Toilet Training Your Child: The Ultimate Guide
A life without nappies awaits on the other side of toilet training! Let us get you there quicker with our ultimate guide to this toddler milestone.Read on!
8 min read
Of all the milestones in a parent’s life – the first smile, the first stumbling walk across the floor, the first fart at a completely inappropriate moment – this one is probably one of the most life-changing: toilet training. Because, once complete, it means no more expensive nappies, substandard changing rooms and running the risk of getting wee in your face, and a bit more independence for you and your little one.
Here’s everything you wanted to know about toilet training your toddler – we’ve got advice on what you need, signs of readiness, and dealing with accidents, plus a how-to guide.
The basics of toilet training
Your little one may be ready for toilet training any time between the ages of 18 months and four years. They’ll probably get to grips with daytime dryness a long time before staying dry overnight. It’s completely normal for 1 in 10 five-year-olds to still wet their bed.
Staying dry overnight happens at different ages, your toddler may be well into school and still need nappies overnight. Usually bedwetting at older ages runs in the family.
Signs of readiness
To understand if your little one is ready for toilet training, look out for signs of readiness which include:
- Knowing when they need to wee and letting you know, either verbally or physically – think hopping around or holding their crotch.
- Being able to hold on long enough to make it to the toilet in time.
- Having dry nappies for longer periods of time.
- Talking about toilet things – wees, poos, all that good stuff.
- Wanting to watch you go to the toilet.
What you’ll need
As well as oodles of patience and a positive attitude, it’s up to you what you need – it depends whether you’ll use a potty before graduating to the toilet; go straight to the toilet; or use a combination of both.
You could need:
- A potty – look for a sturdy, easy to clean and comfortable one.
- Or, if you’re using the toilet, buy a small stool for little one to clamber up onto – go for an easily cleanable one with plenty of grip so it doesn’t slide around the tiled floor.
- If you’re using the toilet, consider a comfortably padded and smaller training toilet seat, suitable for small bums. It should fit securely on the seat to help your toddler feel safe.
Some toddlers can be scared about falling into the toilet, and their anxiety can interfere with toilet training – if that’s your little one, go for a potty first and work up to the toilet.
A potty or the toilet?
Like we said above, it’s up to you and your little one to decide what’s best for you. If you choose a potty, it’s super convenient – you can place it wherever it’s easily accessed and visible. You can even take it with you wherever you go.
If you choose a training toilet seat, your little one will get used to being on the toilet and there’s also little clean-up involved.
You don’t have to use a training toilet seat, you can go straight to sitting your toddler on the toilet, so they get familiar with using full-size toilets – which will be useful when you’re out and about. A toilet with no training toilet seat on can be intimidating to your little one though, so be guided by how they feel.
Using both a potty and a training toilet seat can help your toddler get used to both options.
How to toilet train your toddler
Ready to begin? Try these tips to help toilet train your toddler:
Pick the right time – start toilet training when life is settled. So, if you’re moving, or having a baby, or getting a dog, that’s probably not the right time.
Let them watch you use the toilet – toddlers love to copy what you’re doing, so try to be ok with them watching you go to the toilet.
Go for a zen and calm approach – try to stay positive, toilet training can be a long process but the more relaxed you are, the less stressed and anxious little one will be.
Consider toilet training in the summer – summer equals less clothes to take off so quicker and easier toilet trips.
Dress them in easy-to-open clothes – think elastic waists rather than domes, buttons or buckles. Little one will have an easier and quicker job getting their clothes up and down.
Switch to ‘big kid pants’ – trainer pants are a great way to introduce your toddler to the idea of pulling their pants up and down. They have the bonus of being absorbent yet letting your little one feel when they’re wet.
Take it slow – let them sit on the potty or training toilet seat fully clothed for the first few times, so they get used to being on it.
Go shopping – pick out a potty, stool or training toilet seat together so they feel like they have some control. Let them choose some cool new underwear that they look forward to wearing.
Start a routine – take your little one to the potty or toilet at regular times throughout the day, like when they wake up, mid-morning, after lunch, mid-afternoon, after dinner and before bed.
Give it time, but not too much – once little one is trying to use the potty or toilet, give them enough time to try to go. But if nothing’s happening, don’t leave them on there too long – a few minutes is fine.
Make it fun – make going to the toilet an enjoyable experience. Maybe there’s a special book you read to them or a song you sing.
Go hard on the praise – praise your toddler for trying, and for taking their own clothes off, and for when they successfully use the potty or toilet – so basically, at every stage in the process!
Motivate them with rewards – toddlers love rewards, and they don’t have to be big – hugs, claps or a sit-down with a story all work well. Reward charts that tick off every time your toddler successfully uses the potty or toilet is a great motivator too.
Prepare for accidents – they won’t always make it on time so be ready for that. Try not to scold or punish them as that could make them anxious and upset about toilet training.
Teach your toddler good hygiene – help them wash their hands every time they go to the toilet.
Night-time toilet training
Even if your toddler has got using the toilet down pat during the day, staying dry at night can take longer. That’s because when they’re asleep, they’re not in complete control of their bladder. Their body needs to mature and develop to allow them to either store their wee overnight or learn to wake up on their own and go to the toilet.
To help your little one along in mastering this, you can:
- Put them in easily removable PJs and help them practice pulling them off and on.
- Remind them to use the toilet before bed.
- Invest in a decent mattress protector!
It’s tempting to reduce the amount they drink before bedtime, but this won’t help them stay dry and can lead to dehydration and constipation.
Toilet training regression
Everything seems to be going so well, and your toddler has been dry during the day for weeks now – and then suddenly they start weeing and pooing in their undies again. What’s going on?
This is pretty common, and more so if something new is happening – like you’re moving house or there’s a new baby on the scene.
If it happens:
- See if you can figure out what caused it and how you might address it.
- Change your toddler calmly without telling them off or punishing them.
- Make an effort to remind your little one to go to the toilet – they can be too busy to remember.
- Give lots of praise when they do go to the toilet.
- Try rewarding them when they use the toilet – reward charts can be effective.
- Pop them back into nappies for a while and try again at another point.
Toilet training troubleshooting
Is your toddler doing the ‘I need a wee’ dance but refusing to go? This is totally normal, and you can try to nix this by being direct with them, like “I think you need to go to the toilet – why don’t you try?”
If they agree and hop on, try to keep them on the potty/toilet until they go to the toilet – distract them with a book or song. Keep it to just a few minutes and if nothing’s happening, take them off.
The first few times you may find you put their nappy back on and they fill it immediately. Try not to get annoyed – it’s a new skill which takes time to master.
Oh, and it’s a good idea to carry plenty of changes of clothes and plastic bags when you’re out and about for the inevitable accidents!