Toilet training toddlers without the stress

It is typically around the time toilet training begins that toddlers are starting to strive for more independence and beginning to test limits. This can make toilet training a stressful time for everyone involved. So how do we make toilet training a normal part of development?
It is typically around the time toilet training begins that toddlers are starting to strive for more independence and beginning to test limits.

This can make toilet training a stressful time for everyone involved.

From age 18 months, it is very much a “me do it” phase and toddlers want things to be done their way and in their time.

This is why if there is too much stress or over emphasis on using the toilet it can very quickly become a ‘battle’.

Find out how to make toilet training a normal part of your toddler's development with these 10 easy tips.

Toilet training toddlers without the stress


1. Look for signs your toddler is ready for toilet training

  • Is their nappy dry when you check after two hours or after a sleep?
  • Are they noticing they are wet or have done a bowel motion?
  • Are they showing more interest in adults or siblings going to the toilet?
  • Are they wanting to be independent and do things for themselves?
  • While not essential, do they have some language skills to verbalise that they want to go to the toilet?
  • Can they understand and follow simple one or two step instructions?

2. Have routines & toilet training equipment in place

  • Before beginning toilet training, have a potty sitting in the bathroom for several weeks beforehand so it becomes a normal part of your toddler's environment. This is the same if you decide to use a step or toilet seat insert.
  • Talk to your toddler about what a potty or toilet is for.
  • Let them practice stepping up on the stool and sitting on the toilet, with their pants on if they like.
  • Have them blow their nose and put the tissue in the toilet to flush, as for some toddlers the noise and sudden flushing can be scary.
  • They may want to sit on the potty or toilet seat with their clothes on, let them. They may surprise you and initiate using it.

3. Equip your toddler with self-help skills

  • This includes learning to take their own pants on and off and washing their hands.
  • During early toileting, stick with simple clothes that make going to the toilet a quick and easy process. Avoid clothes such as jeans, overalls and tights which might be difficult to get off or clothes that have buttons and zips that they have to undo before going to the toilet.
  • Developmentally boys may find it easier to sit and go to the toilet at first, standing and aiming often comes once they are confident.
  • Encourage your toddler not to rush so that their bladder is completely emptied each time they go to the toilet.

4. Offer choice & phrase conversations positively

  • How you talk about toileting with your toddler makes a big difference to their feeling of being in charge.
  • Try asking “would you like to use the potty or the toilet?” “Would you like to use the step to get up to the toilet or would you like me to lift you up?” “It’s time for the toilet before we go out, do you want to sing a song or look at your book while you're on the potty?”.
  • For many toddlers feeling like they have a choice makes a huge difference to their level of cooperation.
  • Refrain from coming in and swooping your toddler up and quickly putting them on the toilet without warning. We as adults don’t like to be suddenly and unexpectedly interrupted and told to do something, and neither do children.

5. Include your toddler as part of the process & planning

  • Involve your toddler in choosing 'big kids' underwear or a new potty or toilet seat insert.
  • Make a day of it and go to the shops to pick out some underwear with their favourite characters on it, or buy some stickers that they could decorate their potty with.
  • It's all about making them feel involved in the process.

6. Make toileting part of your toddler's daily routine

  • Your toddler will learn to recognise their own body signals and take themselves off to the toilet when needed. 
  • In the beginning though you will need to initiate these times such as before bath time or after lunch, as well as watching for any signs through their body language.
  • If these become regular times as part of the daily routine, your toddler will feel more secure as they know what’s happening next. You may get less resistance too if it becomes part of their routine.
  • Try to avoid interrupting play if you can, as naturally your toddler will be reluctant to stop in the middle of something fun to go to the toilet. If you can see they really need to go offer reassurance that they can return.
  • Toddlers often worry they will miss out or lose their toy if they go to the bathroom, so offer to put their Lego or other activity up onto the bench safe for their return, or put it near the open door to the bathroom where they can see it.

7. Learning through play

  • Play is how children make sense of the world and process change. If you can, buy a doll's potty. If you are feeling really creative make one out of a box or container. Then introduce doll play about going to the toilet.
  • Buy or go to your library for books about toileting for young children. They are often done in a humorous way that toddlers respond well to. “I want my potty” by Tony Ross is one example.

8. Bring in some fun

  • Talk about listening for the tinkle. Humour works well with children, keeping things relaxed and positive.

9. Focus on day time dryness first

  • While some toddlers may be able to stay dry at night quite soon after day time control, many are physically not ready. Some may be dry during the day at 3 but not at night until 5 or 6.
  • Getting used to drinking a medium sized cup of water in one go can train the bladder to be able to hold larger amounts of fluid rather than the habit of a water bottle that is sipped on over an hour or so.
  • Include fibre, fruits and vegetables with lots of water to help bowel motions feel comfortable for your toddler.

10. Be consistent & encouraging

  • Work together so grandparents, caregivers, daycare and home are all using the same positive approach.
  • It is confusing for toddlers if they wear underwear in one environment and nappies/pull ups in another environment and it can slow down the whole process.
  • Give praise and encouragement. Toddlers naturally want to know that we are proud of them, so show in your face and your words that you are proud.

Toilet training should be viewed as just another skill for your toddler to learn with your support. Years later it won’t matter if they were using the toilet independently at 2 years, 3 years or later; they will get there.

What will matter is that they feel confident in their own abilities and independence, so take their lead and be positive.

More kids toilet training articles to enjoy:

Source: This article has been written by Creators, a nationwide service offering quality home-based care and education. Creators are passionate about seeing every child’s unique talent being recognized and nurtured.

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