Is my toddler ready for Potty Training?

Every child gets the hang of using the loo, but it takes a little time to master. Some children get it straight away and others take a little longer. The key is to be patient and persistent. Here are some commonly asked questions and answers which might help you to achieve your potty training goals.

Is my child ready for potty training?

Some parents say they trained their children from birth, others at under a year. The fact is that potty training is a lot easier with children who are two and above. When children are under 18 months, their sphincters (muscle outlets for the bladder and bowl) are not yet under control.
At around 18 months you may notice that your child actually knows when they open their bowels. You may see them take a pause during play or maybe standing still, concentrating while doing a poo. They might also be able to communicate with you and tell you that they have done a “su su” or “poo poo” (or whatever you call it in your house). These signs show that your child is linking cause and effect.
You may also notice that your child is taking interest in the potty/toilet. If he/she wants to use it, it is important to let them and encourage role play even if nothing comes.
If you think “it is time” and your child is ready, make sure that they are in good health. There is no point starting training when your child is teething or they have a heavy cold and are miserable. Make sure they are healthy and happy before you start.

How long does training take?

Most children learn to control their bowel before their bladder. Therefore some children might wet the bed at night for sometime, even if they have mastered it during the day.
The time of training always depends on each individual child. For some children it literally takes days, others weeks and even months.


1. Introduce a potty

Grown up toilets can seem huge to toddlers and they often worry that they might fall in and get flushed away. This is adorable but best we don’t encourage this phobia. It’s a good idea to start with a potty. It doesn’t really matter what sort you get. When your child has mastered the potty, you can transition to a trainer seat which fits onto of the adult toilet.
Start by introducing your child to the potty in a very casual way, letting them play with it using their teddies and dolls and doing a bit of role play with your child. Don’t let the initial introduction be you placing them on it and staring at them with a worried/excited facial expression until something hopefully comes out. This is not pleasant, or fun for your child. They need a little enticing.
When your child has got aquatinted with the potty, you could place it in the bathroom and get your child to “try it out” before bath time. This is a low pressure introduction. If your child is not interested at all, then back off until they are.

2. Explain what you are doing

Before you go full swing into the training, explain to your child the steps you are about to follow. Make sure they know the plan. Encourage them by telling them they “are such a big boy/girl” and from now on they are going to try and use the potty or toilet rather than the nappy.

3. Ditch the nappies

Once you have decided to start the training, the nappies need to go. When your child does a puddle on the floor, they will learn to associate this with going to the toilet.

4. Buy “big girl” or “big boy” pants

This can be a really exciting transition for your child. By moving to real underwear, they feel they are gaining independence and are becoming more grown up. Take your child shopping with you and let them pick out their own pants. Whilst out shopping you can pick up stickers/rewards for your child’s up and coming good behaviour.

5. Encourage regular potty visits

For the first few days, pop your child on the potty every 30 minutes if possible. Encourage them to use it as soon as they wake up. Something normally comes out then and it is a great time to shower your praise on them for doing a ‘su su’ in the pot. Your child will absorb this encouragement which will make them strive to succeed in doing it again. Every time they do something while on the potty, remember to praise them. You can also give a little sticker or a treat.

6. Reacting to accidents

How you approach the issue of accidents is very important. You must be prepared for this to happen so don’t get angry when it does. Just say to your child “oopsy, lets try and make it to the potty next time”.
Be sympathetic. Your child is mastering something which is pretty huge in their lives so its important that they can trust you to be there for them and be supportive. Keep stressing on how wonderful it is they are no longer in a nappy and how nice it is to do ‘su su’ in a potty like a big girl/boy. Don’t make a big deal out of wet underwear, it can be washed!
If your child happens to get an upset stomach and dirties their underwear, explain that it happens and you can’t help it. Reassure them that adults get it too and not to get upset about it.

7. Don’t imply that toilets or toilet substances are disgusting

A lot of adults are not comfortable talking about their bodily functions. This is normal but try not to hand that uncomfortable feeling onto your child. Don’t say things like “Urrgg whats that smell?” Try to hide your revulsion when cleaning up a mess or wiping a bottom.

8. Carry a change of clothes

It is inevitable that your child will have accidents. Its sods law when those accidents happen in the car or in a restaurant.. A child doesn’t think like us and say “oh I had better go to the loo before, just in case”. No, they go when they need to go. Always carry a couple of spare pairs of clothes so when these accidents do happen, you can change your child quickly and move on from it. There is nothing worse than your child being stuck in wet/soiled clothes for a long period of time.

9. Don’t push to be dry at night

If you feel your child is getting the hang of potty training during the day yet they still wet the bed at nights, don’t rush them to change this. Often a child wets the bed at night because their nervous system isn’t mature enough to signal that their bladder is full and needs emptying. Only move onto the nights once your child has completely mastered the daytime dryness.
When you move onto tackling the nights, again discuss the plan with your child, like you did right at the beginning of the training. Explain that you can put down a waterproof sheet and assure your child that if they have an accident, it doesn’t matter as you can easily wash the sheets and change their night clothes.
Encourage your child to empty their bladder before they go to bed and if they wake up in the night to try again and again as soon as they wake in the morning. You may have a few wet nights but your child will soon get the hang of it.

The key to potty training is to be positive, reassuring and relaxed. If your child sees you stressed out about the whole thing, the negative energy will rub off on them. You must remember that it is a process that every child and parent goes through and they will eventually get the hang of it, like everything else. Remember to praise your child when they do it right and not to scold them when they don’t.

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