Potty training tips

Potty training is a complex process, and it can be tricky to know how to potty train your boy or girl. There is no single best way to potty train, because every child learns differently, but to help we’ve compiled a list of 23 daytime and 4 night-time potty and toilet training tips to help your toddler get the hang of it a little easier.

23 Daytime Potty Training Tips

1. Make sure your child is ready. Try not to rush the process and start potty training too early. Look for the signs of readiness in your child before starting to potty train your toddler. Signs include that your little one can go about an hour without a wet nappy and can let you know when he or she is going to wee, before it happens.

2. Choose a good time. It’s best to start potty training in a less busy period, when you’ve got plenty of time. So, if you’re moving house, you’ve just had another baby or you are about to go on holiday – for example – now might not be the best time to start potty training.

3. Get your child involved in choosing the potty. If possible, go shopping for a new potty together with your child. This could make him or her feel more included and more excited about using the brand-new potty. Don’t be surprised if your little one just treats it as just another toy at first. You can help your toddler understand it’s true purpose by playing at putting a teddy, doll or action figure on it.

4. Let your toddler set the pace. If you can see that your child needs to go, it’s fine to encourage him or her to sit on the potty, but don’t make a big issue out of it. In fact, a good strategy might be to let your child think it was his or her own idea.

5. Place the potty in a convenient spot. The bathroom is the obvious location for potty training your boy or girl (and this can certainly help your child associate going to the loo with this room in your home). However, if that room’s in a distant part of the house you may also want to think about placing the potty in your child's bedroom for easy access after naps, or in the playroom.

6. Have several potties. If you live in a house it can help to have one potty for upstairs and another for downstairs, so there’s always one close at hand. Keeping a spare potty in the car is also useful for potty training while you’re travelling.

7. Get on a potty schedule. If you know that your little one usually does a poo around the same time every day, leave the nappy off and ask if he or she wants to use the potty instead. If this doesn’t work out, just put the nappy back on and try again in a few weeks’ time.

8. Go after meals. Eating and digesting food can often trigger the urge to poo, so just after meals can be a good time to sit your child on the potty. It also helps let your child know that using the potty is a routine thing.

9. Use a sticker chart to track and reward potty training progress. You can create a potty training progress chart, and then hang it near the potty or in the bathroom. Every time your toddler does a good job, let him or place a sticker on the chart.

10. Give praise when praise is due. When your toddler does a good job on the potty, show your appreciation! Commenting on what a big boy or girl your child is for using the potty or loo is a great way of giving encouragement. It’s best to avoid making too much of a big deal out it though – presents, and especially sweets – could set a bad precedent. If you think your toddler would like to have something to show for each successful loo visit (apart from what gets flushed away) consider using a sticker chart like the one we linked at tip number nine.

11. Give your baby a book. Read your little one a book about going to the potty while he or she is actually on the potty or give your child a favourite picture book to look at. This could help your child pass the time and feel more relaxed.

Reading on the potty

12. Dress your child for the occasion. Make sure your child’s clothes are easy to remove while you’re potty training. By the time your toddler manages to get out of a favourite superhero costume, dungarees and tights or a unicorn onesie, it might just be too late. It might be helpful to go for hook-and-loop fasteners instead of zips, buttons or straps.

13. Have naked time. In warm weather (or just inside the house) you might prefer to let your toddler go naked during potty training. This makes it easier to go to the loo because there’s no need to take anything off first. It can also help children who aren’t aware of when they pee, by helping them to link the sensation of peeing with the sight of the wee coming out.

14. Train by example. Take your child with you the next time you need to use the toilet, so show how easy it is to pee and poo. It can help to explain what’s happening in simple language. Dads might find it easier to teach little boys, and mums might demonstrate the process for girls. However, there’s no hard and fast rule, and you should go with what works for your family.

Potty training tips for girls

15. Consider encouraging the toilet instead of the potty. Some children are happy to start out on a toilet rather than a freestanding potty. If this works for your toddler, all the better! Perching on a grown-up toilet can be daunting for a young child though. Get a toilet seat adapter so your little one feels properly supported during toilet training. A step is also important for boosting your child’s independence and as a footrest to help maintain balance.

16. Teach your boy to wee sitting down at first. Children of potty-training age may not always be able to judge whether they need to just pee or do a poo as well. If your boy also needs to do a poo, sitting down will encourage him to go. Once your boy has mastered peeing standing up, he sometimes might forget about doing a poo, leading to constipation. This is why it’s still important to sit your little boy on the loo or potty at least once a day.

17. Teach your girl to wipe from front to back. If your girl has reached the stage of potty training where she’s ready to try wiping her own bottom, teach her the importance of wiping from front to back. This helps prevent urinary tract infections.

18. Use target practice to encourage your boy. Once your boy’s potty training is on track and he’s ready to try peeing standing up, you can start teaching him how to aim. One way to do this is to drop a piece of O-shaped cereal into the toilet bowl and encourage your boy to take aim. The satisfaction of making the target will serve as positive reinforcement.

19. Make pooing less scary. For your potty training child, passing a bowel movement might be frightening. A reluctance to poo can lead to withholding, which could cause constipation. Passing hard stools can be painful, too, and your child may associate pooping with pain. If your toddler says it hurts to poo, it’s OK to let him or her stop trying and have another go later. Try and make loo-time fun with a book, and don’t rush your child. Making sure your baby gets enough fibre in his or her diet can also help reduce the likelihood of hard, painful poos.

20. Show and tell. One tactic for demonstrating that bowel movements are natural and nothing to be afraid of could be to act out a ‘going to the loo’ scene. Use a favourite doll or teddy bear to act out how the doll goes about using the toilet or potty. You can even ask your child to show you how the doll goes to the loo, to reinforce the lesson.

Potty training tips for boys

21. Don’t flush right away. If you’re using your toilet to train, don’t flush straight away, especially while your boy or girl is still sitting on the loo. The flushing sound can be scary in the early stages of potty training. Introduce the concept of flushing gradually once your toddler has got used to the idea of going to the toilet. Eventually, you could make a fun game out of it — almost like letting your child press the button in a lift.

22. Don’t punish mistakes. Although potty training struggles can be frustrating at times, resist the urge to get angry or punish your toddler for any potty training accidents or for not being able to go. Instead, let your child know that it’s OK and he or she can try again later. Added pressure will not help your infant learn any faster. It may also be that your little one isn’t ready yet, so consider putting potty training on hold for a few days or weeks.

23. Be prepared for setbacks. All toddlers have the occasional accident, or periods when potty training doesn’t seem to be going as well as before. Don’t be discouraged if this happens. Be patient and encouraging – this is just a normal and natural part of the learning process. Regression can also happen, when a child who’s learned to go use the toilet goes back to regularly wetting him or herself or the bed. This could be a response to emotional upheaval, like moving house, although in some cases it could also be due to a bladder infection, tapeworm or another underlying health condition. Talk to your health visitor or doctor if you’re concerned.

Night-time Potty Training Tips

1. Know when your child is ready. Don’t start night-time potty training until your child is already using the potty or toilet during the day. Most children will have reached this milestone by around the age of 4, but every child is different. A sign that your toddler may be ready for night-time potty training is if he or she wakes up with a dry (or only slightly damp) nappy several mornings in a row.

2. Go last thing before bed. Encourage your child to sit on the potty last thing before bed and keep it nearby in case he or she wants to get up to use it in the night.

3. Prepare for accidents. A few little accidents are virtually guaranteed, so it’s a good idea to protect your child’s mattress with a waterproof sheet.

4. Keep on praising success. Always show your approval when your boy or girl wakes up in a dry bed. If your child doesn’t seem to be making progress, there’s no need to make a fuss. Just go back to using nappies for a few more weeks before having another go.

The Bottom Line

We hope these tips can help you and your child during potty training. Don’t lose hope if it isn’t happening as seamlessly as you’d like. With one or more of these techniques – or perhaps with another one that you’ve found works for you – your little one will eventually get the hang of it.

How we wrote this article

The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.