Parents of toddlers can often have high levels of anxiety contemplating potty training. Are they really ready for it?
Potty training can be somewhat challenging, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be. Perhaps you are wondering if your child is at the right age or stage to begin the process. If you look out for key indicators, this can be helpful in beginning at the right time and ensuring the journey is a successful one.
Potty training readiness
Potty training is an enormous step for the whole family. As parents, we can find the whole process quite stressful and frustrating. Of course, it can also be messy. Finding unnoticed wees and poos around the house is not pleasant. However, potty training can also be a time when you feel immense pride in your child, seeing them make the move from nappies to the potty or toilet. Having a plan in place will help decrease the number of accidents, but it won’t eliminate them. In fact, even when a child is significantly older, there may still be instances where they wet themselves, underestimating the length of time it takes to reach the toilet, not realising quite how desperate they are or being so absorbed in an activity that they almost forget they need a wee.
Whether it’s your first time or not, the experience will be different for every child. However, there are common indicators that tend to be the same for the majority of toddlers.
Setting potty training expectations
Try to avoid expecting the same results and timeline that other children (your own or your friends’) have followed. The age at which your toddler will be ready can differ significantly. Some children start at age 2 (or even under), while others are not ready until 3 or even 4 years of age.
Here are eight signs that your child may be ready to take the next step towards swapping nappies for knickers or pants.
- Your toddler notices when they are wet
If you spot that your toddler pulls at their nappy when they have done a wee, it might be time to invest in a potty. Taking your child to the shop to help them choose one can help the process.
NB: some toddlers will never bother if they are wet and/or dirty. This is not the only sign of them being ready for potty training, so please don’t dismiss it if this doesn’t happen.
- Your toddler shows interest
Perhaps your child has started following you into the bathroom and began asking questions about what you’re getting up to. Many parents spot that their children are interested in using the toilet because of the increase in questions being asked.
Some toddlers will strip off and run to the toilet before they even know how to use it. This is a definite hint that now is the time to try potty training.
- Your toddler is dry for longer periods
When your toddler gets to the point where they’re able to stay dry for a few hours at a time, they may be ready to potty train. Likewise, being dry overnight, even if it isn’t every single night, could be a sign.
- Your toddler understands the word “potty”
No matter which terminology you use (potty, toilet or bathroom, for example), when your toddler comprehends its meaning, this can indicate that they’re ready to make the move away from nappies.
- Your toddler can communicate when they need to go to the toilet
Not all children will have developed sufficient speech and language skills to express their need to use the toilet verbally. However, there are certainly other methods of communication that may show they need to wee or poo. It might be wise to teach your toddler the BSL sign for “toilet”, in case they can’t (or choose not to) communicate their needs verbally.
- Your toddler can undress
Even if they are unable to dress themselves, if they can pull down their nappy or training pants, this is a clear sign that they may be ready to attempt potty training.
- Your toddler wants to use the toilet
It is essential to remember that everyone will potty train at their own pace. Not all children will be eager to take this big step, so it’s important to be give it a go, but not be too pushy about it. When your child starts expressing a desire to use the toilet, you will know they’re ready to begin potty training.
- Your toddler can follow basic instructions
Being able to follow instructions is another toilet readiness skill. There is a difference between understanding and being able to follow them. If your toddler accompanies you in the bathroom often before they start training, you can use this as a time to discuss using the toilet and basic hygiene, e.g. handwashing.
Once your child can follow basic instructions, such as how to wash their hands, they may be ready to start potty training.
Make it fun
Making the process of potty training fun instead of placing your child under pressure will help your child to feel more grown up, increasing their chance of succeeding. You may wish to try a reward chart, adding another aspect of encouragement to the process.
Whatever your child’s age, maintaining positivity and patience is essential. Positive parenting can work for all age groups, showing you care at the same time as knowing you want the best for them.
Remember that each child is different, even two children from the same family. The average age for successful potty training is between two and three. However, if a child is not ready to make the transition, do not push the issue. Forcing a child into potty training before they are ready can backfire and it may take even longer than it would otherwise have. Most children will be potty trained well before starting school in reception class, so take your time and be patient.
If you have concerns about a potential medical issue or anger surrounding potty training, consider speaking to your GP or health visitor. They will be able to assess the situation and put a plan into place. Some children will have continence issues for several years or even for life, but ensuring they have the right assistance will help.