Potty training advice

Potty training advice – all your questions answered

Learn about the signs that signal your toddler is ready to start toilet training with expert advice from The Childcare Agency managing director Natalie Collier.

Potty training advice

Toilet training is a massive milestone for your toddler. This is why you need to make sure that your little one is fully ready to make the transition from nappy to toilet/potty.

When you begin toilet training your child, decide at the beginning on the words you are going to use, such as ‘wee’ for passing urine and ‘poo’ for a bowel motion. Talk about these in a positive way.

How to know when your child is ready for potty or toilet training:

  • Can my child follow simple directions?
  • Does my child remain dry for at least two hours at a time during the day?
  • Is my child dry after a daytime nap?
  • Are their bowel movements regular and predictable?
  • Can they pull their pants up and down by themselves?
  • Do they seem uncomfortable in soiled or wet nappies?
  • Do they know the difference between wet and dry?
  • Can they tell me that a wee or a poo is coming?

According to the HSE, if you answer yes to most of these questions, your child is ready to be toilet trained.

Children are usually ready for toilet training between two and three years old. But it’s important to remember that each child starts in their own time.

Potty training advice – all your questions answered

potty training advice

Natalie Collier, Managing Director of The National Childcare Agency answers a few common questions from parents about toilet training.

Q.1 How can parents effectively use pull up style nappies?

A. Pull up style nappies are very convenient as they prevent you from having to clean up accidents especially if you need to go out and about with your toilet-training-toddler.

If possible, try to stay mostly at home with quick access to the potty/ toilet for the first week or two so your toddler can have more success without the need for pull up nappies.

Pull up style nappies can be used then for night time or outings. Pull up style nappies can also be used for your toddler to gain confidence, it can give them a sense of feeling ‘more grown up’ than a baby before they are fully ready to train.

If they are not successful in the first couple of tries, then they don’t have to go back to nappies and have not lost any confidence along the way.

Q.2 Is it okay for toddlers to skip the potty and go straight to the toilet?

A. Absolutely, and many children often prefer to use the toilet rather than the potty as that’s what they see their older siblings/parents doing.

Give both a try and do whatever makes your toddler most comfortable. You can get steps for easier access and seat inserts to make the seat smaller.

Q.3 Is there a difference between toilet training for boys and girls?

A. Toddlers can train from as early as 18 months to three and a half years and it completely depends on your child and watching out for signs that they are ready.

In my experience, I have typically found that girls tend to train younger than boys but not in all cases. In the actual training there isn’t much difference except making sure your little boys are ‘pointing in the right direction’ while sitting on the toilet/potty and showing them how to do this themselves.

Some boys learn straight off to go standing up and some learn to sit initially and then as they are a little older (and a little better at controlling their aim!) they learn to stand.

This can help with learning to tell the difference between just having a wee and doing number twos as well. With girls, make sure to teach them front to back wiping to prevent any infections especially for when they start to do it themselves.

Q.4 When should a parent begin to seek help if their child just can’t be toilet trained?

A. If you think your child is ready to train, by all means give it a go. If they are not succeeding most of the time after two weeks and you find they are having more accidents than successes then give it up…. no big deal or fuss and try again in another couple of months.

Some children have no interest in using the potty or toilet and for some, their muscles are just not developed fully enough for them to succeed.

Some children do have a fear of going without the support of a nappy/pull up and that should resolve with plenty of encouragement and some successes.

Sometimes it takes just one success for your toddler to realise it is nothing to fear.

Most children train successfully between the ages of two and three but some take a little longer.

Some children even train successfully and then revert back to having daily accidents even after months of being dry consistently. This again is no big deal and may be just a phase such as the arrival of a younger sibling, moving to a different room in a creche or even a change of diet and is nothing to worry about.  Be positive.

Try to remain positive and remind them how great it is when they use the toilet successfully. If however, you have tried several times (giving at least a month in between each try and trying for two weeks at a time) and your child is over the age of three and a half, but having no success you may need to check with your GP that everything is working okay.

This is not the same as accidents happening occasionally or staying dry through the night which is normal up to the age of approximately six, but consistently having accidents and either not making it to the bathroom on time every time or not making any effort/ knowing that they are wet.

Most of the time there is nothing to worry about and your child just needs more time and practice but if you are worried, get it checked out and try not to let your anxiety effect your toddler’s attitude to toilet training.

Potty training advice

Q.5 Do you agree with parents using a rewards system for toilet training?

A. Yes, definitely once the emphasis is on the ‘trying’ rather than the successes or failures!

Children love to be praised and the more praise and encouragement they receive the more likely they are to succeed the next time. If however your child has an accident or doesn’t make it to the loo on time, stickers/rewards should never be taken away and toddlers should not be chastised for failing.

Focus instead on the positive. Some children don’t respond to reward systems or they get too upset for not getting a reward when they don’t succeed.

In this case, perhaps it is time to put it away and just use words of encouragement instead. Each child is unique and will respond differently to different approaches and train at varying ages and paces. The most important thing for you to remember is they need to feel comfortable, confident and that they are doing the best they can and that you are too!

Q.6 How can my child’s crèche help with my child’s toilet training?

A. Discuss with the room leader as to whether they think your child is also ready. Some children train as young as 18 months and others can take well up until after they are three, every child is different.

Listen to what they have to say as they may have some valuable tips on how to go about doing this both at home and in crèche. If they don’t think your child is ready and you do, ask them to give it a week at least and see how it goes.

Equally if you are not sure if your toddler is ready but the room leader thinks they are showing the signs, give them a week to try in Crèche and support it at home too, if it doesn’t work out you can come back to it in a few months.

Once you have made the decision to go ahead, be prepared!

• Bring extra trousers, underwear, socks, vests and tops (yes wee can travel up!) in a bag, at least three to four pairs for the bottom half as well as training pants if you are using them and a spare pair of shoes.

• Make sure clothes are easy to pull on and off such as leggings or tracksuit bottoms.

• Prepare your toddler: Discuss with them that they are now going to be using the big toilet in crèche, show them where it is and that they will have to tell their minder when they need to go etc.

• Reward, Encouragement, Reward! Crèches vary but most will be happy to dole out stickers and should always give bucket loads of praise and encouragement for every time your toddler uses the bathroom. This may start out with them simply sitting on the toilet to successfully going by themselves after a while.

Communication is key especially during the first week or two between parent and room leader. You may find after a few days that your child is getting on brilliantly at home but not so great in crèche. Don’t despair, it can take time.

Children are often busier and more distracted while at crèche, forgetting they need to go until it is too late. A good room leader will watch out for signs your toddler needs to go and will bring them every 30-60 minutes to try.

You are also able to give your toddler more one on one attention at home, so they may grasp the concept first at home. Once they have more control and understanding, it will come naturally in crèche also, especially when they see the other kids using the bathroom.

Top toilet training tips

✔ Let your child set the pace for training. Train them when it feels right for them.

✔ Watch your child for signals that they need to go to the toilet, such as hopping up and down, or holding their pants. Get them to the potty quickly.

✔ Praise your child gently whenever they use the potty.

✔ Put on easy-to-care-for clothes that your child can pull up and down easily.

✔ Take your child with you when you or your other children go to the toilet. It prepares your young child for when it is their turn.

✔ Help your child to manage for themselves on the potty or the toilet, but don’t leave them to manage alone. Go with your child when they ask you to.

✔ After they have finished, get your child’s permission to wipe their bottom. Remember to wipe girls from front to back to prevent infection. (www.hse.ie) More information National Childcare Agency www.nationalchildcare.ie


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Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.


Toilet training

Top tips and real mum advice on toilet training for your child.


Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.