Toilet training is one of your child’s biggest milestones. When starting the toilet training process, there are a few important things to remember. Research suggests every child develops toileting skills in their own time and way, from around two to three years of age.
When mastering this skill, there will always be children who fall either side of this estimate. To be fully toilet trained, day and night, may take several years. Our guide to toilet training offers some useful ideas on supporting your child through this developmental stage.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know my toddler is ready?
From two years onwards, some toddlers are developmentally ready to start training, however some may not be ready until three years of age. Research states that toilet training earlier than two has no benefit to the age at which they’re finally toilet trained.
By two, your toddler is likely to have developed muscle control of their bladder and bowels, and can respond to brain signals that alert them of the need to use the toilet. In addition to this, your toddler will generally be able to communicate with you well enough to express their need.
It can take up to one year to learn both bladder and bowl control. It is more common to master the bladder before the bowel.
If you child is ready to toilet train, you may notice:
- Your toddler indicates they’ve wet their nappy
- Your toddler will try to remove the soiled nappy themselves
- Your toddler is dry after a nap
- Your toddler shows an interest in using the toilet
- Your toddler watches you use the toilet
Karitane Tip: Some young children may be busy with activities, and not notice their need to use the bathroom – even if they’re developmentally ready and capable. You may need to gently remind them to use the potty throughout the day.
How should we get started?
- Use simple instructions
- Praise your child for trying
Learning to anticipate when your child needs the toilet can take time.
- Dress them in easily removable clothing
- Take them to the toilet every 2-3 hours during the day
- Encourage sitting on the toilet for short periods
- Clean up accidents with as little fuss as possible
- Help them wash their hands after going to the toilet
- Don’t try toilet training if there’s too much happening
- Be patient and supportive
- Celebrate success
There are several ways to introduce your toddler to the toilet. The following options are dependent on budget, environment, and your toddler’s preference.
You can use a potty anywhere in your home, or when you’re out. Just remember to always respect your child’s privacy.
You can purchase a step chair and toilet seat that sit over your regular toilet. Some parents state this makes their child feel more secure, as they are more stable, and can use the toilet like mum and dad.
A child-sized toilet insert may help your toddler feel more secure, and less likely to fall into the toilet.
Steps or Footstool
Place a small set of steps or a footstool with a non-slip base in front of your regular toilet, to help your child get on the toilet independently. If you have a boy, he may prefer to stand in front of the toilet on the step stool.
How do I manage toileting fears?
It is not uncommon for toddlers to fear using or sitting on the toilet. A number of common phobias include:
- Fear of trouble and pressure
- Fear of hard, painful stools/constipation
- Fear of falling into the toilet
- Fear of being flushed away
- Fear of opening bowels on the toilet
- Fear of losing part of the body
- Fear of toilet size
- Fear of being too late to the toilet
Karitane Tip: As a general rule, your toddler will outgrow these fears with calm, encouraging support. Sometimes you may need to wait several weeks or months – and that’s OK.
Dealing with toilet fears:
It’s important to notice when your toddler shows worry or fear. Acknowledge these phobias, and support your child by allowing for setbacks – as this is often how we progress.
If your toddler still wears a nappy, encourage them to do their poo on or near the toilet. After this, empty your child’s stool from the nappy into the toilet – so they can see and understand how the flush works. Remember to offer lots of praise and gentle encouragement for all their small successes throughout this period of learning.
If your toddler experiences constipation, it is important to address this before initiating toilet training. For more useful information on understanding your toddler’s emotions, see our Toddlers tab.
Karitane Tip: If your child experiences difficulties with toilet training, or you have concerns about your child’s progress, it’s important to seek professional help. Consult your family doctor, paediatrician, or child and family health nurse.
Toddler Clinic - PCIT
Our team of Registered Nurses, Clinical Psychologists and Social Workers work with families using a model called Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT). PCIT is based on play and aims to increase positive behaviours and reduce the negative behaviours of your toddler by strengthening the parent-child relationship and giving you some strategies to better manage your child.Learn More