Getting ready for toilet training

Your toddler may show they are ready to start toilet training between 18 months and two-and-a-half years of age.

This is when they become more physically mature and want to be more independent.

Know when your toddler is ready

Your toddler could be ready for toilet training if they show any of the following signs: 

  • copy your behaviour and follow simple instructions
  • say words for ‘wee’ and ‘poo’
  • show an interest in others using the toilet
  • pull their pants up and down
  • stay dry for two hours or more in the day - this shows they can ‘hold on’
  • tell you they have just done a wee or a poo in their nappy, or when their bladder or bowel is full
  • pull at wet or dirty nappies or ask to be changed
  • have bowel motions at a similar time each day that have a firm consistency
  • don’t want to wear nappies.

How to get prepare your toddler

Talk with other people who care for your child about what you will all do to help them learn to use the toilet. It helps to be consistent.

To help your child get ready for toilet training you can:

  • read a toilet training book or watch a DVD with your child - get one from your local library
  • let your child go with you to the toilet and talk about what you are doing, if you feel OK about it - the first step in learning how to use a toilet is understanding what it’s for
  • teach your child words they need to know for toilet training - eg: ‘wet’, ‘dry’, ‘wee’, ‘poo’, ‘it’s coming’ - choose words you are comfortable with
  • make the area safe - put all household cleaners and toiletries out of reach
  • dress your child in clothes that are easy for them to get on and off, and easy to wash
  • keep the potty or toilet ready to use, to avoid accidents
  • learn your child’s cues so you can be ready to guide them to the toilet in time.

Toilet or potty?

Before you start toilet training, decide whether to use a potty or the toilet. Many parents use both.

You might want to have both ready and find out which one your child prefers. 

Toilet

If using a toilet, your toddler needs to feel safe and relaxed to be able to let the wee or poo out. You will need:

  • a toddler toilet seat with a smaller hole that fits inside the big toilet seat
  • a step they can climb up on by themselves and rest their feet on while sitting.

Some toddlers are afraid of being flushed down the toilet, even with the toddler seat in place.

You can let them flush the toilet after doing a wee or poo to help give them a sense of control and so they can see what happens. 

Even though you might want them to use the toilet, using a potty might be easier for them.

Some boys like to start off sitting down to wee, others want to stand from the start.

Potty

Many parents start toilet training their toddler with a potty. They choose this because:

  • it’s easier for a child to get onto a potty without help and they can feel safer because it’s not so high
  • they can put it somewhere their toddler can get to quickly
  • they can take it with them when they go out.

You can also leave a potty out so that your child gets used to it before they begin toilet training.

Children can ‘try it out’ - even with their clothes on - and get to know how it feels, without any expectations.

They can also sit their teddy on the potty ‘to do a wee’.

When confident with the potty, children can then move on to using the toilet.

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Last updated: 18 September 2017