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Potty training your toddler: when to start and what to expect!

Alex O'Donoghue

Written by Alex O'Donoghue

5 min read

After 24 months of nappy changing, most of us are itching to get our toddler potty trained! But as we well know, toddlers make up their own minds on when they're going to start. Using a potty is a brand new skill for your little one to learn, and a little challenging to start. We've rounded up helpful advice to get your child started.Child sitting on a potty in the bathroom

When should your child start?

Some children transition a little earlier than others. Others resist potty training completely. While there is no universal age for children to move beyond nappies, many children are ready somewhere between  2-3 years of age. It usually takes a little longer for children to learn to stay dry throughout the night. Although most learn this between the ages of three and five, children at five are known to have the odd accident in the night. 

Signs your child might be ready

Toddler potty training and playing with toys in the living room

  • You're changing fewer nappies. Once your little one is able to stay dry for an hour or two, you'll know that they are developing bladder control. You'll also notice their bowel movements are becoming more regular, which means you can start leaving the potty out. The gap between wetting a nappy shouldn't be less than an hour when you're starting out.
  • Your child knows the difference between wee and poo. They are likely to tell you when they have a dirty nappy - and probably want it changed! Toddlers also like to look at their poo or wee and tell you it's stinky or make a joke.
  • Bowel movements become more regular. You might also notice your child has stopped pooing at night, although it's likely they will still have a wet nappy.

How to start potty training Dad reads to his child in the living room while they start to potty train

  • Talk about your child's nappy changes as you do them, so they understand wee and poo and what a wet nappy means.
  • Start changing their nappy in the bathroom, and let them help you flush the contents down the toilet. Wash your hands together when you're done.
  • Let your child see you using the toilet and explain what you're doing. 
  • It can help to show your child with their toys sitting on a potty, and asking them to tell you what the toy is doing.
  • Some parents get their little ones to do a drawing of a potty and poo!
  • Invite your child to sit on the potty and see what it feels like. 
  • Buy some stickers or markers and let your child decorate their potty.
  • Encourage your child to sit on the potty after meals - eating often leads to an urge to do a poo.
  • Let your child choose which underwear they want to put on, and help them learn how to pull up and pull down their pants or leggings.

The most effective way to encourage your child

Toddlers thrive on praise! Being told they're doing a great job is exactly what they need to hear. It’s positive reinforcement at a time when they might feel scared or uncertain.

Think about a reward or star chart to help encourage this new routine! These give that extra bit of encouragement for them to keep going.

Give your child a fun book to look at or toys to play with to distract them and get them used to sitting on the potty. A good idea is to keep these restricted to potty time.

Take your child shopping and let them choose their own potty. Avoid training diapers when possible and go straight to underwear - which your child can help you shop for. Favourite heroes and characters on underwear is a big win! 

When the inevitable accidents happen, involve your little one in the clean-up process. Give them a cloth or towel and let them help you dry the floor. And make sure you thank your them afterwards!

What to do if your child regresses or resists

Toddler sitting on a potty and reaching for toilet paper

Toddlers love routine, and any major changes may upset them and cause potty training regression. This is perfectly normal and with the huge change in life caused by the pandemic, your little one might not take to potty training, or change their mind.

Leave it until your child seems more settled and confident. And if things aren't going well, stick with nappies at night for a while longer and try again in a few weeks.

A glass of prune juice a day can also help your child to have regular bowel movements - so that constipation doesn’t end up being a potty-training barrier.