Children’s Corner: Potty Training Books From Diapers to Success, Age 2 to Age 3

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It was last November that my son, Raisin, then aged 2 years and 1 month,  started showing an interest in being toilet trained. At a few times in the past year he has had days of “underwear only” with moderate success. Well, just before his third birthday, which was last week, Raisin went from the “training” to “trained.” I know because when he tells me he doesn’t need to go potty, I believe him! He even leaves the house for errands without an extra change of clothes most days! This step of parenting is very exciting for me.

But I am not a parenting expert; I am a reader. I can’t really answer the hows of toilet training, and I insist that my son took the steps he was ready to take. It was, essentially, a year-long process, with lots of M&Ms, stickers, and smiley faces on charts by the end. What I can tell you about is the number of books we’ve read on the subject over the past year. Here’s a rundown of most of them.

For a convenient one-page listing of these books (and the movie), download this file (pdf):

[download id=”1″]

If you are not in this stage of parenting, I understand. I’ll be back tomorrow with a post that does not mention pee or poop.

General Encouragement

Most potty books are encouraging of the process, with illustrations of eventual success.

Mo Willems’ Time to Pee! is narrated by a chorus of encouraging mice holding banners. The story tells of how it’s important to stop playing when it’s time to pee, and everyone needs to go pee at some point. My son’s favorite part is the countdown: “One…Two…Three…Pee!!!” I like that it focuses only on the toilet and not on a potty chair, although if there is a fault it is that he mentions boys stand up to go pee: personally, I don’t want my toddler attempting that at this point, and this is definitely a book for toddlers.  Nonetheless, Time to Pee! has been a favorite book to reread over the past year.

One of my personal favorite general encouraging books was No More Diapers for Ducky by Bernadette Ford, illustrated by Same Williams. Ducky, who wears diapers, wants to play with his friend Piggy, but Piggy is busy sitting on the potty. By the end, Ducky has decided her diaper is cold and wet, so she kicks it off! By the end, she is too busy to play with Piggy because she’s sitting on the potty. Raisin and I read this over and over again long before he was interested in sitting on the toilet himself. Bernadette Ford has other books for kids in various learning stages: No More Pacifier for Piggy and No More Bottles for Bunny are two of them.

A board book with bright simple illustrations and few words, Duck Goes Potty by Michael Dahl, illustrated by Oriol Vidal, tells the story of Duck, who keeps missing the potty! I like the simple emphasis on the fact that it takes a while to stop “missing” the potty chair, and the fact that by the end, Duck sits on the potty “all by himself.” We found this at the end of the potty training process and Raisin cheers “Hooray” for duck as well as for himself. This is a part of the Hello Genius series, although I have not yet read the others in the series.

The Potty Train by David Hochman and Ruth Kennison, illustrated by Derek Anderson, made Raisin’s potty training successes lots of fun. I saw Natasha’s recent post on The Potty Train about one week into our “no more diapers” training and once we read it, it gave new life in to the potty training process. Comparing the need to go potty to that of getting on a train, The Potty Train talks about how sometimes you are late, sometimes you get wet, and sometimes you get on the train and then “sit and wait and sit and wait.”  I love the cute illustrations, which show the train as a potty chair and stuffed animal friends as real animals sitting on potties next to the little boy. My son can relate to stuff-animal friends joining him in the toilet training process, and he loves to make toilet training into a “train.” “Chugga-chugga-poooo-poooo,” the train in the book finally screeches when the little boy is successful. My son has changed the refrain to “Chugga-chugga-peeeeee-peeeeee!” and he loves to say that when he meets success.

The How’s and Why’s

My son enjoyed the Bear in the Big Blue House: Potty Time with Bear episode about going potty, and although this wasn’t a book, I have to mention it. I think the video (only the first episode of the three is about the potty) was very helpful for his learning process. It emphasized the need to listen to your body to know when you need to use the toilet, learning that it is okay to stop playing for a toilet break, and learning that it is okay when there are accidents, when you don’t get to the toilet in time. The board book based on the show, called Going Potty, was also a favorite for son, although I found it lacking in the details that the movie provided.  The board book is simply puppet-posed illustrations from the show, with a few interactive items, like a pull-down roll of toilet paper.

Another important book for the learning process was the aptly titled Liam Goes Poo in the Toilet by Jane Whelan Banks. As you may expect, this tells the story of a boy that learns to use the toilet for number 2. Liam learns that eating makes his tummy feel all full and gross, and that is when he needs to sit on the toilet and relax to let the poop out. I know some kids make themselves sick in holding in number 2, so reading this book, repeatedly, I think may have helped my son become comfortable with the need to sit on the toilet. As with the other “Liam” books by Ms Banks, the illustrations are very simple stick figures that put the emphasis on the message. (I should note that other favorite “Liam” books in our house were Liam Says “Hi!” and Loveable Liam. Both did a great job of teaching my son everyday principles, the first teaching to be friendly to friends, and the second teaching to be kind.)

Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi and Does a Pig Flush? by Fred Ehrlich are similar in that they both humorously compare animals and humans. Everyone Poops has brightly colored illustrations of animals eating…and then eliminating. Does a Pig Flush? asks silly questions with simple illustrations of pigs, cows, and so forth trying to sit on the toilet, as well as explaining where they do go poop. It also provides an example of a little girl (Zelda) who learns to stop wearing diapers and use a toilet. My son loves answering the questions in the Fred Ehrlich books, and I enjoy the human link at the end of the Ehrlich books.  I should note that other Ehrlich books follow a similar pattern teaching emotions (Does a Seal Smile?), teeth brushing (Does a Lion Brush?), going to school (Does a Panda Go to School?) and so forth.

Board Books To Set the Stage

A number of board books we read didn’t particularly teach my son anything, but reading them repeatedly helped him consider using the potty to be an expected part of life as he grew up. For example, Diapers are Not Forever by Eliabeth Verdick reminds kids that there is another stage of life coming. I’ve read some of the other books in the series (Hands are Not For Hitting, for example) and I think such books are good reminders, even if they aren’t fun to read aloud. I didn’t particularly like Diapers are Not Forever.

Likewise, the board book Too Big for Diapers, featuring Sesame Street Babies likewise doesn’t “teach” much about toilet training at just four pages. The photographs of the baby Sesame Street puppets show baby Ernie sitting on the toilet, playing in the toilet paper, and standing in front of bubbles, “washing” his hands. The familiarity of the Sesame friends made it a book that my toddler wanted to read many times. I think it was a good introduction to the potty training process for that reason.

Caillou’s Potty Time by Joceline Sanschagirin, illustrated by Pierre Brignaud, also introduced a familiar character using the toilet successfully. It also was one Raisin wanted to read over and over again and it got him excited about the process. Although he loves Caillou, I didn’t like the Caillou board book: it didn’t read well.

The Muppet Babies I Can Go Potty was illustrated with a baby Kermit who learned to stop playing and run to the toilet. There are some attractive rhymes, which makes it pleasant to read, and Raisin likes the depiction of baby Kermit, who of course is successful in going potty all be himself by the end. I like how it depicts Kermit learning to use a real toilet, not just a potty chair.

On Your Potty by Virginia Miller features, George and Bartholomew bear. Bartholomew says “Nah” whenever George tells him to sit on the potty, but George says “On your potty!” and Bartholomew runs to make it in time. It has repetition and success, as do the other books, and for fans of the George and Bartholomew characters, this is a fun book. My son and I have “races” to run to the toilet, so he can relate to that.

Potty Chairs

And then I didn’t use a potty chair training my son, but tons of books out there teach potty training by first giving the child a potty chair. They all have a similar story: the child gets a potty chair and learns to use it. By the end, there are no more accidents. Once Upon a Potty by Alona Frankel (there is a For Boys and a For Girls edition) is a key book in that category. I don’t particularly like Ms Frankel’s book. While the text is clear and the issues relevant, the dated illustrations of the potty chair make it look like a vase, and my son didn’t understand that it was supposed to be a potty.

On the other hand, when the boy Michael learns to use the toilet in My Big Boy Potty by Joanna Cole, Raisin found it to be a spectacular book because he found a friend in the little boy who was learning. Nothing spectacular stands out about the book: we learn how parents have to change Michael’s diapers, it follows Michael through the learning process (including having his bear “practice” on the toilet too), and by the end he has big boy underpants. But as a whole, it becomes one he can relate to. The success of the book is that Raisin frequently asks to read the “Michael book.” There is also a companion book: My Big Girl Potty.

And finally, A Potty for Me by Karen Katz tells essentially the same story in an attractive rhyme. Karen Katz’s illustrations are cartoony and pleasant, and the little child appears gender-neutral, so it may be appropriate for boys or girls. Since the child is the one telling the rhyme, the last line (“I’m so proud of me!”) is one I like to linger on. Now that Raisin is successfully trained, I want to make sure he knows that he should be proud of his own successes!

Which books did you read with your toilet-training toddler(s)?

Reviewed on October 12, 2010

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I started a post similar to this about two years ago and I think it’s still in draft! Now I don’t need to! I just posted another potty training book a couple of days ago: Bear’s Underwear that my little boy likes. We have had zero success thus far with youngest boy. He peed his underwear 2x today and pooped in them yesterday. Sigh . . . Thanks for more recommendations. Shall check some of them out!

    • Natasha @ Maw Books, Oh BEAR’S UNDERWEAR sounds cute. We’ll have to find it. We still have a few accidents a week but he’s mostly there. Best of luck on your littlest one!

  • I’m a reader too. 🙂 I’m little one is just 8 months old, but I’m already anticipating this process. Thank you for compiling this list. I’m sure it’ll be a valuable resource to me (and other mothers) as we start this journey.

  • This may be a bit off topic however it affects many families. We have a four year old with autism we are trying to potty train and a soon to be 3 year old with ADHD who isn’t trained yet. They both disrobe and play in their diapers. We actually invented some clothing that helps the situation. It is called The Wonder Jumper and it is a romper sleeper that zips in the back. Our company is called iKids Fashion thanks a lot!

  • Have you seen Tony Ross’s _I Want My Potty_? It was absolutely our favorite! As parents who just let potty-use evolve in its own time, it was nice to have a silly, gentle book to talk about the issues. Our son, for example, was freaked out when he had a public accident. We kept telling him that it was absolutely ok, just part of the process, no need to be ashamed, etc… It wasn’t until he remembered how embarrassed the little princess was that he felt ok.

    • LifetimeReader, I have seen that one but I don’t think we’ve read it lately. It may be a good one for now since there is still an occasional accident — and I think my son needs the reminder that it’s ok, even though mommy is annoyed to have to clean up the messes. 🙂

  • Definitely bookmarking this post. Just in the process of starting to train my son, without much success. He avoids the potty and doesn’t like to discuss it.

    Once kids start to master sitting and going, then the book “Potty Animals: What to Know When You’ve Gotta Go!” is perfect for covering potty manners like washing hands, flushing, etc.

  • Wow so many varieties to how to go potty :). Can’t you just put a diaper beside the potty or the toilet and then I don’t know maybe that’ll make them pee or something :). Anyway take care.

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