On average, a baby can go through around two thousand, two hundred diapers in their first year of life. Now that’s a lot of peeing and pooping!
By the time you’re through changing all of those, you probably can’t wait for things to get a little easier, and, well, less gross.
Whether you’re a first-time parent with no idea where to start, or you’ve potty trained your kids in the past but had difficulty, or you’re looking to refine your technique, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide that will help you have it down pat in no time.
It’s important to remember that your child is not going to use a potty if they don’t want to, and if they aren’t ready, you shouldn’t push it. Every kid is different, and making comparisons between your child and another will only lead to frustration.
As we all know, patience is a virtue, and taking things slow and steady with your child will teach them they can trust you and help them get it right, and it will be worth the exasperation in the end.
It’s possible to start potty training from age one, but you should expect that it will take some time - most parents typically begin potty training when their child is two, but there isn’t a perfect age at which you should do it.
Signs Your Child Is Ready To Go
As we said, there’s no siren or buzzer that sounds when it’s time to commence potty training, useful as that would be.
But there are certain milestones or signals you can look out for, which might help you work out that they’re developing bladder and bowel control:
- Maintaining a dry nappy for more than a few hours
- More interest in observing parents and siblings on the toilet
- Attempts to remove clothing before going to the toilet
- Relocating to somewhere quiet and private to urinate or have a bowel movement.
- Recognizing they are urinating or having a bowel movement, sometimes signaling for parental attention when it happens
- A gradual gain in independence, particularly movement
- Having a dry diaper following a nap
- Is capable of understanding simple sentences and following instructions
Once your child has most of the list ticked off, but especially if they’ve achieved the last step, potty training will be at it’s fastest.
Should you wish to start any earlier, prepare yourself for plenty of accidents; you can’t get mad at your child for doing what comes naturally!
Preparing To Launch
This whole potty business will be new to your child, so gradually introduce it when you talk to them - try chatting while you change their diaper, as simple as telling them what you’re doing, so they begin to understand what pee and poop are.
If you’ve always changed their diaper in the bathroom at home, they quickly learn that’s where people go to pee and poop.
Get your child involved in choosing a potty (make sure you only present options that are acceptable to yourself), this will give them a sense of involvement in the training and possibly remove any objections to using the potty (though this not a given). Let them decorate the potty with stickers of characters they like, e.g. if they love Thomas the Tank engine they could stick these stickers on.
Consider using bottom training pants as part of the transition from diapers to underwear. They come in an assortment of sizes, colours and some packs even have their own reward stickers, which are great way of celebrating the wins when they occur. Read our review of the best bottom training pants to find the right ones for your toddler.
Using ‘baby talk’ and saying things like ‘pee-pee’ and ‘poo-poo’ isn’t necessary, but the repetition of the word will only be helpful.
Place a potty by the toilet where your child can see and make a point of explaining to them what it is for - kids learn best by watching and copying, so if you have an older child who uses the potty, it’s great to let them watch and see how it’s done.
Encourage regular visits to the bathroom to 'see' if they need to go. A potty training watch can be useful in setting up these intervals and possibly catching a win.
Let them spend some time just sitting on the potty - perhaps read a book to them while they are sitting - so they can get used to the feeling and realise that it is "normal" to do so.
Only children can learn from you, too, though! Take them to the bathroom with you, let them observe you using the toilet, and explain what is happening. You could also put a stuffed animal on the potty to serve as a demonstration too.
Make sure the potty is in the bathroom - if that is upstairs, have a second one in another room downstairs so your child can always easily reach it. Sitting on the potty should become part of everyday life, especially after meals, as digestion can lead to the urge to poop.
Peeing on the potty builds confidence and leads to pooping on there too, so as soon as you can see your child knows they have to go, try and encourage them to use it. If they have an accident, clean it up and don’t make a fuss - it takes a while to get the hang of things.
Does your kid poop at the same time each day? Leave their diaper off, and when it’s time suggest they go on the potty. There are potty training watches that can regularly remind toddlers when to go.
If they appear distressed at all, just put it back on and try again in a couple of weeks. Avoiding a negative reaction when they slip up means they won’t feel anxious or worried about the potty and are more likely to hop on next time - have them in clothes that are easy to whip off, avoid lots of buttons or zips.
Time is of the essence!
When they successfully use the potty, they’ll be delighted, and you should be too! Praise them for getting it right, but try to find a balance between compliments and making a big deal out of it. Sticker charts can be excellent motivators, but avoid candy and other sweet treats.
Pull-ups and potty training pants are great ways to avoid mess and show kids it’s time to wear ‘grown-up pants’ whilst also giving them a huge confidence boost. Pee is not absorbed as well as in diapers, too, so they’ll notice quickly when they’re wet.
These should be used as a step toward normal underwear as opposed to a replacement for diapers though - kids should be encouraged to use the potty as much as possible and keep their training pants dry.
Potty training can be easiest in summer, with fewer clothes to take off and wash, with warmer weather meaning clean clothes can dry quickly out on the line.
Try to begin training when your child’s routine is settled, with no considerable disruptions to them, their environment, or the family. Consistency is key, as changes cause confusion and prevent successful learning.
When you’re going out, always take the potty with you. This helps them to clearly understand that any time they need to pee or poop, you would like them to go on the potty.
Anyone else who looks after your child should be filled in on their potty training routine; take care to carefully outline exactly what they need to do, as any abnormalities could throw your toddler off and halt your progress.