Potty Training

Email Print

potty training Potty training can be tough - It's no easy task teaching your toddler such a hard job as bladder control and that he shouldn't rely on his nappies in difficult times. It's obviously not impossible either, so here are a few tips on how to deal with it.

Is it the right time?

It's recommended to wait until the child is at least 2 years old, as this is the time when they start gaining control over their bladder and bowel movements. It's frankly pointless to try and train your 1 year old to use the potty, as he has absolutely no physical control over this process and this would only add more stress to your child, which works against his development. Signs that show your child's getting ready:


  • His nappy is dryer than it used to be for the same period of time;
  • His nappy is dryer after a nap;
  • Stools are regular and can be expected at a certain time of the day;
  • He lets you know he's urinating or having a poo, by changing his facial expression, by making specific noises or by specific gestures (like crouching);
  • He shows more interest in the toilet or even wants to seat on the toilet;
  • He lets you know he wants his nappy changed immediately after he's urinated or had a poo;
  • He can understand and obey simple instructions

What do we need for potty training?

First, make sure you have the small arsenal that comes with potty training, including:

  • Potty/toilet seat; if your toddler is old enough to refuse the potty, a toilet seat could be all he wants, since he likes copying his parents;
  • Step stool if using a toilet seat; the stool encourages the feeling of independence in your child, as he has the extra reassurance he can do it himself if he wants to;
  • Training nappies; not only your child will be able to pull them up and down himself, but they are made in a specific way to discourage comfort when wet, so your toddler will end up wanting to use the potty/toilet rather than be uncomfortable;
  • Waterproof mattress for night time;
  • A training doll, if preferred; this is one of those dolls that mocks the potty use; they are ideal for demonstrations and roll playing;

How to do it?

Start by preparing your child for the big thing and try to get him as excited as possible about using his potty or toilet. Go out shopping together and let him pick the toilet seat/potty seat and the training nappies. He might want to pick some underwear featuring his favourite characters on his favourite colours. Get a reward board and some stickers to reward his successes and talk a lot about what present he’s going to get if he goes well with it. Set easy to achieve milestones, like using the potty once a day, then twice a day, than start rewarding the lack of accidents. Such as a day without accidents will turn into a small helicopter, but a full week without accidents probably means your child is fully trained and he can get the tricycle he’s spotted in Toys R Us a while ago.

Never forget to make a huge deal out of every single success!

This is vital for the success of the training and it should be used in everything to do with children. Your child will feel encouraged to do it and will want to do it in order to gain your praise. He needs to feel proud of what he's done and he needs to know you're proud of what he's done, too.

Some experts, including the famous Dr. Phil McGrow, who runs a popular psychology TV show in America, recommend an extremely intense one-day training. Make your child use repetitively the potty many times in a row, by giving him loads of fluids to drink, in order to develop 'muscle memory'. Every time he succeeds, make a big deal by calling Spiderman or Winnie the Pooh or whoever it is his favourite character (even nanny will do, if Spiderman sounds engaged) to tell them the big news.

Another approach is more gradual and it will take longer. It consists in preparing your child for the proper usage by mocking it at first. Seat him on the potty or the toilet seat fully clothed and talk a lot about it. What food and milk turns into in his tummy and where it all goes from the toilet. How important it is to wash hands afterwards etc.

After a while, when you are confident about reading your child's signs of potty time, you can start letting him run around with no nappy on, making sure the potty is always present and visible, if not central in the room, so your child sees it all the time and knows he can use it straightaway if he needs to. Hopefully, really soon he will start connecting it with his needs.

However, this child-led approach is not always successful, before you ran out of patience and out of money for the cleaning substances.

How long does it take?

It could take from a few days to one year to train your toddler to go to the toilet completely unassisted.

What if accidents happen?

Accidents are expected to happen anyway. However, if your child starts wetting himself after a while of perfectly using the potty/toilet routine, this may be a sign of emotional disturbance and it's recommended to talk to your GP or HV about it. This is normal if a baby sibling is born in the family and the toddler starts feeling neglected, or just copies the wrong model, after his baby sister or brother. For more tips and advice or for a live chat about the techniques that work and the ones that don't, have a look on our forum.

Check out a month by month baby development calendar for more information.