Toilet training can be both an exciting and stressful time, and it can be hard to know when it’s the right time to begin! Using the steps below, parents can determine a child’s readiness and start working towards a successful toilet training experience.
Signs that your child is ready
Many children show signs of being ready for toilet training between approximately two to three years of age, but this can vary greatly between children. It is best to focus on whether your child is showing interest in learning about the toilet and has the gross motor abilities to independently use the toilet. These behaviours offer a better indicator of when your child is ready and increases the likelihood of a successful learning experience.
Signs of toilet training readiness can include:
- Sitting and walking independently for short periods of time.
- Pulling pants up and down without assistance.
- Understanding and following simple instructions.
- Having dry nappies for two or more hours.
- Appearing to dislike wearing a nappy, this may be seen through attempts to pull the nappy off after use.
- Expressing interest in the toilet, such as following people to the toilet or watching parents on the toilet.
- Expressing with words or gestures when or just before they are weeing or pooing in their nappy.
Selecting a Space and Time for Toilet Training
If your child is showing signs that they may be ready to start toilet training, it is important to consider the space that they will be learning in and ensure it is easily accessible.
Strategies for making a toileting area accessible can include ensuring your child is able to access the space without parent assistance and addressing any fears your child may have about using the toilet. Some children worry about using the toilet for the first time as they are afraid of falling in! Taking extra time to understand and address worries can make a huge difference to your child’s toilet training experience.
Just as considering the space your child is learning in is important, so is selecting the time in which you begin toilet training. Starting toilet training at a time when there are no major changes coming up in your family life is important for reducing pressure on both your child and yourselves!
Preparing for Toilet Training
Before starting toilet training it can be helpful to prepare your child for using the toilet.
Some helpful tips for preparing your child can include:
- Teaching the child words to express the act of using the toilet, such as ‘wee’, ‘poo’, ‘potty’ or ‘toilet’.
- Verbalising and modelling your behaviours when going to the toilet so that the child can learn to recognise this process.
- Allowing your child to try sitting on the toilet or potty without going to help them become familiar with the space.
- When changing your child’s nappy, demonstrate taking the dirty nappy to where the child will be toileting to help them understand what this is for.
Starting toilet training
When beginning toilet training it is important to go at the child’s pace. Some children may learn this skill faster or slower than others. If your child does not seem interested in the toilet or is actively resistant, it is far better to hold off on toilet training for a later time so as to avoid creating a negative association.
Steps for starting toilet training:
- Establish a routine
Dedicate specific times throughout the day for your child to sit on the toilet for a few minutes to help them become familiar with the routine of toileting. It can be helpful to choose times when the child is more likely to need the toilet, such as when they first wake up, after lunch or before bed.
- Reduce the use of nappies during the day
To assist your child in learning to recognise when they need the toilet it can be helpful to use training pants, cloth nappy covers or even underwear to help them to recognise when they are wet. Many children are not night-trained until around five years of age, so it is important to continue using a nappy at night and during daytime naps until the child is ready.
- Dress your child in easy to take off clothing
To promote independence when using the toilet, it is helpful to dress your child in clothes that they can easily remove themselves should they decide to use the toilet.
- Provide consistent encouragement and reinforcement
As children learning to toilet cannot always control when they can and cannot go, it is important to initially praise your child just for sitting on the toilet. As your child becomes more familiar with the toilet, gradually reduce praise for sitting and begin praising attempts and successes.
Armed with this information you are ready to start the big and exciting process of toilet training! Remember, the goal is to make toilet training as positive and natural as possible. Remaining calm and encouraging throughout the process promotes the chances of a successful learning experience.
Laura Moresi is a psychologist completing the Educational and Developmental registrar program. Laura is passionate about working collaboratively with families and other professionals to support children and adolescents to reach their best potential. Laura has experience working with a variety of development and mental health concerns.