The average potty training age for a child is around 18–27 months.
However, some children are potty trained outside of this age range, either younger or older. Most children still need some assistance at night for about 6 months after successful potty training.
The best time to start training is when both the child and parents are ready and willing. It’s important to watch a child for signs that indicate they’re interested in potty training.
So, how can you know if your child is ready for toilet training? There are some clues you can look for.
Some signs include:
- Physical ability: Are they able to pull their pants up and down by themselves?
- Interest: Are they asking questions about the toilet and expressing interest in potty training?
- Recognition: Can they recognize when their diaper is soiled?
- Control: Are they keeping their diaper dry for longer periods (at least for two hours)?
These signs show you that your child is interested and conscious of their bowels and bladder. Start talking with your child about potty training. Frequent conversations about it can encourage your child to get motivated for the process.
Let your child into the bathroom with other siblings or yourself so they can see what using the toilet is like. This helps them form their own conclusions and learn about the process.
Toilet training varies depending on the biological sex of the child.
Girls tend to pick up on potty training faster than boys. They have to learn proper wiping techniques early, however. It’s important to wipe from front to back to avoid getting stool near their vagina opening and urethra.
Boys need to learn how to aim, which can take a bit longer. If aim becomes a struggle for the child or parent, a fun trick is to add a couple of oat cereal rings into the toilet bowl. Just a couple are easily flushable and create targets for the child to focus on.
If you’ve noticed your child seems ready, you can start talking to them about potty training. Once they’re motivated, it’s time to start.
First, you need to get the necessary equipment and clothing. Before you can get started on potty training, you need to make sure your bathroom is prepared. These are a few of your options:
- Potty training seats or chairs: Use one of these as a potty training toilet to get your child used to the idea. Let them sit on it fully clothed at first, then let them get used to pulling their pants down and sitting on it without clothing. Don’t expect them to go at first; just let them get comfortable using it. Place it in the bathroom and praise them every time they express the need to go, even if they just sit there and don’t go.
- Toilet insert: Once they start using the potty training seat, you can transition them from the seat into the actual toilet. But kids are a lot smaller than adults, so a toilet insert can help them from falling into the bowl as they sit on the toilet.
- Step stool: A step stool that’s designed for the toilet can be easily tucked away under the bowl, then pulled out by a child trying to get up to the toilet.
- Kid-friendly soap: Handwashing is imperative after going to the bathroom, so teach them how to wash their hands after every attempt. Use kid-friendly soap that encourages them to learn the habit.
- Undergarments: Your child may start to ask for regular underwear. It can be a big incentive for them to wear “big kids” underwear as they’re being potty trained. You can also get pull-up diapers, but it’s harder for children to feel they’re having an accident in these and they may lose motivation to complete toilet training. It’s best to use pull-up diapers at night to help prevent accidents.
- Wipes: Accidents will happen, so stay stocked up on wipes to keep your child clean.
The most important equipment a parent needs for potty training is positive reinforcement. Use a fun potty-training chart. Giving your child praise and encouragement, even while they sit on a training seat and don’t do anything, helps them associate potty training with something they enjoy.
- After they’ve started to sit on the training chair, put stool from their diaper into the training chair.
- Have them watch you transfer stool from the training chair into the toilet.
- Let your child flush the toilet so they can see the stool get flushed. This tells them where their stool should go.
- Listen for signs that your child has to go to the bathroom. Take them to the toilet or potty and praise them for telling you.
- While they’re sitting on the toilet or potty, read to them to help them relax, if they need it. Potty training books are fun and educational and help reinforce good toilet training behaviors.
- Teach your child to wipe properly after using the bathroom, then how to wash their hands.
Some parents like to give incentives to use the toilet like potty training sticker charts. This helps your child associate pleasant, happy experiences with using the toilet. Letting your child pick out some potty training books can be a fun way to continue reinforcing techniques throughout potty training.
Sometimes children regress, get scared, or just aren’t ready yet. If so, don’t worry. Just pull back and try again in a couple of weeks. Every child becomes ready in their own time. Just look out for the readiness clues and try again.
Patience is the key to toilet training. Your child is trying to learn something brand new to them.
Be prepared for potty training with the proper equipment, and expect accidents to happen. Don’t scold your child or get upset if they make messes; just continue to use positive reinforcement and take it slow.
Your child will tell you when they’re ready in their own way. Following the step-by-step process is simple, and if they stumble over a step, you can always start over until they get it. Using these potty training tips will help it be less stressful on your child and easier on you, too.