WHEN TO START TOILET TRAINING

Some research suggests it is best to toilet train a child between 18 and 24 months of age while other research recommend between 24 and 27 months. Most health professionals recommend toilet training a child between 2-3 years of age.      

Deciding on the right time for your child is important. Look for signs that your child may be ready for toilet training.      
 

SIGNS THAT YOUR TODDLER MAY BE READY FOR TOILET TRAINING

Common signs include: 

  • Staying dry for two-hours or after their afternoon nap
  • Following simple instructions 
  • Pulling their pants up and down
  • Wanting to do tasks on their own and being proud of this
  • Sitting still on the toilet for 5-10 mins 
  • Wanting to be clean and getting upset if wet or soiled
  • Telling you they have wee or poo in their nappy either by signs or words.      
     

Your toddler does not need to show all the signs to be toilet ready. 
 

STEPS TO TOILET TRAIN YOUR CHILD

1. When to start

  • Make sure the time is right for you and your child. 
  • Make it a time when there are not too many things going on in the house 
  • Consider starting over the summer months because it is easier to do the washing and your child is wearing less clothing
  • Ask for help if you have another child. It may be a good idea to get someone else to look after them so you can concentrate on your toddler
  • Have meals in the freezer or easily prepared meals while helping your toddler toilet train.      
     


2. Getting your child ready

  • Children learn by imitation or copying, so it is a good idea from a young age to let your child see you sitting on the toilet. You can even get your child to sit on the potty when you are on the toilet before starting toilet training. 
  • It’s ok to sit your toddler on the potty or the toilet for a couple of minutes prior to their bath or first thing in the morning before starting toilet training. 
  • If your child wears disposable nappies it may be difficult for your child to feel if the nappy is wet or dry. Put a pair of underpants or a tissue inside the nappy and check at least every 90 minutes to two hours to see if they are wet.
  • You will need: 
    • Step ladder with toilet insert or potty – let your child choose which design they prefer
    • A foot support/stepladder – it is important your child feels safe on the toilet and does not fall off
    • Plenty of clean underpants – let your child choose them. There are many fun designs to choose from 
    • Mop & bucket – to clean up any accidents
    • Story books (borrow from the library or buy) or YouTube clips on toilet training such as Tom’s Toilet Triumph
    • This makes learning fun and helps them to sit on the toilet for longer


3. Be Relaxed

The main thing is for you and your child to be relaxed about toilet training and not to argue.      
 

4. Plan

Timing the trips to the toilet is key for successful toilet training.

To start with:

  • You can prompt toilet training by asking your child to sit on the toilet (“Time now to sit on the toilet please’’) every 1 ½ hrs to 2hrs for 2-3 mins.
  • The best times to sit your child on the potty or toilet are:
    • first thing in the morning when they get up 
    • 20-30 minutes after a meal or snack  
    • after their afternoon nap 
    • before their bath     
       
  • If your child happens to have a regular time when they do a poo (opening their bowels), then put them on the potty or toilet at that time 
  • Be prepared for accidents. Clean up any accidents calmly and without fuss 
  • Praise behaviour you want from your child and ignore behaviour you do not want
  • Give small rewards such as sticker charts, cuddles or high fives, as they may help your child continue toilet training
  • It is important to reward not only when they wee or poo, but even when they sit on the toilet when asked, even if they don’t wee or poo.

      
5. Once your child is in the routine

  • You can change your language to “What is it time for now?’’
  • Reward with a high five, cuddles, stickers if your child does as you ask and if they do wee or poo in the toilet.
  • There are times when toilet training may not go to plan.  This might happen, for example, when there is a new sibling in the house, when your child may be sick, or the timing might not be quite right for them. If this happens, start again when things settle.       
     

6. As your child is becoming reliably dry and more independent

  • You can ask your child “Do you need to go to the toilet?” 
  • As they begin to toilet by themselves, they will tell you when they are going to the toilet or just take themselves. 
  • Young children will need help wiping their bottoms.

 

If you think your child may have small hard poo which are difficult or painful to pass, see your doctor or pharmacist. Your child may have constipation. It is important your child’s poos (bowel motions) are like a soft smooth sausage. There are foods that help poo stay soft such as apples, pears and kiwi fruit. Also drink lots of water.

 

 

It is OK to take a break from toilet training if things get too stressful for you or your child. Remember every child is different and what worked for one child may not work for another.



For more information:


Easy Guide to Toilet Training

Girls and Boys Toileting Sequence Pictures

 

SEEK HELP

Most children are daytime toilet trained of bladder (weeing) by the age of four. If a child regularly wets during the day after this age, see your doctor, maternal child health nurse or a continence nurse specialist for help.     

Call the  National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66, Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm (AEST) to speak to a continence nurse specialist for information and referral to local services.

 

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Last Updated: Thu 07, Dec 2023
Last Reviewed: Tue 17, Mar 2020