Sometimes even earlier. 

Some cultures even begin to introduce the potty as young as 3 months old! 

But, how do you go about potty training by the age of 1? Is it really even possible? 

In this post, we’ll talk about potty training readiness signs to see if your child is ready to say goodbye to diapers and cover the pros and cons of early potty training. Then, I’ll tell you the exact steps of how we potty trained our daughter by 17 months of age (and starting to train baby #2) and give you all my best tips and tricks on early potty training. 

*This post contains affiliate links. See my full disclosure here

Signs Your Baby is Ready to Potty Train

The method used in this post introduces the potty very early on, however, things will really start to pick up once your child begins to show these signs of readiness.

Now, not every child will show every sign, so you’ll just have to use your best judgement (and maybe some trial and error) on whether your one year old is really ready for full speed potty training (source). 

  • Can walk/run: Your child needs full mobility in order to get to the potty by themselves. 
  • Able to sit still for 2-5 minutes: A toddler that can’t focus for more than a minute is going to have a hard time sitting and waiting on the potty.  
  • Interested in using the potty and/or their waste: Does your toddler get excited when she gets to sit on the potty or is she super curious about her urine or poop? If so, she might be ready to potty train soon. 
  • Intrigued by other people’s bathroom habits: Does your one year old love watching you or his older sister go potty? Does he ask you questions about your bathroom habits? 
  • Urinates a fair amount at one time: Your one year old may not physically be ready to potty train if their bladder isn’t large enough to hold a fair amount of urine at a time. If you start noticing some dry diapers between 2 hour changes, and then others soaked, then their body may be ready before you know it.  
  • Being dry after sleeping: Again, if their bladder is developed enough to hold in urine during 2-3 hour naps, then they might be able to start training. This is also a great time to start picking things up a bit, because you can take them potty right after they nap and they’ll most likely be able to see success. 
  • Understanding potty-related words: Does your child know what you’re talking about when you say “potty,” or “pee,” or “poop.” Are they able to follow simple commands? I know my one year old completely understands potty-terms, because when I ask his older sister if she needs to go potty, he starts running to the bathroom door and bangs on it. Then of course, he has to have a turn on the potty as well. 🙂 
  • Takes off their dirty diapers: You’ll have much better luck once your child starts to hate the feel of a wet/dirty diaper. Once my little girl started taking off her diapers and getting poop everywhere (barf), I knew it was time to take potty training up a notch. Being pregnant also gave me extra motivation, as my stomach couldn’t bare to clean up more poop. 
  • Can communicate that they need to go: Communication is key when it comes to potty training success. Your one year old should be able to sign or verbally tell you that they’re going or need to go. Grunts, squatting, or going to a secluded area of the house when going number 2 are some of the first steps to potty communication.  
  • Recognizes success: Your child should be able to recognize and take pride in their accomplishments. They should feel good about themselves when peeing or pooping in the big potty. 

Early Potty Training Pros and Cons

There’s no perfect time or way to potty train your child. Especially, because every kid is different, and what works for one, may not work for another. 

There are some benefits to potty training by the age of 1 though. And, there’s also some not-so-fun aspects about it as well: 

Pros

  • No more diapers!:  I mean, who really enjoys changing dirty diapers numerous times a day? I was done with diapers when I was expecting baby #2. My stomach couldn’t handle it and my toddler was ready, so we ditched them asap! Not having to rinse and wash our cloth diapers anymore was also a big incentive for me. 
  • Saves you money: The less diapers you have to buy, means more money in your pockets. Cha-ching! $ 
  • More cooperative: Potty training can be more difficult when you have a 2 or 3 year old because they want to do everything on their terms. One year olds are typically more eager to please and get super excited about what mommy, daddy, and big sis are doing. 
  • Less urinary issues: There’s some disagreement among experts on the pros and cons of early and late potty training, but some studies have shown that children trained after 32 months of age typically have more issues with incontinence, bedwetting, and recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs) than their peers (source). 

Cons

  • More accidents while training: No matter what age you train, there will be some accidents and regressions along the way. However, many moms claim that late potty trainers just decide that they’re done with diapers one day, and a flip switches. Leaving them with far less accidents to clean up during training. But, remember, waiting until after 32 months of age could leave your child with more urinary issues longterm.  
  • Requires more help from you: One year olds are going to need more help getting on/off the potty and getting their pants on and off than an older toddler. However, when my little girl was about 20 months old, she would strip down and climb up on the big potty all by herself. Often times, without even telling anyone she would need to go. She did need help getting her clothes back on of course.  
  • Takes patience: Potty training, just like most aspects of parenting, takes a lot of patience. It’s not going to happen overnight with this gradual, early approach, but I can assure you that it will be an adventure! 

How to Potty Train Your 1 Year Old

Follow the steps and tips listed below to get your child potty trained by the time they’re 1. 

How to Get Started

1. Start early: If you want to gradually potty train your one year old, then it’s best to introduce the potty as early as possible. I’m talking about before they can even walk. 

Start by sitting them on the potty just once or twice a day as soon as they are sitting up comfortably by themselves. This is just for them to get used to the potty, so it won’t be this “scary new thing.” 

We started sitting our first baby on the potty around 8 months of age, and our second around 10 months old. 

2. Take them when you know they’ll go: Once they get comfortable with sitting on the potty, then go ahead and start sitting them on it when they’re more likely to go. For example, first thing in the morning or right after they wake up from a nap. 

3. Use the potty sign: Every time you sit your baby or pre-verbal toddler on the potty, be sure to sign “potty.” Sign it again when they pee or poop, and say “Yay! You went potty!”

To do this, put your thumb between your middle and index finger and clench a fist. Then, move your hand from side-to-side as you say “potty.” 

It may be a good idea to do this when you catch them in the act of pottying in their diaper as well, so they start to make the connection of what they’re supposed to do on the toilet.

4. Celebrate every win: If they do go pee or poop in the potty, be sure to make a huge deal out of it. Clap, say “Yay!,” “Great job!,” or “You did it!” and just get excited. You could even give out a sticker as a reward if you know your toddler won’t eat it. 

5. Watch for potty signs: Keep doing the steps above until you see some more potty-readiness signs. Once your one year old starts taking off their dirty diapers, gets excited about sitting on the potty, or going to a secluded area of the house to poop, then start picking things up a bit.

6. Take them every hour: After your toddler has shown you more signs that their ready to train, then start sitting them on the potty AT LEAST every hour. It may help to set a timer, so you don’t forget. 

You’ll also want to take your little potty before you leave the house (or wherever you’re at) and right when you get to your destination. 

7. Try the naked method: It may help to pick things up a bit by letting your one year old roam the house naked for a few days. This way you can quickly scoop them up and head on over to the potty when they start to go. Many toddlers are also just more inclined not to go all willy-nilly when they’re pantsless. 

Once my one year old started taking her diaper off just to pee on the floor right after, we started to go the naked route for a bit. And my, did it help! 

8. Stick with it: The downside to potty training early is that it’s probably not going to happen overnight. This is a gradual approach to slowly get your toddler comfortable with peeing and potty in the potty. It will take time, patience, and some cleaning up. Just keep offering the potty every single day.

Tips for Early Potty Training

1. Don’t force it: If your child has no interest in the potty or doesn’t want to sit on it, don’t force it. Just take them off, let them play, and try again later. You don’t want this to be a negative experience for them. 

And, if your one year old still isn’t showing signs of being ready to go full speed with potty training, then just go with the flow. Just keep offering the potty once or twice a day to keep them comfortable with it, and keep talking and reading about it. They’ll be physically and emotionally ready when it’s their time

2. Forget about Pull-Ups: I think part of the reason we had such great success with early potty training is because we used cloth diapers and cloth trainers. My little girl could actually feel when she was wet, and that’s probably why she started taking her diaper off to pee. Because she didn’t want to sit in a wet diaper. 

But with disposables, there’s ingredients that keep them feeling dry, making them less inclined to care about the potty. 

3. Take them undie shopping: Get your little girl or boy excited about potty training by taking them to pick out their own undies or trainers. There’s so many fun options to choose from these days.

From Finding Nemo, to Paw Patrol, to Choo Choo trains; I’m sure you’ll be able to find something your one year old loves. You can even find some pretty fun trainers over at Nicki’s Diapers

4. Provide entertainment: Have books and toys in a basket nearby to help keep your little entertained while they’re on the potty. Sometimes it may take a little while for things to get moving, or you could even use them as little rewards. 

5. Line your car seat: Protect your car seat from accidents with absorbent prefolds or doggy training pads. That way you won’t have to wash your car seat if your child does happen to pee in it. Because, let’s face it, washing car seats is a pain. 

6. Keep a potty in the car: There will be times when you go to places that either don’t have a bathroom or the bathroom is simply just disgusting. For these times, I like to have a potty handy in the back of my SUV. 

It’s nothing too fancy. It’s just a potty like this one, but it really comes in handy for when we go on hikes or when the parks’ bathrooms aren’t open for the season. 

7. Don’t make a big deal out of accidents: Never scold, criticize, or get angry with your child for having an accident. Just brush it off as no big deal.

Simply say “Accidents happen. Maybe we’ll get there next time.” and move on. Again, you want this to be a positive experience

8. Always pack a spare outfit: When you start ditching the diapers and switching over to undies, it’s a good idea to always have a spare outfit in the diaper bag and maybe even another spare in the car. 

9. Prepare for regressions: No matter when you potty train, there will probably be some major events happening along the way. A family vacation, a move, or the birth of a new sibling could trigger a set back in your potty training game. 

Take this lightly, and give your little one time to adjust. They’ll likely bounce back after a few days to a week. 

10. Stay positive and patient: Potty training isn’t going to happen overnight for most kids. Especially, when you’re taking this gradual early approach. Remember that every child is different, and they’ll shine when it’s their time. Just be as patient and positive as possible and keep potty training fun. 

Best Products for Early Potty Training

Here are all of my favorite products that helped us succeed with potty training our one year old. 

Best Training Seat

Our bathroom (and only bathroom) is tiny, so we opted for a training seat rather than a potty chair. However, our potty chair that we keep in the car did come in the house for a few days when training was really starting to pick up. 

I really like this seat for early training, because it has so much support for infants and young toddlers. There’s a cushioned seat, a backrest, and handles your child can hold on to to make them feel secure. The splash guard has also been key for our little man. 

It fits most toilets, but it doesn’t come with a handle to conveniently hang on your toilet tank, so you’ll have to buy one separately if you choose to do so. 

Best Travel Potty Seat

Having a portable potty seat was essential for going out and about with a potty training toddler. It’s the perfect solution for little ones that are terrified of public toilets.

This portable seat folds right up, so it can fit nicely inside your diaper bag. It even comes with a convenient carrying bag. I would probably keep some disinfecting wipes on hand, so you can wipe it down after each use. 

It also has non-slip silicone pads to help keep it in place and prevent your little’s tushie from falling in.

However, it’s not the most sturdy, and it doesn’t fit well on some public toilets, but it gets the job done and has certainly been a lifesaver for us. 

Best Potty Chair

If your one year old prefers a potty chair over the potty seat, then just go with it. These are also nice to have if your toddler likes to “go” when you’re “going”. 

And, as far as potty chairs go, the Ikea Children’s Potty gets all the rave. It’s just one piece, making it easy to clean and transport. And, the price is on point, so you can buy one for each bathroom. Plus, it’s BPA-free. 

This chair is rather small compared to others on the market, but it’s size actually sets your toddler up for the perfect squatting position to help prevent constipation. It also makes it great for traveling. 

We actually started out with a different potty chair at first, but it was large and my little girl was constantly pulling the insert out. With this chair, there’s no temptation or possibility for all that mess. #momwin

Best Toddler Training Pants

Help absorb some of those accidents with cloth training pants. Unlike with disposables, your toddler will still be able to feel when they’re wet, helping to deter them from peeing in their pants again. 

Nicki’s Diapers Trainers come in fun prints and look just like big kid underwear. The sides are nice and stretchy, so they’re easy to get on and off. 

However, they do run small, so you may need to go one size up for your toddler. 

Our favorite prints are their silhouette series, which includes “Into the Woods,” “Northern Lights,” “Safari Sunset,” and “Underwater World.” 

On Your Way to Diaper-Free

Babies sure are cute, but changing dirty diapers gets old fast. Say goodbye to diapers early with this gradual potty training method. 

Start by introducing the potty super early, so they’re comfortable with it and know what they’re supposed to do when the time comes. Once, they start showing more signs of readiness, then start to go gung-ho with it. Be sure to take them at least every hour, before you leave the house, and once you get to your destination. And, remember to keep it positive, upbeat, and lots of fun. 

Your one year old may be potty trained before you know it! 

Did You Find This Post Helpful?

Did these tips and tricks help you potty train your one year old? Share your best potty training advice in the comments below, and be sure to share this post with all your new mama friends. 

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6 Comments

  1. Karen on June 29, 2019 at 11:21 am

    Just curious are you a stay at home mom? This may work for a child who is home with mom but what about one in a childcare situation or preschool?

    • Nicolle on June 29, 2019 at 12:04 pm

      Thank you for bringing that up Karen. I am a stay-at-home mom and that can certainly make potty training less challenging sometimes. Daycare can make things tricky, but some in-home daycares may work with your wishes. If my children were in daycare I would probably still introduce the potty early by sitting them on it once or twice a day (right when they woke up and right after dinner), and then once they started showing more signs of potty training readiness I would try a two or three day method over a weekend.

  2. Waleeja on June 28, 2019 at 11:32 pm

    Great ideas! I’m gonna start my princess potty training soon then.. She’s 7.5 months now..

    • Nicolle on June 29, 2019 at 10:01 am

      Thanks Waleeja! That’s awesome. Good for you! I really think it helps to get them comfortable with the potty super early on. They’re not afraid when it comes time to pick things up a notch and they’re so excited about everything when they’re one. I wish you the best of luck in your potty training journey!

  3. Lisa | Yourmomvillage.com on June 27, 2019 at 8:20 am

    Love the ideas! I am going on my 3 rd child here and since each child is different I look for tools. Sad to say she will be my last go around. So soaking up those baby toddler cuddles but I am so over diapers too.

    • Messy Mom Nicolle on June 27, 2019 at 9:31 am

      Thank you Lisa! Yes, it’s so important to remember that every child is different and has different needs. Oh man, definitely soak in all those baby and toddler snuggles! Wishing you the best of luck in your potty training journey with kiddo #3.

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