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Bath & Potty Time

16 Potty Training Hacks from Parents Who've Been There

Want to know what really works when it comes to potty training? Ask a parent who's done it. (Hint: have you tried earphones?)

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Potty training is one of those parenting milestones that's kind of daunting while you're in the middle of it and then when it's over, doesn't seem so bad. And while the expert how-tos are a huge help, it's the insider tips from other parents that can be the real game-changer.

"Our youngest daughter liked pushing down the handle when she was done, but the flushing sound scared her to bits. So we kept an old pair of earphones in the bathroom; that way, she could flush without the terrifying noise."-Lisa, California

"To help our son get his aim down, we put Cheerios and Froot Loops in the potty and told him to try to hit them. It makes a fun game!"-Ashley, Michigan 

"We have twin girls and always took a portable potty in the car. They used it everywhere-side of the road, parking lots, sporting events. It really helped to always have access when they needed to go."-Mindy, Ohio 

"Bribery was a great motivation: We kept a piggy bank in the bathroom, and gave one penny for each pee, two for each poop. Once our daughter was officially potty trained, she got to use the money she had earned on fun rides at the mall."-Patricia, California

"We used potty steps to make it easier for our daughter to get to the seat. She was so excited that she could use the grown-up potty without help. It totally empowered her."-Amanda, Illinois

"We tried everything with our son-aiming for Cheerios in the potty, stickers, candy. The only thing that worked was the promise of a big boy bed! We had just moved his older sister to the top bunk of a bunk bed, and the lower bunk was waiting for him. So he stayed in the crib until he was consistently wearing underpants and not having any accidents. After about a month, we finally took the crib out of their room. No accidents since!"-Stacey, New York

"Our son had peeing down pat; number 2 was more trouble. Our pediatrician recommended electronic "poop time" on the potty to get him more comfortable; he gets five minutes with the tablet as he sits there and works his poop out. He doesn't normally get a ton of screen time, so this is a treat. Plus, I think it gets his mind off of what's happening down below, so his body is more relaxed."-Jodi, Colorado 

"We turned our kids backwards on the potty and let them use dry-erase markers on the underside of the toilet lids to keep them occupied. You just need to be sure your toilet seat is compatible with these markers, so you don't end up with a permanent piece of art!"-Katie, Michigan 

"Squirt a few drops of blue food coloring in the potty; they'll love making it turn green. Dish soap is fun, too; it bubbles when the kids go."-Narmin Parpia of Potty Training Concepts

"Our son used to always say, 'I don't need to go,' so we started talking about his bladder being like a cup: 'When we remind you to go, your cup may only be half-full. But you want to empty it well before the tippy-top so we don't have accidents.' The cup visual really seemed to help.'"-Stephanie, Illinois 


"Having twins, I decided to direct my efforts more towards the child that seemed to have the hang of it instead of trying to train both at once. It was way easier this way. After using the potty, we would call in the less interested twin to help us wave 'bye-bye' to our flushable friend(s). But one at a time was the way to go for us."-Margie, New York

"We used a sticker chart and after ten or so successful trips/stickers, our kids got to pick out of a grab bag of small toys."-Sarah, California 

"When potty training our son, we often had him wear water shoes without socks instead of tennis shoes. That way, if he had an accident, we could just rinse and dry the shoes for easy clean up."-Jen Panaro, blogger at Honestly Modern 

"I made a potty game board where every time she used the potty, she moved forward a space on the game board. Every five to seven spots or so was a special box that said "PRIZE!" or "M&Ms!" or something fun like that."-Debbie, Illinois

"Watching a potty training-related TV show seemed to get our son excited about trying. Watch the show with your little one so you can sing the songs, too!"-Kate, Florida

"We can't take credit for nighttime training our daughters. With the first one, we accidentally forgot to put pull-ups on her one night and she was dry in the morning. So we tried that with the next one a few years later, and it worked for her, too! I guess they both were ready."-Alix, North Carolina