Ten 3-Year-Old Diaper Change Strategies To Stay Sane

By April Duffy •  Updated: 05/27/24 •  6 min read

If you’re trying to change your 3-year-old’s diaper and feel like you’re wrestling an alligator, this article is for you. Diaper changes can be frustrating for both parents and children. But there are things that you can do to make the diaper change process easier for everyone.

Here are ten 3-year-old diaper change tips and strategies to help you stay sane while changing your toddler:

1. Have Everything Ready to Go

If you have everything ready before you start the diaper change, you’ll avoid a lot of unnecessary frustration caused by your little one waiting for you.

Getting out your clean diaper, wet bag, wipes, diaper cream, etc. ahead will make the diaper change as frictionless as possible and as fast as possible.

2. Make Sure They’re Comfortable

Sometimes the hesitation around diaper changes is about their comfort. A recent diaper rash or an ill-fitting diaper can make them not want a new diaper.

They may not communicate this to you, or know how to without being asked. Checking in with your kiddo and making sure everything feels ok can help you identify a problem that needs to be solved.

3. Have a Consistent Diaper Change Routine

Sometimes, a toddler’s hatred of diaper changes is caused by fear or a power struggle. Both of these situations can be helped by a consistent diaper changing routine and the communication of that routine to your 3-year-old.

By taking the time to explain the steps of the diaper change and how long each step should take they’ll be able to feel more confident in the process and be empowered by knowing what’s going to happen next.

4. Pick a Good Time (Or Make One) for the Diaper Change

A dirty diaper must be changed as soon as possible to avoid rashes and other problems. But that doesn’t mean you can’t wait a minute or two to set yourself up for success. While we as adults just want to do the thing, slowing down and waiting for the best time can make a huge difference.

Wait until the last few minutes of their Paw Patrol episode is over, or they finish their activity if that’s all that’s needed. Telling them you are going to change their diaper after the show or activity ends can also help prepare your baby for what’s coming, making them less likely to tantrum.

If more than a few minutes are needed before they switch activities, you can also create the ideal time for changing diapers to avoid any problems. By announcing that you have a fun surprise or game for them during their diaper change (see my next point below), depending on your child, chances are good you will make the diaper change the fun thing, and they will want the diaper change to happen before finishing their activity.

5. Offer “Distractions” to Make Diaper Changes Fun

Changing diapers can be an uninteresting experience, instead of just asking your 3-year-old to lay there while you’re changing them give them something fun to do as a distraction.

What you use to distract your toddler during the diaper change will depend on their personality and what you have available but here are some ideas:

6. Change the Location of Your Diaper Changes

Sometimes a toddler’s hatred of diaper changes can just be about where the diaper change happens.

A fear of heights could mean the problem is the changing table. Moving diaper changes from the changing table to the floor, couch or bed can solve the problem.

Taking your toddler out of the room they are playing in and into a quiet, boring bedroom can also be the cause of the problem. Having a portable changing gear bag you can bring into any room to change them there could help.

7. Try Stand-up Diaper Changes

This may sound crazy if you’ve never heard of it before, but many parents swear by standing diaper changes.

The whole idea comes from Montessori practices, and there is a great article about how to do a standing diaper change here from Montessori in Motion.

Here’s a great video from Little Aussie Monster showing how to put on a cloth diaper while your toddler is standing up:

8. Try Bribery for Occasional Diaper Change Drama

If your diaper changes normally go smoothly, only occasionally being a struggle, bribery may be an option.

A bribe doesn’t necessarily need to be candy or toys, you can promise an activity or game they like, which can work just as well.

I wouldn’t recommend bribery as a default solution, or soon your kiddo won’t do anything without some type of reward, but in a pinch and on rare occasions it can save the day.

9. Praise Your Child’s Cooperation

Kids love your approval and attention, so sometimes the best way to get them to do what you need them to is to make a big deal about it when they do to reinforce the good behavior.

If that bribe or toy worked and the diaper change went well, sing a happy song, or do the diaper change dance, or whatever else you can do to let your kiddo know that problem-free diaper changes make you happy and you’re proud of them.

10. Consider Potty Training

If your kiddo is telling you that they are a “big kid” and not a baby, it might be time to start working towards potty training them. Sometimes the struggles with older toddlers around diaper changing have to do with the fact they see diapers as something for babies.

Potty training is an important milestone in a child’s development, and it will give them confidence and independence, it will also save you from difficult diaper changes.


How Often Should a 3-Year-Old’s Nappy Be Changed?

As with any stage, you want to make sure you’re changing your 3-year-old’s diaper as soon as they wet or soil it, with the exception of when they are sleeping, because sleep trumps all.

On average, a 3-year-old can be expected to go through about six nappies per day on average, but of course, all children are different and have their own schedules, so it will vary.

April Duffy

April is the founder of Cloth Diapers for Beginners and author of The Cloth Diaper Wash & Care Handbook. Since 2015, April has helped well over 75,000 parents and caregivers cloth diaper their children through this website, her book, her YouTube Channel, and the Cloth Diapers for Beginners Facebook Group.