The majority of toddlers are ready to potty/toilet train between 2 to 2.5 years of age but, depending on their individual development, a toddler may be ready to train at any time between the age of 18 months and 3 years.
• Know their nappy is wet or soiled and will tell you.
• Know they are doing a wee.
• Nappies are drier for longer.
• Are fidgety when they need a wee and may go to a quiet corner to do it.
• May know they need to wee before they do it and may tell you.
• Are interested in using the potty or toilet.
• Are receptive to praise and are keen to please.
• Don't like wearing a dirty or wet nappy and come to you to change it.
These signs can be useful in knowing when to start the potty/toilet training process with a toddler.
Remember a toddler will only be able to potty/toilet train when they are ready and able to do so. Trying to train before they are ready can become very frustrating for both parent/carer and toddler.
• Is the toddler ready, interested, and willing to begin potty/toilet training?
• Is the toddler's life calm and settled? Don't attempt training while there are big changes going on, such as a new baby, a house move, parental separation, or when starting nursery, as the toilet/potty training is unlikely to be successful if the toddler is going through a lot of other changes in their life.
• What time of year is it? When beginning to train, a toddler is likely to have lots of toileting 'accidents' (i.e. wetting and soiling themselves) so many parents/carers wait for warmer months to begin training as it is easier to wash and dry clothing.
• Which method of training is going to be used? Potty Training or Toilet Training:
Potty Training: this is getting a toddler to train using a potty for the first few months before moving onto a toilet. A potty can be less intimidating for a toddler than an adult toilet, but using a potty first will mean the toddler will have to make the transition to using a toilet at a later stage.
Toilet Training: this is using an adult toilet from the outset with a toilet training seat and step. This can be overwhelming for some toddlers, especially if they are nervous about the process. However, it does save transitioning from potty to toilet later on.
• Whether disposable pull-up nappy pants or training pull-up pants will be used, or whether the toddler will go straight into wearing cotton pants.
Some parents/carers find it helpful to use disposable pull-up nappy pants or training pull-up pants while potty/toilet training. These can save a lot of washing (i.e. if the toddler does not get themselves to the potty/toilet on time or wets themselves between using the potty/toilet) as they are simply thrown away after use. The toddler will then move onto using pants later when they are more competent.
Some parents/carers find it more useful to go straight into using pants. This can be one less transition for the toddler later and can also aid training as the toddler will not like the uncomfortable wet feeling if they do wet themselves. A toddler will wear pants all day and a nappy just for daytime nap or overnight sleep. The downside of this will be a lot of wet and soiled clothes to wash and dry.
Most parents/carers will use a combination of these methods as to what works best for an individual toddler. A toddler will gain control of their bladder before their bowel, and will gain control of both bladder and bowel during the day before they do overnight (or during sleep), so a nappy or training pants should still be worn for these times, and for those times when getting to a potty/toilet can be difficult i.e. on long car journeys, days out, or trips to the supermarket or shopping centres.
• Talk to the toddler about potty/toilet training.
• Buy a toddler aimed story book about potty/toilet training, or borrow one from a library, to read with the toddler.
• Include the toddler in the preparation process i.e. by allowing them to help choose a potty or toilet training seat and pants.
• Consider using a reward chart with stickers. Put the chart up in a bathroom or in the toddler's bedroom and explain to the toddler how it will be used: a sticker for every successful trip to the potty or toilet and a reward for a week's worth of success. If you use a sticker chart system be very consistent with it as the toddler will use it as motivation.
If a toddler is ready and able to potty/toilet train then the process should start to be successful within a couple of weeks. The most
'accidents' will occur during the first few days and will gradually get less and less as they gain more control, although it is still
common for a toddler to have the odd 'accident' for several weeks or even months afterwards.
The length of time a toddler will take to become fully potty/toilet trained (day and night) will take a few months. The toddler will begin by being dry during the day and progress to the night later.
The aim of potty/toilet training is to enable a toddler to use a toilet in everyday life instead of a nappy.
Potty/toilet training should begin with talking to the toddler about using the potty or toilet, then encouraging them to use it and to tell their parents or carer when they need to go.
If using a potty, keep it in the bathroom and take the toddler there to use it as that is where they will eventually do doing their toileting. If using an adult toilet with training seat and step, make sure these items are always within easy reach in the bathroom.
Encourage the toddler to wear their training pull-up pants, or normal pants, and take them to the potty or toilet every hour (or so) if they are not yet able to (or are not in the habit of) telling an adult when they need to go.
The more competent a toddler gets at toileting, the more likely they are to know they want to go and to tell an adult in advance. They will also develop more control and have less incidents of wetting and/or soiling themselves.
Encourage the toddler to sit on the potty or toilet for a while to see if they are able to do anything. To prevent boredom give them a few books to look at while sitting. Both boys and girls should start potty/toilet training by sitting down (boys can progress to standing up later when they have more control).
Parents and carers should praise the toddler's efforts and success, and not make too much fuss about any 'accidents' they may have, as this will build their confidence in the process.
Make sure the toddler's trousers or clothes are easy to get on and off (or up and down) and avoid clothes that have zips and buttons as these can be fiddly to get undone when the toddler is in need of the potty or toilet. Elasticated, stretchy, jogging pants or leggings can be ideal for this and also for promoting independence of being able to get to the potty or toilet by themselves.
Encourage good hygiene habits from the beginning, such as using toilet paper appropriately, flushing the toilet, and washing their hands with soap and water after every trip to the potty/toilet.
Once a toddler has become daytime potty/toilet trained, and is waking up with dry nappies in the morning frequently, then it may be time to think about night-time potty/toilet training. This is the process of developing a toddler's ability to stay dry overnight and no longer use a nappy or training pull up pants for sleeping. A toddler should be encouraged to go to toilet just before bed and, if they need to wee in the night, to become aware of the need and to get up to use the potty/toilet. 'Accidents' of wetting the bed can still be common for a few weeks or months after night-time training so a waterproof mattress protector can be a good buy.
Some toddlers will pick up the skill quickly while others will take longer. This is normal and within the normal development range. The most important thing is to work at the toddler's pace and to praise and encourage them for successful potty/toilet training.