18-24 months

PLAYING: How to Toilet Train a Toddler

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How to Toilet Train a Toddler

Before starting to toilet train your little one, assess their readiness. Assessing this is probably the easiest part of the whole toilet training process. However, once the process begins you may face a few challenges along the way. Staying calm and positive, as well as following some simple tips, will hopefully make the whole process a little easier.

4 mins to read Jan 3, 2016

The Basics of Toilet Training 

When is the right time?

Around 18 and 36 months of age, your toddler may begin to show some interest in toilet training and exert some signs they are ready to start toilet training.  Some signs that your little one is ready to commence toilet training may include:

  • Your child stays dry at least two hours at a time during the day or is dry after naps;
  • Bowel movements become regular and predictable;
  • Facial expressions, posture, or words reveal that your child is about to urinate or have a bowel movement;
  • Your child can follow simple instructions;
  • Your child can walk to and from the bathroom and help undress themself;
  • Your child seems uncomfortable with soiled diapers and wants to be changed;
  • Your child asks to use the toilet or a potty chair;
  • Your child asks to wear grown-up underwear.

If your toddler is showing signs of readiness, they will pick up the skill much quicker. By around age 3 or 4, most children can control their bowel movements and daytime urination.

Plan It Out

When your toddler is showing signs they are ready to toilet train, before you start you may want to plan a few things first:

  • Decide whether you are going to use a potty or a toilet.  This will be an individual choice and may even depend on what your toddler wants to do.  Involving them in as many decisions as possible is going to help them participate more readily.
  • You may also want to choose the language you’re going to use.  For example, poo, wee, pee etc.
  • You may also want to decide whether you’re going to use training nappies or pants or go straight to underpants.  Either way, be prepared and have some ready to go.
  • Decide whether you’re going to use a rewards or recognition system – books, stickers, surprises. Have them ready to go.

Children do master this skill — but at their own pace

Be positive and encouraging

When you’re starting to toilet train, be positive and encouraging. Always praise successes. 

Keep these steps in mind:

  • Help your child sit on the potty or toilet without a nappy so they get used to sitting on it.
  • Take your child to the potty or toilet when you feel enough time has passed that they probably should have to go, or if you recognise the signs that they need to go. Let them sit on the potty for several minutes. If they don’t go, try again later.
  • Take them to the potty regularly throughout the day. You might even try taking them every hour. Offer them a book to make it less of a task and more interesting. Boys will sit while they learn to use the toilet—standing may come later.
  • Once your child goes, be sure to teach the whole toilet routine, from wiping to flushing to hand-washing.

Make the switch

When you think your child has the hang of it, gradually switch from nappies to training pants or regular ‘grown-up’ underpants. A great tip is to allow your child to choose their underwear or find ones with recognisable cartoons or action figure designs. Dress your toddler in clothes that are easy to pull down such as pants with an elastic waist. To begin with you may want to continue nappies during sleep times.

Be patient

Remember, accidents are bound to happen. Reassure your child when this happens and show lots of excitement when there’s success. For some toddlers a tangible reward, such as stickers, is a big motivator.

As eager as you are to complete the training, you can’t rush it. It is a learning process. Children do master this skill — but at their own pace.

At night

Staying dry all night may take more time.  Removing night nappies may or may not happen at the same time as removing the day nappies.  Leave your child in nappies until they are ready.

Suggestions include:

  • If your child wakes up every morning with a wet nappy, they’re not ready. If you take them out of night-time nappies, they will wet the bed.
  • Keep your child in night-time nappies until most nappies are dry in the morning or until they are wet just before your child wakes. The nappy will be soaked and the urine warm.
  • Your child may attempt to go to the toilet during the night or call out for your help.

If you have any concerns that your child is not developing the skills to toilet train, discuss these concerns with your doctor or child health nurse. 

You may also find our top tips for toilet training, handy!