When my daughter was around 3 years old I knew it was time to start toilet training her. I kept putting it off because overall it seem like such daunting task. The whole taking her to the potty constantly, those stinky wet accidents and all that extra washing seemed all too much for me. But I more or less felt pressured to start her before she was ready because so many mums around me had reached nappy free success well before I had even started. Oh the pressures we feel when we are first time mums.
I have now achieved toilet training success with both of my daughters and I definitely learnt a lot from that time in our lives. The thing with toilet training is that you cannot force it to happen. Kids need to be developmentally ready to step out of nappies or toilet training will not work.
The key is patience and an understanding that there is no set age when a child is ready. Some kids are ready from around two years old and some are in primary school before they are nappy free 24/7.
Take it from me as my first daughter endured multiple attempts over a year or so to be fully day time toilet trained and she wasn’t night toilet trained until late in her Prep year. On the other hand my second born was nappy free and dry on the first attempt at toilet training (both night and day) and was much much younger than my first born. This is proof that no matter how you go about it, if they are not ready then it’s not the right time.
How do I Know if My Child is Ready?
Just like trying to work out when to wean your baby onto solids, there are some signs that your little one will show when they may be ready to start toilet training.
Dryer nappies: Up until around 2 years of age, toddlers still wee quite a lot. But at some point they will start to be able to control their bladder and for them weeing becomes a conscious act. Once they can stay dry for an hour or two, it’s a sign that they’re developing some bladder control and are becoming physically ready for potty training.
Regular bowel movements: you will start to notice your toddler having a bowel movement at regular times throughout the day. This is a sign that you can manage toilet training as you can pull out the potty and be ready for toilet time at their regular bowel movement time
Talking about it: when they start telling you that they have just done a wee or a poo they may be ready. When they start telling you that they need to do a wee or a poo it might be a good time to start as that is when you can lead them to the potty or toilet before they do it in their nappy.
Not liking being in nappies: your child may start to be aware that they are wearing a soiled nappy and tell you about it. They may start to not like wearing a soiled nappy either and ask you to take it off or like my friend’s daughter, start taking their nappy off as soon as she had finished her business.
When is the right age to start?
There is no hard and fast rule as to the age and timing of when to start potty training. My experience tells me that the readiness age is not hereditary, or linked to how fast they reached other milestones or how clever they are. It’s all about their own individual readiness. So my suggestion is don’t look at the calendar to determine the time to start, look to your child.
Then there is night time toilet training. Some parents have successfully achieved night time toilet training by taking their child to the toilet half way through the night, or using special toilet training alarms or beepers. Paediatricians will tell you not to force it as night time training happens when the antidiuretic hormone, ADH kicks in. This hormone causes the body to make less wee at night. If the levels of ADH are not yet strong enough in your day toilet trained little one night time training simply won’t work. The experts say the age range to being dry during the night spans from 2 years old to age 10 or 12. By age 5 or 6 most kids can stay dry but there is no need for concern if they are not ‘average’ when it comes to toilet training.
Toilet Training Tips
I recently asked a mum’s group for their top tips for starting toilet training. There were some really handy tips as listed below but many women were very clear in saying to not stress about it and that it may not happen immediately but trust that it will happen.
- Talk about it before you start: talk up the positives of being nappy free, show them the potty and get some undies they will want to wear
- Do it at a time when you don’t have any big events coming up like a holiday or moving house that could disrupt your process or their progress
- Ease your little one into toilet training with pull ups. Try these for a while until your little one gets the hang of it and then transition to undies.
- Dress best: during the training process make sure they are wearing clothes they can easily pull up and down to go to the potty. You don’t want them wetting themselves because they couldn’t undo a fiddly clip or zip
- Keep the potty close by. We kept ours in our lounge room ready to be pulled out at a moment’s notice as initially you may not have time to get them to the bathroom
- Pick the right potty for you and your child. There are heaps of different potties out there to choose from. My recommendations are the Skip Hop Made for Me Potty which has the look and feel of a grown up toilet and a real flushing sound, the OXO Tot Potty Chair is good simply potty with a straight back that encourages good posture which is especially important for longer bowel movements, and the OXO Tot Sit Right Potty Seat sits directly on to your toilet so you can flush their wees and poos away without having to empty and clean a potty
- A reward like a sticker or a treat after they have successfully used the potty motivates them to continue on to success
- Be patient – some kids get the hang of it first go, but some kids take years to fully nail it
- Don’t battle it – if your child is not ‘getting it’ or is resisting it then pause the training for a month or so and start again. You may need to do this a few times until they are ready.
- Training your toddler to go to the toilet can be like dog years. The longer you wait to start the shorter it takes to achieve success ie. 2 years = 2 months, 3 years = 3 weeks and so on
I hope this has helped just one mum with the process. Wait for the signs, have a go and don’t lose hope. You will get there when you get there.