potty training readiness signs

When it comes to potty training, and when to start the process, patience is usually rewarded.

Although there’s no magic method for instant success, there are plenty things you can do to make the all-important transition out of nappies a little easier on both you and your child.

Read on to find out how to read the signs of when your little one might be ready to start potty training, and learn how to help your child with potty training.

When Will Your Child Be Ready to Start Potty Training

The age at which your child will be ready to start potty training varies a lot. Some children don’t need nappies during the day at the age of 2, but this is still relatively early.

Many parents first attempt potty or toilet training when their toddler is around 2.5 years old, but keep in mind that children become ready for this big milestone at their own pace.

Boys often start potty training later than girls, and it may also take them longer to get the hang of it.

It’s important to keep in mind that there’s no ‘perfect age’ when every toddler should start potty training.

You may find it’s best to wait until your child shows signs of readiness, instead of trying to jump-start the process too early or forcing your child to be potty trained by a certain age.

Don’t let yourself be pressured into potty or toilet training your child before he or she is ready.

You know your child best, and you might sense when the time is right. Learning how to use the potty might be easier (and go more quickly) if you wait until your child is ready – usually around the age of 2, or even a little later.

7 Signs Your Child Is Ready to Start Potty Training

If you’re not sure about when to start potty training, rather than focusing on age it might be helpful to look out for the typical signs that your child is getting ready to start toilet or potty training.

Signs your toddler may be ready to start potty training include if your toddler

  • knows that he or she has a wet or soiled nappy

  • tells you when he or she is weeing

  • lets you know when he or she is going to wee, before it happens

  • can go at least an hour without a wet nappy

  • fidgets or hides when he or she needs to wee

  • is able to sit down on the potty, sit still for long enough to do the business and can follow your instructions

  • knows what the potty is and what it’s used for.

Keep in mind, the more of these signs you’ve noticed, the quicker your toddler will usually be able to master using the potty or toilet.

This means, even if your child starts potty training a little later than his or her peers, your child may actually master this new skill faster and have fewer ‘accidents’ along the way.

How Long Does Potty Training Take?

On average, potty training can often take between three and six months, but every child is different, so your little one may need less or more time.

Also, keep in mind that even after successful potty training your child will probably still have ‘accidents’ from time to time.

Occasionally, children go back to wetting themselves or the bed after growing out of nappies completely.

Sometimes this can be an emotional reaction to disruptions like a house move or the arrival of a new baby, but in other cases it may be a sign of a urinary infection or another complaint.

Whatever the cause, be patient and understanding with your little one. See your child’s doctor if there’s any chance of an underlying medical problem.

Things You Can Do to Prepare Your Toddler for Potty Training

Even before you start noticing the signs of readiness for potty training, there are steps you can take to prepare your child for potty training and help make the experience successful:

  • Talk to your toddler about what you’re doing when you change his or her nappy as this will help your child understand the concepts of wee, poo and a wet or dirty nappy

  • Try to change nappies in the bathroom, if possible, and your toddler may start to associate this room with going to the toilet

  • Get a potty and leave it in plain view, plus explain what it’s for

  • Use a doll or soft toy to demonstrate how the potty is used

  • If you have an older child who already uses a potty, you make like to let your little one learn from watching his or her sibling. Letting your child see you on the toilet, and explaining what’s happening, is also helpful if you’re comfortable with it.

  • See if your toddler would like to try sitting on the potty, even for a few moments. The best time for this is during nappy changes or just before getting ready for bed.

How to Start Potty Training

Once you've seen most of the signs of readiness mentioned above, it could be a good time to start potty training.

Keep in mind that it's not helpful to make your child sit on the potty or toilet if he or she doesn't want to. A couple of times a day for a few minutes each is plenty of potty time at first. It's also OK for your toddler to get up if he or she feels like it.

If you've got a son, it's easiest if he learns to pee sitting down at first, because this is how he'll be using the potty for doing poos anyway. Once he's using the potty or toilet like a pro, he can move on to the advanced skill of weeing while standing up.

Once your child is comfortable sitting on the potty for a few minutes at a time, start using some of these potty training techniques:

Potty Training Techniques

There's no magic method for potty training that's guaranteed to be the quickest or easiest, but you might like to try some – or all – of these ways of encouraging your child to make the switch from nappies to the potty or toilet:

  • Encourage your child to sit on the potty after removing a freshly wet or soiled nappy. This reinforces the association between wee-wee, poo and the potty. It also makes the potty a part of your toddler's daily routine.

  • Put your child on the potty after eating a meal, because the process of digesting food often causes a bowel movement

  • If your baby often does a poo at a certain time every day, try taking off his or her nappy around that time and offering the potty instead. If your child doesn't seem keen on the idea, just put the nappy back on and try again a few weeks later.

  • If your little one doesn't sit on the potty for very long, a book or some other toy may help keep him or her occupied for a little longer

  • If your child fills a nappy, put the poo into the potty so he or she can see that this is where it should go

  • Keep a potty close at hand, and if your child seems about to do a poo – for example, if he or she starts grunting, squatting or getting a little red-faced – try and get your child to sit on the potty in time

  • Some parents like to have a time of day when the nappy stays off. This may be easier in the summer, especially if there's a garden to run around in bare-bottomed. If you choose this method it's best to keep the potty close at hand, and – if possible – keep your toddler in an area that's easy to clean should there be any accidents.

Making Potty Training Fun

Perhaps the most important thing is to keep the experience positive and praise your child, not just for the successes, but just for trying as well.

If you can make potty training fun, your little one will have an easier time making the transition.

You might like to give your child little rewards for every successful ‘deposit' in the potty. These don't necessarily have to be material gifts – playing a favourite game or reading a story may do the trick.

You could also motivate your toddler by

When to Delay Potty Training

Trust your instincts on whether or not the time is right to launch into potty training. Even if your toddler is showing signs of being ready for potty training, you might want to put off introducing this new skill in the following situations:

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • It’s usually best to wait until your child is around the age of 2 to start potty training, but every child is different.

  • Signs of readiness for potty training include if your child: • Knows that he or she has a wet or soiled nappy
    • Tells you when he or she is weeing
    • Lets you know when he or she is going to wee, before it happens
    • Can go at least an hour without a wet nappy.
  • Most children don’t usually need a nappy during the day by the time they’re 4 years old, although it may take longer than this for bed-wetting to stop. Your GP or health visitor may be able to help if your child isn’t potty trained by the age of 4.

Starting potty training can be a great learning experience for your toddler as long as he or she is ready for it.

Hopefully this article will help you learn to recognise the signs that your child is read to take this next step towards greater independence.

Although accidents will happen along the way, staying patient and positive will help your little one learn more quickly and have fewer problems with potty training. Have fun and good luck!

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).
The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.