There is no correct time to start toilet/potty training, but most children will be between 2 and 3 years old when they make their first attempts. Of course, some will start earlier, and some won’t be ready until later. If you decide to start early (before two and a half), it is probably easier to use potties rather than going straight to the toilet.
There are several things that need to be developed for a child to be able to use the toilet. They need to be aware that they do wees and poos, they need to be able to hold them (briefly) once they know they need to go, they need to understand that the potty (or toilet) is the place to do their wees and poos, and they need to be able to pull down their pants!
But how do you know when your child has developed any of these skills and is ready, what do you need, and what do you do?
Is Your Child Ready?
The obvious signs are when your child tells you that they are “going”, or even if they have just been, but there are plenty of other signs to look out for too:
Watching themselves wee when they are in the bath and taking an interest in what they are doing.
Asking you to change their nappy when they are dirty or wet.
Just feeling that your child is ready and able to communicate enough with you.
When they are regularly taking their nappy off.
When they can pull down their trousers, leggings, pants or pull-ups.
If you have started training but then feel that your child isn’t quite ready (or you’re not quite ready), it is fine to stop and go back to nappies again for a few weeks or months. You have to be committed, patient and consistent!
Cloth nappies seem to make it an easier process as they don’t wick the wee away from the skin and children feel wet when they have done a wee, which helps their awareness of what they are doing. If you’re not already using cloth nappies, it’s probably not worth investing in a full set of cloth nappies just before you start potty training, but if you can get hold of a dozen or so second hand ones, they are great to use when you go out, instead of putting disposables back on.
What do you need?
You can buy potties that play a tune when your child does a wee in it. You can buy ones that have an iPad holder (great if you want to encourage your child to sit on the throne long enough to produce piles!) and potties that are shaped like thrones or teddy bears! Do these help with potty training? I honestly couldn’t say – we bought our potties from the pound shop and they are plain blue simple potties! I usually suggest having several (cheap) potties dotted around the house so that your little one can always get to one quickly when the urge arises. A portable potty is also essential so that you can still leave the house!
Toilet seat toppers and steps are also helpful so that your toddler can go on the toilet if they are near it when they need to go.
Flushable wet wipes are useful because wiping a little bottom when the bum cheeks are squeezed together is really difficult with normal dry loo roll and you MUST NOT FLUSH REGULAR BABY WIPES!
Training pants are great as they usually have a waterproof lining and a couple of extra layers of cloth so that they feel like pants but are a little more absorbent than normal pants when you have a little accident, but they are quite expensive, costing £5-9 a pair.
4-6 cheap potties
Training pants – 4-6 pairs
Pants – 10-20 pairs
One portable potty
How to Potty Train
For a child to understand what they need to do, it helps if they can see what they need to do, so don’t be shy – let your child into the bathroom when you use the loo and talk about what you’re doing in a positive way! Celebrate the poo!
Try catching a wee in a potty or cup when your little one wees in the bath, and then telling them how clever they are. Once you a have done this a few times, you can try putting them on a potty or toilet just before you put them in the bath. By doing these simple things, you are introducing your child to the idea that wees and poos can be done in a potty or toilet. The next step is to spread your potties around the house and ditch nappies while you’re at home. Let your child run naked and free around the house!!! It makes getting on the potty a lot easier, and cleaning up quicker too!
Explain to your toddler that if he/she does a wee or poo on the potty or toilet, they can have a little bit of chocolate. For the first few days, make sure that every time they get something in the potty, they get rewarded, but just brush over any misses and don’t make a fuss of them. This gives them a positive connection to the potty.
When you feel that your child has made the connection between potty and “going”, you can try taking them out in a pair of pants or training pants. Make sure you take a portable potty so that you have something to hand when they suddenly need to go, and several changes of pants and bottoms as it is easy to forget you need to go when you’re a toddler and having lots of fun!
Try not to stress and fret as this will rub off on your child and they will attach negative emotions to going to the toilet and this can make the process more difficult. Try not to have a deadline in your head, as this will put you under pressure and your child may pick up on this too. Don’t get cross when your child has accidents (or on purposes) on the floor, just clean up and get on with your day as you don’t want to give negative attention to this.
If you find that your child is wetting or dirtying several pairs of pants every day, go back to nappies when you are out and try again a week or so later. Follow your child’s lead – if they aren’t ready, you can’t force them to “get it”, by asking them if they want to go every 5 minutes, you won’t be teaching them to use the potty, you will just be annoying them and encouraging backlash and tantrums. Of course, it is fine to ask them if they need to go if they are pulling at the front of their trousers, doing the weewee dance or if they haven’t been for half an hour or so.
Catch some wees in the bath
Sit on the loo before bathtime
Put a potty in every room and let your child be naked but keep nappies on when out
Try training pants when going out. Don’t forget the portable potty
Try normal pants at home
Pants all day!
This process could take a week or 2 months. It may take longer if you start when your child is younger (we started at 22 months and have been taking easy for 4 months, and it has been interesting to see our toddler moving through each of the developmental steps). Remember, it’s not a competition, but most healthy children are ready between 2 and 3 years old so really should be done before they start school.