Basics of toilet training

Every child is different so time and patience are very much of the essence to successfully toilet train your toddler. We take a look at whether your child is ready for toilet training; using potties versus toilet seats; training techniques and helpful tips.
Every child is different so time and patience are very much of the essence to successfully toilet train your toddler.

Toilet training can take as little as 3 days or as long as 6 months for a child to pick up. There are sure to be a few little accidents along the way as your child learns bladder to brain control by feeling wetness.

Generally toddlers learn to toilet train in stages: weeing in the toilet or potty, then pooing, and then staying dry at night.

Girls tend to show an interest in toilet training a little earlier than boys, but both are around 2 years or so.

We take a look at whether your child is ready for toilet training; using potties versus toilet seats; training techniques and helpful tips.

Basics of toilet training


Is your child ready for toilet training?

There are many ways to tell if your little one is ready to start toilet training:
  • They may start to show an interest in going to the toilet anytime between the ages of two and three.
  • They may want to wear ‘big kids’ underwear.
  • They may ask to have their wet nappy changed.
  • They tell you when they need to go to the toilet
  • They stay dry after a nap or all night which means they are developing bladder to brain control.

Potty verses toilet seat

When toilet training your child you have the option of choosing a potty, a toilet training seat or the usual toilet seat in the bathroom.

In some cases, using a potty is the most convenient option for the family. In other cases, training a child on the adult toilet can prove to be more efficient. It all depends on the child and what works best for the family.

Potties may seem less intimidating to a child learning to potty train. The potty will be the right height/size for a child and may even be a fun colour or design, making it more appealing than the adult toilet.

Your child will likely be able to go into the bathroom and sit on the potty without any help and will therefore take ownership of the potty and get used to having it around.

Potties are very safe for children. They are already child-sized, there is no concern about a child falling off or into the potty.

Some potty chairs even serve as a step stool when the lid is down, allowing your child a safe method for reaching the sink and washing their hands.
Some children may prefer to learn to use the bathroom with the adult toilet that they are used to seeing in the family bathroom.
Toilets can be made safe for toilet training. Toilet training seats fit on the toilet seat and are designed to make a smaller seat and opening for a child. Some come with handles for children to hold while using the bathroom.

You will also need a step stool for your child to reach the toilet and the sink. However you will need to watch them for safety.

Let the toilet training begin!

Put the toilet training seat or potty in the bathroom or play area and let your child sit on it without nappies on to get used to it.

You may like to read them a book on potty training during this time so they will start to understand what they are meant to use it for.

Watching a parent use the toilet can be a good motivator – as can aiming at a target in the toilet or potty.

Sit your child on the potty several times a day – perhaps every 2 hours or so and even if they don’t do anything in the potty praise them for trying.

If your toddler won't use the toilet, it may be because they are afraid of it. In this case a potty should be used first to establish a comfort level. Or, this may a sign that they are not quite ready to be potty trained. If so, leave it there and don’t force the issue – they may surprise you after a few weeks by starting to sit on it themselves.

Sometimes a previously potty trained child can suddenly begin to have accidents. It is important not to get angry or punish your child as they don’t do it deliberately.

If there are any changes to your child’s routine such as a new baby in the house or starting a new kindy it may have thrown out their routine and cause them to seek what they think of as familiar – which is most likely using nappies.

Talk to your toddler about any changes and encourage them to use the potty or toilet again. Make sure you give them lots of positive praise and use a reward chart if you have one. Extra attention and cuddles will help a stressed or anxious child.

If it does not help, try not to revert back to a nappy but instead use training pants again until they decide to use the potty again. This may take a few weeks so be patient.

Your child may go through a phase of getting upset at seeing a ‘part of them’ being flushed away, so they may resist using the toilet or try to hold on. This is completely natural and a part of their development.

Try to remain patient. This phase will pass and your toddler will soon be able to use the toilet and flush again.

Helpful tips for toilet training

You will want to have a good supply of training pants to hand! There are a variety of training pants out there, so you may need to experiment for the best fit, leak protection and the one that best prompts your child to use the potty.

Reward charts are a fantastic way to praise your child using the toilet or potty.

One of the biggest mistakes when toilet training is to put kids in ‘big kids’ underwear at home and then change back to nappies when going out. This confuses kids who are toilet training as they go back to not being able to feel when they have had an accident and not associating wetness with an accident.

There are travel potties and toilet seats that you can take with you when you're going out to help keep up the routine for your child during toilet training.

Give your child books, toys and a snack to help them feel comfortable around the potty or toilet.

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