Tips for toilet training your toddler

If you think your child might be ready for toilet training, start when you will have the time and patience to give it your attention. Weekends can be good.

Avoid beginning if your child is coping with other big changes like starting child care or a new baby arriving.

Here are some tips:

Watch carefully so you notice when a wee or poo is coming out

Say, ‘I think you’re doing a wee or a poo’.

As you take them to the toilet or potty, let them know that this is good, and doing a wee and poo is good for them. 

Encourage your child to tell you when they have done a wee or poo in their nappy

This can be hard for them to realise if using pull-up nappies which take away the feeling of wetness.

If you use toweling training pants, your child will feel it as soon as it comes out.

Watch for signs they are about to do a wee or poo

They may start fidgeting or crossing their legs.

As you guide them to the toilet or potty you might say: ‘Let’s see if there’s a wee or poo coming.'

If your child tells you before they do a wee or poo, thank them for telling you 

Take them to the toilet or potty straight away.

Be positive 

Praise them for small successes and for trying - eg: ‘You pulled down your pants really quickly.’

Put them on the toilet or potty at a time when they usually do a wee or poo in the nappy

This could be after a meal or soon after a sleep if they wake up dry.

Don’t make children sit on a potty or toilet for more than a couple of minutes 

It can feel like a punishment and does not help toilet training.

After a number of successes, try leaving the nappy off and use training pants 

Training pants are easier for a child to get off by themselves.

They are also more absorbent than underwear yet easy to wash and feel very grownup to children.

Try not to switch between nappies and training pants

While nappies can be ‘safer’ when going out, try not to switch back to them at home.

This may confuse your child. Most toddlers will still need a nappy at night.

Expect accidents after they learn how to use the toilet or potty

It takes time for your toddler to understand their body’s signals.

It’s easy for them to get interested in doing something and not notice the warning signs.

Make it easy to go to the toilet at night

Leave the toilet light on at night and the door open so they can get to the toilet by themselves.

Reward progress

Reward each small step with cuddles and encouraging words rather than offering treats.

Hygiene tips

Try some of these hygiene tips:

  • float a ping-pong ball in the bowl for boys to aim at
  • teach boys to shake their penis after a wee to get rid of any drops
  • toddlers don’t have the skills to wipe their bottom properly so you will need to do this with them until they can get it right
  • teach girls to wipe from the front towards the back to avoid getting poo in the vagina
  • teach children to wash their hands after using the toilet or potty and always do this yourself after helping them
  • don’t make a fuss about cleaning up - if your child feels anxious there are likely to be more accidents.

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Last updated: 28 November 2017