Helping your child learn to use the potty or toilet is a big and very exciting step for you both. If you stay positive and calm, your child will be more likely to settle into things. The secret is to wait for signs that your child is ready for toilet training.
Toilet training: signs your child is ready
You might see signs that your child is ready for toilet training from about two years on. Some children show signs of being ready as early as 18 months, and some might be older than two years.
Your child is showing signs of readiness if he:
Not all these signs need to be present when your child is ready. A general trend will let you know it’s time to start.
If you’re thinking about toilet training, you might like to check out our toilet training guide in pictures. You could even print it out and stick it up somewhere handy.
Getting ready for toilet training
If you think your child is showing signs of being ready for toilet training, the first step is to decide whether you want to train using a potty or the toilet.
There are some advantages to using a potty – it’s mobile and it’s familiar, and some children find it less scary than a toilet. Try to find out your child’s preference and go with that. Some parents encourage their child to use both the toilet and potty.
Second, make sure you have all the right equipment. For example, if your child is using the toilet you’ll need a step for your child to stand on. You’ll also need a smaller seat that fits securely inside the existing toilet seat, because some children get uneasy about falling in.
Third, it is best to plan toilet training for a time when you don’t have any big changes coming up in your family life. Changes might include going on holiday, starting day care, having a new baby or moving house. It can be a good idea to plan toilet training for well before or after these changes.
Also, toilet training might go better if you and your child have a regular daily routine. This way, the new activity of using the toilet or potty can be slotted into your normal routine.
Here are some tips for getting ready:
Once you start, toilet training might take days, weeks or months. The key is to not push your child, and let him learn at his own pace – he’ll get the hang of it when he’s ready. And if your child doesn’t cooperate or seem interested in toilet training right now, just wait until he wants to try again.
Starting toilet training
It is a good idea to start toilet training on a day when you have no plans to leave the house. The tips below can help with toilet training once the big day arrives.
Encouraging and reminding your child
Pants and clothing
Often, children are 3-4 years old before they’re dry at night. One in 5 five-year-olds and one in 10 six-year-olds still uses nappies overnight. And bedwetting is very common in school-age children. If your child wets the bed, there are things you can do about it when you and your child are ready.
Training pants and pull-ups
Your child is more likely to understand toilet use if he’s no longer wearing a nappy.
Training pants are absorbent underwear worn during toilet training. They’re less absorbent than nappies but are useful for holding in bigger messes like accidental poos. Once your child is wearing training pants, dress her in clothes that are easy to take off quickly.
Pull-ups are very popular and are marketed as helpful for toilet training. It isn’t clear that they actually help. But you can try them to help your child get used to wearing underwear.
Generally, cloth training pants are less absorbent than pull-ups and can feel a little less like a nappy. Pull-ups might be handier when you’re going out.
Wearing training pants is a big move for your child. If you celebrate it, the transition will be easier. Talk about how grown-up he is and how proud of him you are.
Out and about while toilet training
It is easier to stay home for a few days when you start toilet training, but you’ll probably have to go out at some stage.
Wherever you’re going, it’s a good idea to check where the nearest toilet is. If you’re going to a shopping centre, ask your child if she needs to go when you get there. This can help get her familiar with the new area.
It is best to take a spare change of underpants and clothes for your child when you’re out, until he’s very confident about using the toilet. It’s also a good idea to carry plastic bags for wet or soiled clothes.
If your child goes to a child care service or to friends’ or relatives’ houses without you, let people know that she’s toilet training. This way they can help her use the toilet or potty in the way that you do at home.
Setbacks and accidents while toilet training
Learning to urinate and do poos in the toilet takes time. You can expect accidents and setbacks – these are all just part of the process.
If your child gets upset because of an accident, reassure him that it doesn’t matter and there’s no need to worry.
Here are ideas to help avoid accidents:
Try to stay calm if toilet training seems to take longer than you expect. Stay positive about your child’s achievements, because he’ll get there eventually. Too much tension or stress can lead to negative feelings and might result in your child avoiding going to the toilet.
It is worth keeping an eye out for possible problems connected with toilet training. Signs to look for include:
If you feel there might be a problem or you are worried about how your child is adapting to toilet training, check with your General Practitioner (GP) or paediatrician.
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