Toddlers are generally physically and mentally ready for potty training at 18 - 24 months, however some toddlers are not ready until 4 years of age.
The first thing to do is to look for the signs that your child is ready. It is best not to force the issue because the timing suits you, this will put the training back further if you force your child when they are not ready. These are a few signs to look for (you do not need all of them to start the training):
- . Your toddler will begin to show signs of independence e.g. dressing themselves.
- . Questions/interest will develop around you using the toilet.
- . A dislike of wearing a dirty nappy.
- . Your toddler will start to tell you when they are urinating or having a bowel movement.
Potty Training Preparation
Ensure you have a potty or a small toilet seat, show your toddler the potty and talk about what it's for. This will start to generate interest for your child.
Try and introduce your child to the potty slowly. Start talking about going to the toilet and get your child to sit on the potty periodically. Do not force them onto the potty or hold them on it! If you can persuade them to sit on the potty then do something with them to help them relax - watch their favourite television program or read them a book. Teach them how to pull down their pants and pull them back up again after using the potty; this process of un-dressing and dressing themselves fosters their feeling of independence and of growing up.
Transition from Nappies
When your toddler next goes in his nappy empty the nappy into the potty or toilet to help him/her make the connection between the potty and going to the toilet. Let your toddler flush the chain to see the excrement go away. When they start to see this process they realise this is what you are doing when you go to the toilet and hopefully their interest will be stimulated.
Always keep the potty handy, if you can afford two then have one upstairs and one downstairs so it is never too far away.
Where to Start Potty Training
If it is a nice weekend and you have a garden then this can be a great place to start your training. Let your child run around without a nappy and have the potty ready in the garden. Keep reminding him/her where the potty is asking them if they need the toilet. Our child found potty training much easier when he didn't have a nappy or pants on, it really concentrated his mind. Take them to the toilet every 20/25 minutes and ask them to sit and see if anything comes out - praising them when something happens. Be aware that if you ask your toddler if they need the toilet and they are doing something fun they will probably say 'No'. Suggest they do need the toilet and you would like to take them to see if they do.
When You Are Out and About
When out and about with your toddler try and think about their toilet requirements as often as possible. Place them on the toilet before you leave the house. When you arrive at your destination encourage them to go again and once again before you start your journey home. When out and about always remember to take spare clothing as accidents will happen.
When accidents do happen (which they will) do not be angry or punish your child. They have only just developed the muscle control to hold their bladders and rectum so this is not a time to be reprimanded.
Whilst cleaning up any mess explain to them that next time they should tell you and you will help them to their potty/toilet.
Training Pants Can Help
Training pants are available which will hold a small amount of urine and are relatively easy for a toddler to pull up and down. These may work well for some parents but in my experience my little boy thought if he had one on he would use it as a normal nappy.
Remember to praise your child every time they successfully use the potty/toilet, this will encourage them to do it all the time. Give them plenty of praise and tell them how grown up they are and how proud of them you are.
The Difference Between Night and Day
Once your child is dry during the day it does not mean they will be dry at night. For some children it happens at the same time but for most they will still require a nappy at night.
An idea is to continue using nappies and to monitor how wet they are on the following morning. When the nappy is regularly dry in the morning then your child may well be ready to go to bed without the nappy. Put a waterproof sheet on the bed to protect your mattress. Ensure your child urinates last thing before bed and discourage too much drinking straight before bed.