How to Potty Train and Maintain Your Routine

When you start potty training, you might wonder how to still have your toddler take naps and play independently. This post outlines how. 

Girl sitting on the potty

As many parents begin the potty training process, they come to realize that certain things in the daily routine are quite difficult while potty training.

I think the biggest concern is over independent playtime (room time). The second biggest concern would be nap time.

This post outlines several options for making this potty training process easier on everyone while being able to maintain your routine. This post is in no way exhaustive. By that, I mean that this post has some ideas for you, but there are surely other ideas out there.

These ideas may or may not work for you. Take these ideas and modify them for your family and your situation. These ideas can get your imagination rolling and help you think of a great solution for your child.


Potty training can really mess up sleep. Your cute little toddler might ask to go potty over and over (and over) again during nap time and end up not sleeping at all. She might ask to go potty 20 times after you put her to bed. This can get exhausting for everyone.

A great way to preserve naps or night sleep for your child while potty training is to simply use diapers during nap or bedtime. I did this with my kids when first potty training. You can put your child in diapers or pull-ups for sleeping.

Read: Potty Training Using the “Oh Crap!” Method

A child can be daytime trained before nighttime/sleeping trained. Remember to think of potty training as a learning process, not a learning event–just like learning to walk. It doesn’t all have to happen at once.

As you get your child up and find the diaper clean and dry, you can switch him over to underwear. Brayden moved to underwear during naps within a week of starting potty training (age three), while Kaitlyn took a little over a month. I find the older the child is when potty training, the faster they tend to move out of diapers for sleep.

Kaitlyn sometimes woke from naps clean and dry, sometimes not. She never was consistent and I eventually just decided to give it a go. We had a few days with accidents and then no more accidents!

Another option is to use underwear or training pants in conjunction with the plastic cover like often used in cloth diapering.

Read: How to Stop Your Toddler from Pooping at Nap Time


When you are first potty training, you can take some time off of certain activities in your routine to make things easier.

I did this with Kaitlyn. Our first day of official potty training, we didn’t do independent playtime. We just spent the day together with her by my side (except for sleeping).

At first, I expected her to be able to hold it as long as Brayden. I didn’t consciously have that thought; I just realized after a couple of accidents that I was doing that. So I had her use the potty every thirty minutes. After a couple of days, she was able to hold it longer as she got used to not wearing a diaper.

We did spend the day together again for the next couple of days. After that, she was able to hold it longer and I was more aware of her individual potty needs and the times of day she really needed to use the potty to avoid accidents. We then went back to our normal routine.

How to potty train and maintain a routine


I like to use a small potty chair when potty training although we will also sit on a big potty randomly. I like the small potty chair because:

  1. We can take it with us on road trips/vacations (like camping).
  2. We can haul it around the house with us so the potty is never far away.
  3. The child can get off and on by themselves.

While my child is first learning to use the potty, I like to carry the potty chair with us around the house. I put it on a towel so drips and spills land on that and not the floor (this is a necessity with a boy and a nicety with a girl).

A lot of times when they are first learning, when they realize they need to use the potty, they need it immediately. That is why it is nice to have it close by at all times.

With Brayden, I put the potty chair in independent playtime with him. He would use the potty, then come tell me and we would clean it out. We did this during the initial learning phase, then we graduated to just having him come out to use the potty when needed. This is a great way to maintain independent playtime in your daily schedule while first potty training if your child can handle having the potty in there.

Read: Potty Training and Accidents


I have my children use the potty at regular times of day whether they “need” to or not.

When the child is young and first potty training, I have her go to the potty at regular times. As they get better about recognizing when to go, I cut back on required times. Here are some sample required times.

  1. In the morning (I will note that for us, in the morning is before bath. It is a good idea to have your child go potty before bath no matter what time of day it is at)
  2. After bath
  3. Before independent playtime
  4. After each meal (eating fires up the digestive tract, so it is a normal time to need to use the bathroom)
  5. Before nap (after lunch and before nap is the same time)
  6. After nap
  7. Before bed
  8. Any time we leave the house

As the child gets older, she can recognize the urge to go potty and won’t need to be required to go so often. Even once the child can regulate themselves well, I still have four times of day he must use the potty:

  1. In the morning when first getting up
  2. Before independent playtime
  3. Before rest time or nap time
  4. Before bed

Kids will use the potty at other times of day as needed. I like to have set times so they can avoid emergencies (and avoid accidents) and also to avoid having the child come out of the activity asking to go potty.

You can see that as they get older, I hand more control over to the child. I will ask the child if he needs to use the bathroom before we go somewhere.

We never have had issues with our kids needing to go in the car or in stores. If they were that way, I would require they use the bathroom before we left rather than simply asking. Sometimes they go, sometimes they don’t.

Read: 5 Things To Do Before You Start Potty Training


For Kaitlyn, rather than leaving the potty in the room with her, I left the door open during independent playtime. We had recently moved, so the bathroom was right next to the room where we did independent playtime. In our old house, it was down the hall and around the corner. Since the bathroom was right there, I preferred to leave the potty in the bathroom.

I tried having her come out and tell me when she needed to go while leaving the door closed, but for some reason, with the door closed, she wouldn’t come out (even though she is able to open it just fine). With the door open, she came out, used the bathroom, then told me she had used it.

She was good about staying in the room with the door open, so be sure you have that level of obedience before trying this.

Another option is to use diapers during independent playtime.

What to do about naps when you are potty training pinnable image


Potty training hands a measure of control over to your child. If you want your child to wear underwear during independent playtime, then you have to allow your child the freedom to come out and use the bathroom if needed.

Many children will test the boundaries of this new freedom. Don’t get angry and don’t stress out that all of the previous obedience training in your child’s life to this point is now being washed away. It is totally normal for children to test boundaries. Just patiently help your child learn appropriate use of this new freedom. You will eventually get there.

When Brayden first started wearing underwear for naps, I just expected that he would come out of nap time to use the bathroom if needed. One day I went to wake him up and found he had an accident. He was asleep when I went in and I felt terrible that he had slept in his accident! I talked to him and told him if he needed to use the bathroom during nap, he could come out and use the potty. His eyes literally got big.

He spent several days trying this new privilege out. There were a couple of days he literally came out every 15 minutes to “use the potty.” We worked through it and he was soon using the privilege responsibly.

The level of boundary testing will depend on your child. Brayden was by nature much more of a boundary tester than Kaitlyn, so he really tested it, while Kaitlyn never did.


Potty training has a tendency to stress parents out. Try to just relax and take things as they come. I was much more relaxed about it as I had more kids. Remember your goals and tailor the process to your family’s needs.


18 thoughts on “How to Potty Train and Maintain Your Routine”

  1. Thank you for your post. I am getting ready to begin the process with my little boy. I am excited but somewhat terrified about the process. This has given me some great ideas to start!

  2. What age did you start potty training Kaitlyn? What method did you us? How long did it take her? Did she show all the signs of readiness or some of the signs when you started?

  3. Excellent suggestions! I am nowhere near this stage but have always been puzzled that this is such a source of stress for moms. I appreciate the encouraging advice.

  4. Thanks for the tips! I recently potty-trained my 3 year old this summer and she is still in pullups for naps and night time. Almost everyday during naptime she has a dirty diaper. I think this is just "her time to go" because she will go on the potty if she needs to at another time but because of her daily routine I am hesitant to leave panties on. What would you suggest? Thanks for your wonderful blog!

  5. Read children's story books about potty training to your child. There are lots of books available for you get online on potty training. Reading and imagination helps the child to relate to the interesting characters and behaviors within the story and helps them follow accordingly. Offer lots of praise when your child does make some progress. It is not an easy practice but this will help you see results amazingly when you really put in the effort to make your child proud of their achievement. Avoid physical punishment for not using the potty. Stop all reminders about using the toilet. Replace the reminders with the potty training stories you’ve read to your child. This helps as their mind recalls the story and how will keep it in mind when its time.source:

  6. Celestevy, it is a long story. I started in a way when she was 18/19 months old. She did really well. When I had McKenna, however, Kaitlyn was not able to pull pants off/on by herself and get off/on the potty herself, so I put her back in diapers. I didn't want to deal with messes due to nursing, and I needed to be able to not worry about it. Then things got out of newborn stage and we put our house on the market and moved…we went back to it at almost 2.5. She was super fast since she already knew what she was doing. When we started a year ago, she didn't show all signs. She just really wanted to. They don't need to show all signs, but most.

  7. Hillary Kouba, I have a post titled: Pooping on the Potty with tips. My guess is she doesn't want/like/know how to poop on the potty and is just waiting for nap time. If any of that is the case, you might go for some nice rewards to get her going.

  8. Sorry, celestevy, I just saw I missed part of your question. I basically used the method from Pottywise…but not exactly. We weren't formal with Kaitlyn. She just wanted to so we did. With Brayden, he probably would have happily stayed in diapers for many more year 🙂 so we were quite formal and followed pottywise pretty closely.

  9. Thank you for your blog, Val!Always very useful for me especially now that I have a new baby boy almost a month old and a 19 months old girl. Maybe you can help me out with her potty training. I have her go on the potty after meals and before bed. She used to be very good both about pooping and peeing on the potty when I put her on it but she has recently started being very restless when sitting on the potty, she wants to do things and be entertained: have me read her a book or watch a DVD, otherwise she just gets up and walks away or won´t sit on the potty at all. This began even before the baby was born. Should I stop putting her on the potty until she asks for it? Thank you for your thoughts.

  10. I have a 21 month old girl who has initiated potty training on her own. I held off for a while because I just had a baby 8 weeks ago, but lately she has been telling us she needs to go and going when we put her on the potty. So, I figured let's just let her do it. She is doing great, but my problem is at nap time she will say she needs to go "pee pee potty" so when I bring her she just sits in there and plays and does not do anything. I have been super chill about the whole potty training thing, but for some reason this is just frustrating me to no end. WHen I tell her all finished and say "good job for trying" or whatever, and then try to pull her pull up back on she has a huge tantrum because she does not want to go back to bed. She has been a great sleeper so I do eventually get a nap out of her, but not after several big fights and a very frustrated mama that has unfortunately been having a hard time not letting that frustration show. I know this is a boundary test and I am happy to let her come use the bathroom during her nap, but I am not happy to just let her sit on the potty and play with the door or the towel rack or her pull up or whatever. Do you have any suggestions for how to allow her the freedom to use the bathroom and get my help in using it, but not allowing her to avoid her nap by saying she has to use the bathroom?Also, just an FYI, I have tried 2-3 times now to just put potty training on hold and keep her in diapers. She truly is ready, she will hold it and hold it until she gets cranky from holding it. She also will tell us she needs to go so we can't really say just go in your diaper. She is almost 100% pee trained for wake time hours, but she is not poop trained. I think part of the issue is that she needs to poop during her nap, but can't get it out when we try to bring her to the bathroom.

  11. Jana, Well, if it were me, I would probably just back off at that age. However, I am sure you could ask other people and they would say to keep trying.But when I think about having a newborn, it just doesn't seem worth the conflict at that point. If you want to keep the potty routine, you could have her sit and not stress about weather or not she goes. I would be careful about creating a bad relationship with the potty.Go with your gut on this on what you think would be best for her. Good luck!

  12. Piper, I agree with your conclusions on her reasons for needing to go potty during nap but not able to.This is what I did with Kaitlyn under the same situation. I told her that for the time, she would wear diapers for nap and bed–for all sleeping. So I had her go potty right before nap and right after nap, but she wore a diaper during nap. I don't know if that would work for her, but at that age, that is what I would do (and did).Kaitlyn now has a little potty chair in her room during nap. Then she can get up and go potty if needed and she can call me when she is done. I don't know if a 21 month old is old enough for that, though. You would hav to make that call based on her ability for getting panties down on her own and such.

  13. Piper and Plowmanators,I am having the same trouble with nap time and potty training. Just the other day I told someone how great it is to lay my daughter down and walk out the door for naps. The last two days, I have eaten my words. We started potty training 4 or 5 days ago and I think she is scared to have an accident. (She is 26 1/2 months.) I put her in a pull up for naps and bed. Today she told me she had to poop and then pee. Well she did poop but no pee. I grew extremely frustrated which led to a crying child and an hour behind nap schedule. I ended up having to lay down with her for her to fall asleep. I do not want to get into this habit. What do I do to stop it and control it? Piper, what ended up working for you?

  14. Jenny, one thing is to make sure you start the potty process with plenty of time before nap. Not 10 minutes before…more like 30 🙂 Or more. And work to figure out what is best for her (looking at books, holding a toy, being alone, etc.)Like I said above, I would consider the diaper during nap.


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