How to toilet train your toddler

Tips for when and how to potty train your toddler.
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  • Updated:7 Jun 2011

01.Toilet training 101


Toilet training is an area of raising toddlers that many parents get in a knot about. It’s a messy business that’s unlikely to be mastered overnight so you’ll need to be patient.

This article has some tips to get you started and advice on things to keep in mind while potty training a toddler.

Here’s some things to think about before you start toilet training your little one:

  • Your child won’t learn to go to the toilet if he always has a nappy on. He will make the connection between the sensation of weeing and what is physically happening much faster if he can actually see the wee prior to potty training. So, long before you're even thinking about tackling toilet training, take his nappy off and let him have a run around without it. Either take him out into the garden or be prepared for a few puddles on the floor.
  • Toilet training your child in less than a week doesn't make him - or you - smarter than all the other kids on the block. Don't follow any toilet-train-your-kid-in-three-days books because you'll only set yourself up for disappointment. Toilet training isn't a competitive sport, so be prepared for some potty related setbacks. Some kids understand potty training in a matter of days, while others take a long time.
  • Don't expect your child to gain control over these key bodily functions without there being some toilet training accidents. Don't be precious about his clothes or the floors - if you've got carpet, try to keep him outdoors or confined to non-carpeted areas.

When should I start toilet training?

Most toddlers are generally ready for toilet training somewhere between two and three although some children are early starters and show signs of readiness to start using the potty at 18 months. Day-time toilet training is usually accomplished long before night-time training, which may not happen until age five or six.

Your child is ready for toilet-training if you notice some of the following signs:

  • She begins to have dry nappies during the day - this indicates that he is starting to learn control of her bladder.
  • She tells you when she's done a wee or poo - if she starts telling you in advance that she needs to do a wee, she's well on the way to toilet training.
  • She tries to take off her nappy when it's wet or dirty, or complains about it being wet or dirty.
  • She no longer does “baby” poo, instead she produces soft but properly formed poo.
  • She is curious about what goes in the toilet.
  • She is interested when you go to the toilet - by watching you go to the toilet, she'll quickly learn what is supposed to happen there. She'll also start to learn about basic hygiene practices.
  • She is interested in completing tasks independently.
  • She understands and can follow simple instructions.
  • She can get her pants up and down independently.

Potty-training products

There’s a lot of products available to help with potty training – some are essential while others are optional.


Yep, your child will need undies! But before you go out and buy expensive ones to celebrate their new life-stage, remember that you might be throwing a few pairs away if there are accidents. It's always nice if he's excited about wearing them so you could take him to the store with you and let him choose them. Buy at least 12 pairs, the last thing you want to worry about is running out of underwear.


Potties of all varieties are on the market. You can spend a fortune or you can buy a very basic potty. The 'bottom' line is that you want a potty your child likes and wants to sit on. So if a potty that plays music or features his favourite cartoon character will motivate him with potty training, go right ahead.

A bathroom step

Many kids do go straight onto the big toilet, in which case a bathroom step or stool will be necessary in fortoilet training made easy. If you don't have one, you'll probably find it a wise buy because he'll need one to reach the sink and wash his hands, anyway.

Toilet seats

For toddlers who train on the big toilet rather than a potty, you might consider a toddler toilet seat insert which sits atop the normal toil;et seat making it smaller and less scary for little ones who can be afraid of falling in.


Kids love to read about what's going on in their lives; it makes it all seem normal - even when on the potty. Look in your local bookshop or ask friends if they can recommend any good children's toilet-training books. You might be asked to read it about a million times, so be prepared!


There are all sorts of videos available to help your child make the transition from nappies to the potty or toilet. But beware, most include chirpy and catchy songs about sitting on the potty, wiping and hand-washing which you could be hearing over and over again.

Toilet training reward systems

There are many toilet training kits on the market now. Many contain reward systems such as wall charts and stickers for each successful toilet/potty trip. Others include gimmicks such as targets for boys to aim at and “toilet biscuits”. Some parents swear by certain reward systems but remember you don’t have to spend a fortune - you can draw up a simple wall chart and buy some stickers for a cheaper DIY option.

Waterproof bed sheets

As well as traditional mattress protectors you can now purchase special sheets designed specifically for toilet training toddlers. These waterproof sheets are very effective at keeping sheets and mattresses dry and can make night-time accidents a lot easier to clean up. They usually fit over the top over the bottom mattress and can simply be pulled off without the need to remake the bed.

Pull-ups and pyjama pants

There is a lot of debate around the idea of pull-ups. Some people argue they are just an expensive nappy that doesn’t aid with toilet training because the child doesn’t feel wet just like with a regular disposable. Other people swear by them as a way to avoid accidents when out and about with a toilet training toddler.

Getting started toilet training

The best time to start is when the weather is a bit warmer and your toddler is lightly dressed. So as spring or summer approaches have your plan ready.

  • Pick a day to start and commit to it. Try to choose a time when you can spend a couple of days at home.
  • Begin by withdrawing nappies while he's awake and while you're at home - it's fairly unrealistic in the early days to take him out in the car, shopping or visiting friends without a nappy on. Once you're both more confident, start taking him on short trips away from home without his nappy, but take spare clothes for the inevitable accident.
  • Make sure that she can quickly and easily get her clothes on and off. Avoid overalls as they will slow her down - and when she needs to go to the toilet, she'll need to get there quickly! You may prefer to let her run around in her underpants only.
  • Encourage him to sit on the potty (or toilet) regularly. By this age, many children are doing regular poos so you may like to take advantage of this and sit him on the potty then. If, however, he resists and insists that he doesn't need to go to the toilet, don't force him.
  • The old trick of running water really does work, so if she's hopping on and off the potty unsure whether she wants to go, try slightly turning on a tap so you can hear a gentle trickling and encourage her to sit for a couple more minutes.
  • Make sure he's drinking plenty of water and eating fibre-rich food, both of which will make the “going” easy and regular.
  • Be attentive - once you've tuned into her, you may start to see the signs that your child needs to go to the toilet before she does.
  • Be lavish in your praise when he gets it right - he'll be excited and you should be too!
  • Never get cross. If she's wetting his pants more often than she's getting to the potty, don't be negative. Instead she needs encouragement and you may have to re-think your toilet-training strategies.
  • Ask him if he needs to go to the toilet throughout the day - but don't bug him with it as he may just start tuning you out. Suggesting that he go to the toilet before you leave the house, before and straight after his nap are logical times to ask, too.
  • If she's still sitting on the toilet after five minutes, chances are that there's nothing's happening so get her off!
  • You may find that if he's frightened of doing a poo in the potty or toilet (and many children are), he may wait until you've put a nappy on him at bedtime to do his poo. While this is OK in the short-term, once he's really bladder toilet-trained you may like to try having story-time in the bathroom while he sits on the toilet before bed.
  • Leave teaching her how to wipe her bottom until she's fully toilet-trained - under the age of 3 years, she'll only do a bad job (if she does it at all!)
  • Show him how to wash his hands properly.
  • The bathroom can get pretty stinky with all the little misses, so keep a bottle of disinfectant handy and give the toilet and the surrounding floor a quick clean each day.
  • Remember, the key is to not push your child. Relax and let nature take its course - for some, toilet-training can take weeks or even months. Always be encouraging and just quietly persist.

Sourced with permission from



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