toilet training
Development

Toilet training

Getting your toddler out of nappies can be a stressful time for all involved, but eventually your child will get the hang of using the toilet. 

The majority of toddlers are generally ready for toilet training somewhere between two and three years of age, although some children are early starters and show signs of readiness to start using the potty at 18 months. Daytime toilet training is usually mastered long before night-time training, which may not happen until he’s five or six years old.

Toilet training

Before introducing the toilet or potty, it helps a lot if you have an established daily routine with your child. This way, the new activity of using the toilet or potty can become part of your normal routine.

Your child is showing some signs of being ready if he:

  • Is walking and can sit for short periods of time.
  • Is becoming generally more independent when it comes to completing tasks.
  • Is becoming interested in watching others go to the toilet (this can be awkward or make you uncomfortable at first, but is a good way to introduce things).
  • Has dry nappies for up to two hours – this shows he’s able to store wee in his bladder (which automatically empties in younger babies or newborns).
  • Tells you (or shows obvious signs) when he does a poo or wee in his nappy – if he can tell you before it happens, he’s ready for toilet training.
  • Begins to dislike wearing a nappy, perhaps trying to pull it off when it’s wet or soiled.
  • Has regular, soft, formed bowel movements.
  • Can pull his pants up and down.
  • Can follow simple instructions, such as ‘Give the ball to daddy’.
  • Shows understanding about things having their place around the home. Not all the above signs need to be present when your child is ready. You will notice a trend developing that will let you know it’s time to start.

Getting ready

Potty/toilet or both?

First, decide whether you want to train using a potty or the toilet. A potty is mobile and it’s familiar, and some children find it less daunting than a toilet. Find out your child’s preference and go with that. Some parents encourage their child to use both the toilet and potty.

Equip yourselves.

Second, make sure you have all the right equipment. If your child is using the toilet, you’ll need a step for your child to stand on. You’ll also need a smaller seat that fits securely inside the existing toilet seat, because some children are nervous about falling in. Books. At the start, you might like to read a book about toilet training with your child. There are some fun children’s books your child might like to read in the early stages of toilet training.

Toilet words.

Teach your child some words associated with going to the toilet – for example, you might want to teach her words like ‘wee’, ‘poo’ and ‘I need to go’. Using training pants After your child has had a few weeks getting used to the potty, it’s a good time to start with training pants. These are absorbent underwear worn during toilet training. Training pants are less absorbent than a nappy. They’re useful for holding in bigger messes (such as an accidental poo).

Basic steps for toilet training

1. Choose a day to start toilet training and commit to it. It is a good idea to begin toilet training in the warmer months when your toddler will be lightly dressed. Try to choose a time when you can spend a couple of days at home.

2. Begin by withdrawing nappies while he’s awake and while you’re at home – it doesn’t make sense 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.

3. Make sure your toddler can quickly and easily get his clothes on and off. You may prefer to let him run around in his underpants only.

4. 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.

5. Make sure he’s drinking plenty of water and eating fibre-rich food, both of which will make the ‘going’ easy and regular.

6. Be attentive – once you’ve tuned into him, you may start to see the signs that your child needs to go to the toilet before he does.

7. Never get cross. If he’s wetting his pants more often than he’s getting to the potty, don’t be negative. Instead he needs encouragement.

8. Ask him if he needs to go to the toilet throughout the day – but don’t overdo it as he may just start ignoring you. Suggesting that he go to the toilet before you leave the house; before and straight after his nap are logical times to ask, too.

9. If he’s still sitting on the toilet after five minutes, chances are that there’s nothing’s happening so get him off!

10. Leave teaching him how to wipe his bottom until he’s fully toilet-trained. > Show him how to wash his hands properly.

11. If he misses the toilet, don’t comment. Just clean it up without any fuss.

12. You can expect accidents and setbacks – these are all just part of the process

Caroline McGuire

“I am in the midst of toilet training at the moment. I knew my daughter was ready when her dirty nappies annoyed her, so I bought a potty. She turned two in February and we are doing amazing … I find that encouraging her and praising her when she does a pee or pooh in the potty helps.

My top tips are to offer lots of encouragement – things like offering a treat when they want to use the potty, make a big fuss when they do use the potty, say how great they are etc. I bought my daughter a book about a bear learning to use the potty and she loves it and copies the bear. Also if your child has a favourite toy, use the toy to encourage your child to use the potty, say things like “bunny wants to use the potty too”.

Nichola Curran

“I have two boys who were both toilet trained by the age of two and within a week. There was no secret technique. I just realised they were both ready. I started off in the evenings keeping them in the same room as me and no clothes from the bottom down. I would watch them like a hawk and if I spotted them looking like they were about to go, I quickly picked them up, put them on the potty and praised them after. I continued this and every day. I would leave them without a nappy on for longer periods of time. As soon as they knew what they were doing, I got rid of the potty.”

Gwen Loughman

“Some toddlers are ready at two and others resist until they are three. Wait until your child is ready. You will know quickly enough. Such upsets (and massive stacks of laundry) are just not worth it. Even waiting another month or six weeks could make all the difference. Be prepared for the first couple of days to be unsuccessful. I found day three to be the deal breaker; it usually clicks by then. Underpants emblazoned with cartoon characters contain magic powers in that your child may be loathe to soil them and use the potty or toilet regularly!

I think it’s important not to ask them to ‘go’ every half hour as they need to know what a full bladder feels like. Bribery can come back to bite you, so maybe hold off till the end of the week for a treat. Tracksuit pants are great! Buttons and zips just make a tough job harder and the tracksuits dry quickly. Most importantly, try not to stress.”

More like this:

Potty training advice
How to play with your toddler
Help your toddler learn through play

ASK LOUISE

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….

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ASK LOUISE

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….