How do I Start Potty Training?


So, you’ve probably mastered sleeping through the night by now. Weaning your child has gone well and things are finally starting to settle down. But now you’re faced with the task of potty training!

You could be in the same boat as many parents and want to get your child out of nappies. However, this can be a daunting task for both you and your child.

You’ll read a lot of guidance and advice available online or from your Health Visitor or relatives and friends. The most important thing you can do, though, is to approach potty training with an open mind.

As you may know already, not all the parenting advice you read will work for your child. That’s why we recommend you be as open minded as possible when preparing for potty training.

When is the right time to start potty training?

Most parents start to think about potty training when their child is between 2 to 2 and 1/2 years of age. Based on my own experience, though, your child will show you signs that they are ready to start potty training. This is when you should start supporting the process.

Letting your child take the lead is a great way of ensuring that your child is physically and developmentally ready to move on from nappies to pants. When potty training is instigated at a time that a child is not ready you will see unsuccessful results which could cause problems further down the line.

How will I know if my child is ready to start potty training?

Some of the signs that may indicate your child is ready include:

  • Dry nappies for at least an hour or two at a time
  • When your child understands when they are having a wee and may tell you they’re having one
  • Your child can recognise that they have a wet or dirty nappy and pull at it, remove it or ask you to change it
  • Seeing visible signs that your child needs to go to the toilet such as fidgeting or going somewhere quiet or hidden

How should I prepare for potty training?

Using a potty will be new to your child, so it’s good to allow them time to get used to the idea. For boys, it’s usually easier to start them off by sitting on the potty before progressing to standing up.

Talk to your child about nappy changes as you do them so that they understand what wee and poo is and what a wet nappy means.  If you always change their nappy in the bathroom when at home they will begin to understand that this is the place where people go to the toilet. Getting your child to help you flush the toilet and wash their hands is also a good idea.

Leave a potty where your child can see it and explain what it’s for. Children learn by watching and copying. If you have an older child, your younger child may see them using it which will be a great help. It may help to let your child see you using the toilet and explain what you’re doing. Using your child’s toys to show what the potty is for can also help.

How do I start potty training?

When starting potty training it is important that you allow yourself the time to support your child effectively. I also recommend starting this when there are no changes due to occur in your child’s life. Changes to normal circumstances can be unsettling for young children, so you don’t want to overload them with any additional changes. It’s important to remain consistent and not create confusion for your child.

Here are my own 4 tips to bear in mind before you start:

  1. Talk to your child about wee’s and poo’s! I completely understand that this is not something that us adults tend to openly discuss; however, it does help younger children to fully understand the process.
  2. Making the process fun is very important. This can start with a shopping trip for ‘big girl/boy pants’ and a new potty. The more involved your child can be in the process the better.
  3. Let your little one sit on the potty for a few minutes, even if they don’t do anything. This will help them to get comfortable with their new potty. Let them practice pulling their new pants up and down.
  4. Potty training is a bit easier during the spring and summer months as your little one is not likely to be wearing bulky clothes or items like tights, which can be difficult to take on and off.

So, let’s begin

First off, ensure that you have a potty available close to where your child spends most of their time. It may be helpful to purchase more than one to ensure that if your child needs the toilet when upstairs then they are able to get to it easily.

A good time to get your child to sit on the potty is after meal times, as food will have started to digest, giving them the urge to use the toilet. In the very beginning as your child gets used to sitting on the potty you may wish to provide them with a toy or a book to encourage them to sit on it.

You may begin to notice patterns in your child’s toileting habits especially when they may need a poo. I recommend leaving their nappies off around this time and encourage them to sit on the potty. If your child gets upset at the thought of having to sit on the potty then do not force it. Place the nappy back on and try again in a couple of weeks.

Children will often start to wee on the potty before they poo. It is important that you praise this when it happens as this will increase their confidence in using the potty.

Don’t make a fuss or punish children when they have an accident as this can leave them anxious and worried. This could also lead them taking longer to master this new skill.

Remember to think about the types of clothes that your child is wearing when potty training as they need to be easy to take off.

Pull up’s vs. Pants

There are a wide range of nappies on the market and many of the big brands advertise ‘pull up’s as the best thing to use to support potty training. This is a misconception and, based on my own experience, only hinder the process. Pull up’s do not allow children to have the uncomfortable feeling of being wet or soiled that instigates them to try and avoid it by using the potty.

I appreciate that not using pull up’s may result in more accidents; however, it will help your child in the long run in understanding that they do not want feel wet. It encourages them to act before they have an accident.

When children transition from nappies to pants you may feel anxious about taking them outside without a nappy on. Pull up’s are great in these instances as they do not absorb as well as nappies and at least provide children with some indication that they have had a wee. However, children should still be encouraged to use the potty or toilet.

Potty training at night time

It is important that you allow your child to be effectively potty trained during the day before trying to start training overnight. A good indicator that children are ready to train overnight is them waking for several mornings in a row dry or only slightly damp.

Ask your child to use the potty just before they go to bed and make sure it’s close by so that they can use it if they need a wee during the night. There are bound to be a few accidents, so a waterproof bedsheet to protect your child’s mattress is a good idea.

Just like with daytime potty training, it’s important to praise your child for success. If things aren’t going well, stick with nappies at night for a while longer and try again in a few weeks’ time.

Remember, accidents happen

Of course, there will be accidents. Your child will not always make it to the potty on time or be so engrossed in playing or whatever they’re doing that they forget. Reassure your child that everything is OK and that they can try again later. Don’t get upset at your child for having an accident. Potty training can be a stressful time for toddlers and getting upset only makes them feel more anxious.

Getting angry, inpatient and stressed will rub off on your toddler and could even lead to them ‘withholding’ (holding their poo in) and becoming constipated.

It can also be highly frustrating to think that your little one has mastered potty training, only for them to have a string of accidents. Remember that potty training is a long process and there will be setbacks now and again.

Whenever you choose to start potty training: good luck!

If you found this advice useful, take a look at the other posts we have here on Reading Corner.

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