How do I know if my child is ready? How do I toilet train my child? I am sharing my best toilet training tips and tricks that I have learned, implemented and shared with many families in my experience as an early childhood professional and mum.
Introduction to Toilet Training
When it comes to toilet training, children will show signs that they are ready at different ages and stages and as an early childhood teacher and parent, this is a question I get asked many times over; How do I know if my child is ready? and How do I toilet train my child? So I am sharing my best toilet training tips and tricks.
How will I know if my child is ready to start toilet training?
Children are all so different in terms of when they may be ready to start training. Some children are ready at 18 months of age, others are not ready until they are 4 years or older but in my experience, the average age of ‘readiness’ would be around 2.5 years but in more recent years, I have seen a trend of children getting toilet trained when they are much closer to the age of 3 or even older than 3. Sometimes this is not a case of whether the child is ready to be trained but rather a case of the parents not being ready to train their child. There are many factors that I believe have come into play with this recent trend of children getting toilet trained at later stages and some of those could be;
- Busy, working parents finding the time to put aside to train their child
- Weekends filled with outings and activities mean less time spent at home to train and be close to the toilet
- Avoiding the ‘mess’ factor of accidents occurring on carpets, in cars, on couches, in beds etc
- Have yet to buy and organise appropriate clothing – underwear, easy to manage elastic waist pants, simple skirts etc or other toileting equipment such as a step or a child toilet seat addition
- Children expressing their anxiety or displeasure at the idea of trying undies and toileting
- Convenience of nappies and a manageable nappy change routine
So.. what are the signs that my child may be ready to start training?
- Child begins to watch and show interest in other family members going to the toilet
- Child starts to verbalise that either they need to do a wee or a poo or they announce that they have already done it in their nappy
- Child asks about potty or toilet and expresses interest in the toilet itself
- Child can manage their own clothing – pulling down pants, pulling up skirt
- Child is interested in taps and washing of hands in the basin
- Child starts to pull their nappy off at times or starts to show displeasure in wearing the nappy
- Child has a dry nappy for a couple of hours
- Is showing other signs of growing independence
Your child may not be showing all of the above signs that they are ready, it may be just a few but as parents, you will know your child best and know whether you think they are ready or not. If you try and it appears there are more accidents than successes after a couple of days of trying, it may simply be worth waiting a few months before trying again.
So, if you have decided they may be ready, what next? Read on..
How do I toilet train my child?
My top tips;
- You could start by putting your child on the toilet at nappy change times to give them the opportunity to do something on the toilet and to see if they make the link between the toilet and what needs to happen there
- Involve your child in the exciting step of going to the shops and choosing their own undies. If they feel like they have been allowed to make a very important choice such as the colour and design of their underpants, it may increase their excitement about starting to train and choose the undies they would like to wear.
- Ensure you have enough clean undies ready to go as well as any toilet equipment you choose to use such as a step and smaller child seat addition.
- Don’t take your child to the toilet TOO often. Once an hour (or when they communicate they need to go) should be sufficient. Taking your child to the toilet too often can lead to the child getting sick of the ‘novelty’ of toileting too quickly and also may not allow them the time it takes to feel the fullness of ‘needing to go’.
- Ensure that any successes on the toilet are celebrated BIG time! I’m usually such an advocate for healthy snacks and treats but if it will take a few choc chips or jelly beans to get through a week or two of intensive training, I’m all for it. Of course you could go with sticker rewards or a big family song and dance every time there’s a wee or a poo on the toilet too.
- Don’t make a big deal of accidents. Simply remind the child that they need to go to the toilet, clean up the accident and continue to reward successes.
- Don’t continue chopping and changing between nappies and undies. It can be very confusing for the child and draws out the training process. Once you’ve decided they’re ready and you have committed to using the undies, stick with it as long as there are at least SOME successes.
- Encourage your child to at least TRY to wipe themselves clean. They will need help and guidance to begin with but encourage their independence as much as possible (even if it makes more mess) so that by the time they are ready to start primary school, they are confident to do this alone every time, as there are certainly no helpers with this once they begin school. Be sure to teach girls to wipe from front to back (to avoid UTI’s) and for boys, teach them to shake the last bits of wee from their penis to ensure they don’t get drips on their undies. For boys, decide whether you want to teach them to stand or sit to do a wee.
- If your child is having only accidents, and no successes, they may not be ready. Don’t be afraid to go back into nappies if you really feel they are not ready and try again in a few weeks or a few months.
- Model how it’s done! That’s right, let them watch you go to the toilet, use the paper, flush and then wash hands. Of course you can decide how much they ACTUALLY see if you feel uncomfortable with this but the important part is that they see you modelling the action, and showing the correct routine of using toilet, using paper, flushing and washing and then drying hands. A visual guide on washing hands may assist. You can find an easy to follow printable version here on raisingchildren.net.au.
Should I use a potty or not?
The decision of whether to get a potty or not is a very individual choice and there are many families who choose to use it in conjunction with the toilet but personally, I think it can add an extra step that is unnecessary when the child can go straight to learning how to use the toilet. Why have 3 steps when you can do it in 2? Starting Blocks bring up some interesting ideas when it comes to using a potty or not. They also include further information which could help to guide you on whether your child may be ready and some other useful training tips.
If your child is attending a day care centre and they are supporting the toilet training process, it is unlikely that they will have potties for the children to use and practice on as child care centres are generally built with child size toilets and sinks. Educators will usually have a step as well to assist the children to get on and off the toilet but if they are in fact using the toilets only and not potties, the child may become confused as to what the right thing is to do if they are using the potty at home and the toilet at child care.
Summary of Toilet Training Tips
Every child shows readiness at different ages and stages but it’s just as important for parents to be ready for the toilet training process as it is for children to be ready. There is a multitude of information online (try this comprehensive guide on raisingchildren.net.au) about toilet training, about toileting readiness as well as equipment you can purchase to make this easier at home. Hopefully my tips have helped and I would love to hear about any stories (successful or not) of toilet training attempts at home.