When Should You Begin Potty Training Your Child?

Most children are not ready for toilet training until at least 2 years old.

The physical development that allows for bowel and bladder control, occurs around 18 months. However, it may be several months or another year before your child recognizes the need to go, or be aware that he or she has control in doing something about it.

We also have an article on Toilet Training a Special Needs Child.

For successful potty training:

  • A child must feel urge to go
  • Understand what urge means
  • Be able to hold off going
  • Get to the toilet
  • Remove lower body clothing independently
  • Sit on the toilet
  • Relax enough to control

Your child needs to be able to communicate the need to go as well. Expressing wants and needs plays a key role when determining toileting readiness.
Finally, consider timing when introducing toilet training. Postpone training if there may be a significant change in your toddlers life such as a new baby, a move, transition to daycare, or a new babysitter, etc.

Helping your Child Use the Potty

Before actual training begins, purchase a potty chair that sits on the floor rather than one that fits onto the toilet seat.

There are many styles of chairs; it is best to keep it simple. Toilets are not toys.

Be consistent with a potty training word for urination, e.g. pee-pee, and bowel movements, e.g. poo, to help your child link urge with action. Pick out underpants together. Make this fun and a big deal. The disposable pants are fine when going out, but at home, pull-ups can be confusing since there is little difference in how they feel while worn and discarded just like a diaper. Keep outer clothing simple to remove e.g. sweat pants, elastic waist, and no fasteners.

Potty Time

Begin a daily routine, especially if your child is having regular bowel movements, by removing the diaper and placing your child on the potty around time he or she usually goes. Never force your child to sit too long (no longer than 5-10 minutes).

If your child does not go after sitting for a few minutes, don’t punish or push. Simply say, I guess you don’t have to go. Begin a routine of washing hands after potty each and every time. When your child does pee or poo, offer praise! Successful toilet training is based around positive reinforcement, praise, and approval.

Throughout the entire day ask, Do you need to pee-pee? Keep the potty close by, but not in front of the television. Once your child gets the hang of it, place the potty permanently in the bathroom. Stay calm! Accidents are inevitable. Don’t scold or punish. Instead, take your child to the potty to make sure he or she is finished. Reassure your child, in time they will learn to make it to the potty on time.

Be prepared for accidents when out of your home. Before you go out, take your child to the potty. Expose your child to potty use in different situations; don’t stay house bound. Instead, plan short trips to the park or to visit a friend. Bring the portable potty chair with you. Be consistent with your routines. If you’re out of town with your toddler, continue with toilet training. Do not return to diapers out of convenience, as this will confuse your child. Use protective sheets or pads until your child stays dry at night. Your toddler will have accidents, but stay calm and be consistent.

When your child is ready to transition from a potty chair to the toilet, plan to use a step stool and fitted seat over bathroom toilet. Wiping their own bottom effectively may not occur until 4 or 5 years of age.  Encourage your child to wipe themselves using wet wipes. You can check if they have done so efficiently.

Try Again

If your child never makes it to the potty on time or appears confused after several days of trying, he or she may not be ready. Return to diapers. Try training routines again in a few weeks or months when your child is showing more of the readiness signs listed previously.