The best books to survive potty training with humor and understanding

Who am I?

I love supporting families through the challenges of potty training because I love deciphering the developmental puzzle of potty skill building – the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social pieces all coming together at the perfect time. As a “family time” teacher for over three decades, I know the stories and the setbacks. I want to be the voice for children learning to manage their bodies, their choices and their world. With a Masters and Specialist degree in Early Childhood, I have also conducted national webinars for Early Childhood teachers on collaborating with families on in-school potty training. I hope these books add some fun and sanity to your potty training experience!

I wrote...

The Potty Training Answer Book: Practical Answers to the Top 200 Questions Parents Ask

By Karen Deerwester,

Book cover of The Potty Training Answer Book: Practical Answers to the Top 200 Questions Parents Ask

What is my book about?

One-size potty training cannot fit every child and every situation because children come in all different sizes – different temperaments with different learning styles in a variety of different settings with different needs. The Potty Training Answer Book helps parents and caregivers customize potty learning strategies for success, with understanding and respect. And, most of all, without drama and power struggles!

This book is your guide to understand the developmental readiness factors as well as the developmental challenges that coincide with potty training like fear, resistance, and potty accidents. Parents and caregivers can then customize their “Positive Potty Plan” for each child’s individual needs. Every child wants to learn to be in charge of their own body. Success is inevitable when potty training is about the “child”, not the “potty”!

The books I picked & why

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Everyone Poops

By Taro Gomi,

Book cover of Everyone Poops

Why this book?

Everyone Poops is the first book to introduce potty training to toddlers, regardless of where they are on the readiness continuum. It is a must-have in the library of every 18-24 month old. Watch children’s eyes as you read it and you will immediately know something valuable about their potty curiosity! Most importantly, it is the best example of a potty training book that does not push a potty training agenda. Everyone Poops is a biology book, no hidden messages encouraging children to give up diapers before they are ready. 

But, Everyone Poops introduces very important vocabulary. And, yes, it’s fun to say “poop” a hundred times a day while you’re learning something new about how your body works. And, Everyone Poops also reminds children that one day they will choose where to poop – some animals poop in the water. (Note to readers: good place to insert jokes about pooping in the bathtub!) This book begins the adventure of studying poop all around the neighborhood – the size, the shape, the color, and even the smell!

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

By Mo Willems,

Book cover of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

Why this book?

Yes, potty training is often about power struggles – about who gets to drive the bus! In the case of potty training, the child is inevitably in charge of their own body and you don’t want a power struggle to lead to withholding poop or refusing to pee in places other than home. So, be sure to add this famous Pigeon and his adventures to your daily routines. Let your child enjoy the bargaining, the pleading, the determination for power as they identify with the lovable Pigeon. Yes, children want power but they also need to know that there are grownups keeping them safe despite their best efforts.

While the book speaks to children’s desire for independence and autonomy, it’s also giving parents permission to steer and guide the “bus”, with humor and true appreciation for that Pigeon. Remember the pigeon when your child is asking for “one more trip to the bathroom” at bedtime or says “no, I don’t have to go potty” before a long car ride. You are smarter than that! And, never ask your child “do you need to go potty” if you what you really mean is “let’s sit on the potty before leaving the house”. If you ask a yes-and-no question, “no” should be an acceptable answer.

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind

By Daniel J. Siegel, Tina Payne Bryson,

Book cover of The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind

Why this book?

Potty learning, like all learning and skill-building, requires brain, body, and emotions all working together. Potty training is also one giant leap into a child’s self-management of their own behavior. Potty training begins with “co-regulation” and, as parents and caregivers pass more and more responsibility to the child, the child takes over completely, often after a few mistakes, accidents, and setbacks.

The Whole-Brain Child helps parents and caregivers understand how to speak to the “upstairs brain” and calm the “downstairs brain” so children can organize their thoughts and behavior in constructive ways. Potty training can get emotional for kids and for parents. This book makes learning and brain research accessible for very practical daily situations. Learning is only possible when children feel calm and safe. De-escalate emotions and connect. The rest will follow.

The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us about the Relationship Between Parents and Children

By Alison Gopnik,

Book cover of The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us about the Relationship Between Parents and Children

Why this book?

Alison Gopnik is one of the most inspiring researchers on how young minds think, grow and learn. Her books show us that learning looks and feels different in babies and in young children. Her book, The Gardener and The Carpenter, reminds parents that everything can’t be found in a parenting book. Children thrive with parents and loving adults who create environments for learning…a garden to grow in! 

Potty training begins and succeeds with a “positive potty environment”. If parents overdo, over-manage, like the Carpenter, children often resist or regress. Children need time and practice to master their bodies and their choices, to “own” their potty learning. Alison Gopnik respects parents being the parents they are more than any “parenting” advice. And that’s definitely good for potty training too.

One Big Pair of Underwear

By Laura Gehl, Tom Lichtenheld (illustrator),

Book cover of One Big Pair of Underwear

Why this book?

Underwear! Underwear! Underwear is funny! It’s a proud moment when a child graduates to underwear. One Big Pair of Underwear is the perfect underwear book to launch your Underwear Parade through the house to celebrate your child’s potty success! Hoist those underwear flags and parade with family and friends.

This is a fun counting book about animals who learn to share from a pair of underwear. It’s a book about problem solving animals and no one is left out of this underwear parade! It isn’t a book about potty training but you will see, once your child finally says goodbye to diapers, there’s no looking back. Underwear just become the new funny normal. Underwear books never get old.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in parenting, potty training, and counting?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about parenting, potty training, and counting.

Parenting Explore 116 books about parenting
Potty Training Explore 13 books about potty training
Counting Explore 17 books about counting

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Transcend, The Self-Driven Child, and The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read if you like this list.