By the time your child reaches their second and third years of life, the daunting task of getting them out of diapers and transitioning to using the toilet has probably crossed your mind or is on your to-do list. In the first 12 months of life, children are not able to control their bladder or bowel movements, but by 18 to 24 months many children have reached this milestone. If your child is showing signs of readiness, they may be ready to be potty trained.
Your child may be ready to begin toilet training if they:
- Express interest in toilet training
- Demonstrate independence and use the word “no”
- Can follow simple instructions
- Are dry at least two hours at a time during the day or after naps
- Have recognizable cues that they are about to urinate or have a bowel movement
- Can walk to the bathroom, sit, and pull clothes up and down independently
Keep in mind that it can be normal for some children to be ready later than this and children with certain medical conditions or developmental delays may be embarking on toilet training at even older ages.
Make a plan. Decide when and how you want to start, how to handle accidents, and when to back off (i.e. illness, arrival of a new sibling, toilet training resistance). Discuss your plan with your childcare providers.
Take it slow. Mastering the various steps of potty training can take a few days to a few months. Let your child take their time and they will move from one stage to the next at their own pace.
Buy the right equipment. Buy a floor level potty training chair that allows your child’s feet to touch the floor when they sit down on it.
Practice. Have your child practice sitting on the chair. Watch for signs they need to use the bathroom such as holding the genital area or pulling at their pants.
Motivate your child. Use gentle reminders and encouragement. If your child uses the potty, make sure to reward them with treats, stickers, and plenty of praise and hugs.
Transition when ready. Once your child is using the potty training chair, introduce loose fitting underwear they can easily pull up and down by themselves. Once you start your child wearing underwear, use diapers only for naps, bedtime or when traveling.
Remember, it’s a process. It’s likely your toddler will have many accidents before being completely potty trained. Avoid getting angry, yelling, or punishing.
If your child starts to resist at any step, it’s okay to back off and try again in a few weeks. If it continues to be a struggle, or if you have any questions about the process, always talk to your pediatrician.