What are the signs my child is ready to potty train?

Before your child can begin potty training they need to develop a sensation felt by the trigone nerve in the bladder which tells us we need to do a wee – children develop this sensation at different times but it is common in girls at around 2 – 2 ½ years and in boys between 3-4 years.

An early sign your child may be ready to start potty training is when they tell you they need a wee after they’ve done one in their nappy. Telling you after the event can be a little frustrating, but if they’re conscious they’ve wet themselves it is a sign they may be ready to start potty training. Children usually master going for a wee before doing a poo. You might notice your child is going to do a poo if they suddenly pull a face or squat down. Whatever they do, it takes some time for children to put two and two together, and they don’t fully understand what going to the toilet is until they can actually do it.

Be prepared that potty training is often a stop start process – you think they’ve cracked it but then they lose interest again. This is normal and you can’t predict or force a child to be potty trained.

When should we buy a potty?

If you’re talking to your little one about going to the shops and picking out a potty and they’re interested, that’s nice but don’t force it. Get the potty when your child starts showing awareness of doing a wee. Being interested in the potty as an object usually isn’t enough of a sign in itself.

Having the potty visible in the family bathroom or a downstairs loo is fine if you want to, it really depends on the layout of your home and how easy it is to get to the potty. Your child doesn’t need to have sight of it all the times and choosing a convenient private spot is usually best. Once they’ve begun potty training, knowing where the potty is kept is useful but having it out all the time won’t be what makes them ready to train. It’s all down to their physical development and your gentle support.

Which potty should we get?

There’s plenty to choose from in terms of toilet training equipment and the truth is all children are different and like different things. It’s likely you won’t use it for that long because once they’ve got the hang of the potty, they’re usually onto the toilet quite quickly. When choosing a potty, pick something that is easy to clean and tip into the loo after they’ve been.

Nappies or knickers?

Quality nappies aren’t always the most expensive or the best value. Aldi does a great range that are high in quality and affordable giving you the best of both. Get a few pull-ups and have a few pairs of knickers or pants as well and see what your child likes. Many children will still need a nappy at night for some time, even if they are dry during the day.

Be prepared for accidents

We all expect to have accidents – be very matter of fact and relaxed about it but most importantly be prepared. Always having spare clothing and nappies, wipes and bags to clean up and take home wet clothing in. It may be very inconvenient and make you feel anxious but do your best not to show it.

Trust yourself

Potty training can be a topic people have firm opinions on but try not to be pressured, it doesn’t matter when anyone else’s child is ready. It may be they are really interested and go off the idea which is normal. It won’t be anything you’ve done wrong. Don’t push it. You can calmly suggest using the potty but if you get no response or an upset response let it go, and try again when you think they’re ready.

Use gentle praise during this gradual process

Children often develop self-help skills like toilet training and self-feeding much later than learning to use language. Play it cool, and try not to pressure your little one or show any anxiety. Make doing a wee on the potty a part of normal everyday routine without saying much about it. A little praise for using the potty is great, but only needs a smile and a calm ‘well done’, followed by, ‘now let’s wash our hands.’ Using praise and treating your child with respect and dignity makes it a positive learning experience.    

Training siblings or twins

It’s usually best to train children as individuals. If one trains easier than the other you don’t want the other child to feel bad. If you can it’s a good idea to give them a potty each and take them to the toilet separately especially if they tend to distract each other. There aren’t any rules, it might work to put one in a playpen for a few minutes whilst you take their sibling to the toilet but if you’re away from home you’ll probably all need to go together. Siblings and twins like everything else won’t necessarily develop at exactly the pace, but parents quickly find tactics that work for them.

Do boys and girl potty train differently?

The right time to toilet train is different for each child. Mostly the mechanism for recognising the nerves in the bladder that signal you need the loo don’t develop until a child is around 2 years-old. It can be much later in boys who are sometimes not ready until they are 3 years+.

With boys if the child is a bit older they may prefer to skip the potty and go straight to the toilet using a step and a mini toilet seat. Imitating dad going for a wee and going to the toilet with him often teaches boys how to wee standing up.

My child doesn’t want to give up their nappy and won’t sit on the potty or toilet

When children give up having a nappy it is exciting to see them moving onto a new stage in their natural development, but it can be like a small bereavement for them. They’re losing the security and comfort of their nappy; letting them go at their own pace makes for a more positive experience for the whole family.

Let your child be in charge in making the transition to giving up their nappy by letting them sit on the potty in their nappy if they want to. Keep loosening the tabs day by day until it’s almost falling off. Then replace the nappy with toilet paper. Go at their pace, it doesn’t matter whether they take days or a week or two.

How do you move from the potty to the toilet?

All children feel differently about the toilet – some don’t like it and find it scary others never even go on the potty and go straight to the toilet. As they grow and the capacity in their bladder gets bigger you can move them onto the toilet which often happens quite quickly once they get the hang of it.

When you’re going out or at someone else’s house

Get into the habit of going to for a wee as part of normal routines like brushing your teeth. Always go for a wee before you leave and you’re less likely to get caught short. When you’re little and away from home you’re often too excited to remember you need the toilet – so if you need to spend a penny your child probably does too so always take them with you to minimise accidents.

Toilet training at nursery

Once your child has got the hang of using the potty or toilet at home you can discuss with your nursery how they can support you. Ask them to take your child to the toilet every couple of hours and to tell them not to worry if they have an accident. Pack spare clothes and plastic bags and be prepared for some extra washing.

Is it normal for children to regress after they’ve been potty trained?

Yes, children can regress often if they potty trained early – they sometimes need to revisit the process again to get a fuller understanding of what they’re doing.

What if my child doesn’t like having a poo?

Sometimes children don’t want to poo because they’ve been constipated and had an uncomfortable poo and so try and put off going. You can help by increasing fluids and giving them water soluble fibre e.g. fruit and vegetables to soften stool.

What are the signs my child can go without a nappy at night? How do we get them dry at night?

Often children are dry in the day but wet at night for a long time. Some children need a nappy at night until they are 5-6 years old. Take your child for a wee before they go to bed but they’ll be ready in their own time. You won’t be far off dry nights if you’re getting more dry nappies in a week than wet ones. Once you have a week of taking off dry nappies every morning you can try them without a nappy. Use a waterproof sheet over the mattress and have some spares sheets and pjs ready so you can change their sheets and bedclothes without too much fuss if your child has an accident.