Your toddler develops so quickly, it sometimes feels as though you’ve barely finished one stage before the next arrives! You may be at the point where your little one has started playgroup or a nursery and are keen to get them out of nappies, and as parents, you really want to get it right. But when is the right time to start potty training? How can we be sure our toddlers are really ready? Potty training can be a daunting task, but it’s not impossible!
Timing is very important when potty training. Choose a time when you can start your potty training routine without any interruptions. When you begin, make sure your toddler is involved in the process by taking them to pick their potty and/or toilet training seat. Take them along to choose their big boy or big girl pants too, as this will help them feel part of the event and make it exciting! It’s important to remember it’s your little one who is doing the toilet training, and you are there to hold their hand and aid the process.
It is also important to let everyone around your tot know. Tell your nursery, child carers or anyone else who looks after your little one that you have started toilet training. It’s a big step! Let them know what techniques you are using, for example, a reward chart or sticker system, as by keeping everything consistent, you will help avoid any setbacks. Try not to interrupt their potty training if they are spending a night away, for example at grandparents’ or a friend's house, as it can confuse their routine.
Finally, make sure that you are ready. Some parents go back to nappies when things get a little tricky, but once you have made the commitment together, it’s best to persist – even when the going gets tough!
Approaches and techniques
- Do give lots of encouragement. Praise and play-based learning has been proven to be an effective approach for potty training little ones. Use reward charts, stickers, a reward box to fill up with special treats that they like – and a good toilet training storybook to keep up the momentum.
- Don't shout or raise your voice. Accidents will happen, remember to keep calm, as scolding your child can result in a fear of toilet training. This will cause a setback.
- Don't compare your child. Every child develops at a different rate, and that goes for eating, walking, talking and all the other milestones – so try not to compare your child's potty training to anyone else's. Trust the signs your child is showing, and go with it.
Even when your child has been successfully potty trained and dry for many weeks, they can still regress. Little ones can have accidents due to life changes, such as moving home, starting a new school or nursery. Getting angry, impatient and stressed will rub off on your toddler and could even lead to them ‘withholding’ (holding in their poo) and getting constipated.
It can also be highly frustrating to think that your little one has finally mastered potty training, only for them to have an accident. Remember that potty training is a long process and there will be setbacks, but that’s ok!
Try not to get upset at your little one if they do have an accident. Potty training can be a very stressful time for toddlers and getting upset will make them anxious.
It's important not to start bedtime training until they have been consistently dry in the daytime for at least six weeks. When you tackle bedtime, the same principles as daytime apply – make sure there is no stress in the household and remind and help them to go to the potty or toilet before saying goodnight to everyone.
Try to reduce their liquid intake (which includes fruit) around 30 minutes before bedtime. It’s also worth investing in a little night light as having to get up in the dark to use their potty in the night can be scary, and cause bedwetting.
If you are using a potty, then keep it in their room, and remind them where it is so they feel confident and secure. Finally, invest in a good bedtime story on potty training to read to them before they go to sleep. While this will keep potty training on their little mind, it will also spark their imagination, and build your parent and toddler bond.
Our top tips
- Extra help. You may also want to buy a picture book or watch a video all about potty training that you can look over with your tot. That way, you’ll both be prepared for the training ahead.
- Get the clothes right. You don’t want to spend ages changing your toddler’s clothes, so make sure what he or she is wearing is easy to remove. You can try using training pants. Some toddlers like them, while others can think of them as a different type of nappy (which is confusing). Most toddlers are encouraged by having real underwear instead: it makes them feel grown-up.
- Get the right equipment. Getting the right equipment for potty training is always a good start. A child-sized potty, a carry potty or a special seat to attach to your regular toilet will really help. Whichever you choose, make sure your child can sit comfortably.
- Be prepared in and out of the home. If you live in a two-storey house, keep a potty upstairs and one downstairs. Teach your toddler from day one that this is normal, both inside and outside the home. Take your potty and/or training seat with you wherever you go. Remind them that they have it with them as this will help them feel secure and confident. This will also help reduce accidents as often there is a little warning when they need to go.