Potty training, like sleep training, is one of those hot-button parenting topics that can get a rise out of even the most mellow mama. In my opinion, there really is no right way or right time to attempt this milestone (though eighth grade might be pushing it). But when you think your child is ready to inherit the throne, it’s nice to have some books on hand. At the very least, these eight selections can serve as reading material for your toddler while he or she sits—and sits and sits and sits and sits—and waits for nature to call. (Also: you might want to pick up a copy of War and Peace for yourself, because SHEESH! Are we sure we gave nature the right number after all? I know she hasn’t called, but has she even tried to text?!)
I Want My Potty, by Tony Ross
I like this book because it stars a princess, but not the kind of princess we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in children’s media. This isn’t a fussy, pink, young celebutante who’s learning the ins and outs of the powder room. Rather, Little Princess is a headstrong, tousled, prone-to-fits brunette who wears a baggy white dress that is indistinguishable from her father’s undershirt. I Want My Potty is likely to inspire headstrong kids with the independent aspect of going diaper-free.
(More good news: Little Princess appears in a whole series of books that includes titles like: I Want My Pacifier and I Don’t Want To Go To Bed—and not one in the series mentions Laguna Beach or the prom.)
Everyone Poops, by Taro Gomi
This 1977 classic can’t NOT be on the list. This books appeals to kids because, obviously, it’s all about poop—but moreso because it’s honest. Here you’ll find colorful, humorous illustrations of nearly every type of animal pooping every type of poop, as well as a dad and some kids demonstrating proper toilet etiquette (well, save for that pipe the dad’s smoking). While this book isn’t a potty training book per se, it gets the whole family comfortable with “what goes in must come out.”
(More awesome series-related news: Everyone Poops is part of the Japanese-based My Body Science series. In this household, we’ve also enjoyed The Gas We Pass: The Story of Farts, by Shinta Cho—hands down the most comprehensive book on tooting I’ve ever seen. I’m also thinking of ordering Breasts and All About Scabs by Genichiro Yagyu (because seriously: who could resist those two topics?!).
Diapers Are Not Forever, by Elizabeth Verdick
Far off, in an alternate universe, I imagine this is the title of a James Bond parody starring Lacey Underthings. But I digress. Diapers Are Not Forever is the most straightforward book about potty training I’ve read so far. It doesn’t really seek to get a rise out of kids with wacky humor, nor does it tap dance around the topic of bathroom usage; instead it explains how kids grow and eventually will no longer need diapers and how potty training and hand washing work and why these things are so important.
This book didn’t seem to strike a chord with my poop-minded boys, but they’d probably rather watch Spongebob than Blue Planet to learn about marine life. That said, keep this book in mind for children who are inquisitive and pensive and appreciate the facts.
Bear, Do You Wear Underwear?, by Todd H. Doodler
I like the reverse psychology of this little treasure. It doesn’t mention toilets or potties or pee or poop or how to “know when you gotta go.” ALL it talks about is underwear. Within, ecstatically drawn animals model their various types of drawers, from briefs and boxers to “tighty-whitey dyno-mitey!”
The theory behind this one is hooking the kids on the concept of big-kid undergarments. This is a nice one to present to your child alongside a new, irresistible pack of Angry Birds bloomers.
Do You Wear Diapers?, by Harriet Ziefert and Tanya Roitman
This is a very simple board book of toddler-friendly pictures that uses the tried-and-true method of repetition to lure kids in. Again, another book with no mention of toilets, just animals being asked, “Hello, bear (tiger/dolphin/kitty/toucan/ducks). Do you wear diapers?” To which the animals answer: “No, I don’t wear diapers. I poop in the forest (jungle/ocean/litter box/rain forest/pond). Do you wear diapers?” To which my 2-year-old would always answer: “Yeth.”
It ends by asking the child where he or she poops, with the basic goal of getting kids to consider what they wear on their bottoms and what comes out of their bottoms. I like this one, but I can’t shake the image of dolphins pooping in the ocean. I’ve just always thought of them as much classier than that.
Time to Pee!, by Mo Willems
I love a Mo Willems book, and this one’s a delight. It’s an essential, step-by-step guide to using the toilet, from feeling the urge to hand-washing, delightfully done in classic Willems style with all-ages humor, excellent illustrations, and, as always, a youthful but not condescending tone. Not to mention, it comes with stickers! STICKERS! I’d CLEAN a toilet for stickers!
Potty Animals, by Hope Verstegaard
Again, a potty training book. And again, a potty training book starring animals. But what’s incredibly unique about Potty Animals is that it addresses ALL the rules. Featuring bright, hilarious pictures and rhyme, Potty Animals tackles the finer points of the loo through animals that each have an etiquette area for improvement. Georgie hates to wipe, Ziggy leaves the barn door open, Benji barges in, Stanley sprinkles. This is the book for kids who’ve already figured out WHEN to go, just not quite HOW to go. (I’d also recommend it for grown men.)
Once Upon A Potty, by Alona Frankel
Many agree (myself included) that Once Upon A Potty (published in both a boy edition and a girl edition) is the definitive book on potty training. It’s written from the perspective of the potty trainee’s mother, in a teacherly tone that both kids and parents will find accessible. Plus, at least in the little boy version, there are frank illustrations of body parts and orifices that will satisfy the anatomically curious.
This is the book that sealed the deal for us. Maybe my son appreciated that main character Joshua was willing to show ALL his parts. Maybe it’s that Joshua’s mother is the uber-mom, dressed in a Woodstock-era maxi dress and tangibly patient. Or maybe, just maybe, my son was tired of hearing me run my potty mouth. Whatever the case, I heartily endorse this one!
What are your favorite potty training books?