From Baby to Big Kid: How To Transition Your Child Out of Diaper


One of the biggest milestones in the life of a toddler is transitioning from diapers to underwear. If you're the parent of a child who's on the brink of making that big change, you're likely looking forward to freedom from the work and expense of constant diaper changes but also a little anxious about how the whole process will go. Fortunately, there are tips you can use to ensure this potentially stressful time is a positive experience for both you and your child.

Select the Right Time

Every child is unique, so there is no one-size-fits-all timeline for when potty training should begin. As a general guideline, most experts agree that if a child is around two years old and exhibiting certain behaviors, it is appropriate to begin the process. The behaviors you should look for are an awareness of and ability to communicate when diapers are wet, waking up with a dry diaper after a nap, and the physical dexterity needed to pull pants up and down unassisted.

Don't Look Back

When the time is right for you and your child, go for it with confidence. Yes, there will be accidents and messes and maybe some tears, but the important thing is to keep moving forward. Don't undermine the process by putting diapers back on when the going gets tough. Make sure you're prepared by selecting a week when your schedule is relatively light and stress-free. Think through how you will clean up the inevitable accidents in a way that doesn't shame your toddler. Be proactive by researching how to get pee out of a mattress ahead of time so that when it happens you can treat it like no big deal.

Follow the Steps

There are many different methods parents have used over the generations to transition children out of diapers, but here is one that has been successful for many. Once you've selected your target week, arrange your schedule so that you can be home for three to five days with no need to leave the house. Rearrange your home by rolling up rugs, if possible, or making certain rooms inaccessible.

Ideally, you should have a portable potty on hand, as many young children are afraid of falling into the large toilet. Buy or borrow some fun books about potty time, along with special hand soap for use after each trip to the potty. For children motivated by stickers, consider creating a potty chart where they can proudly post a sticker each time they're successful.

Once your preparations are in place, let it rip! Keep children undressed from the waist down, introduce them to the potty, and let them know you expect that they will use it. Offer genuine praise when they're successful and stay calm when accidents happen. Never demonstrate frustration with the process but instead offer reassurance that you know they can do this.

After a few days of naked-from-the-waist-down, it's time to cover up. You may purchase some underwear printed with a favorite cartoon character so children are excited to wear them. Have your child practice pulling them up and down a few times to make sure they're the right size. Then continue with your praise and reassurance as before.

Adjust as Needed

If you have a child with special needs, you'll need to customize the plan to match their skills. You can consult a guide to toilet training for children with autism if your child is on the spectrum. You may also need to consider a different approach if your child has been through big changes like a new sibling or the loss of a pet recently, as emotional experiences like these can cause a child to regress temporarily.

Perhaps the most important aspect of potty training your child is perspective. It may seem like it's one step forward, two steps back, but eventually, you will get to the end of the journey. You will not be sending your child off to college in diapers, so take a deep breath and slow down. Your baby is becoming a big kid, and that is something to celebrate.