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Signs Your Toddler is Ready for Toilet Training (Even if You Aren’t!)

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Published on
August 4, 2023

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If you are wondering at what stage you should ditch the nappies and start the toilet training phase with your toddler, it’s important to bear in mind that all children are different and develop at their own pace. Whilst most toddlers begin to indicate readiness between the ages of 18 months and 3 years, some may even be a bit older…and that’s perfectly fine! Instead of paying attention to well-intentioned but unsolicited comments from friends and relatives about your child’s toileting abilities or comparing them to peers who have already mastered this skill, look instead at whether your child is developmentally ready. Starting to toilet train your child before they are ready can backfire, leaving you both frustrated.

Every child is different but here are some common signs that your child is ready to transition from nappies to the potty or toilet.

They Show an Interest

If your child is following you to the toilet, and is curious about how it works or expresses an interest in wearing ‘big kid undies,’ this is a good sign that they may be ready to have a go at sitting on the toilet or a potty themselves. Encourage this interest by reading age-appropriate books about using the toilet and talking or singing fun songs about it.

They Know When They Go

In order for your child to have control over their bladder or bowels, they need to be aware of when they are going. Whilst not all children will be able to verbalise this, there are signs that you can watch for that are a good indicator that they recognise when they need to go such as pointing to or touching their nappy, moving away to another room for privacy, or hiding behind the furniture when they are in the act of going.

They Stay Dry for Longer Periods

If your child is staying dry for 2 or more hours, and/or waking up dry after a sleep, this indicates that their bladder capacity and control is increasing, which is crucial for successful toilet training.

They are Showing Signs of Independence

The toddler years are renowned for being the stage when your little one goes from being a passive baby, to wanting to do things for themselves. If your toddler is starting to express their need to do more for themselves, they’ll probably relish the chance to level-up in the toilet department and be a big kid. Regardless of them thinking they can do it all themselves, it’s important to remember that they’ll need lots of practice and patience before they are able to go it alone.  

They Can Undress Themselves

Part of making it to the toilet in time involves pulling down pants and undies or training pants. During the toilet training phase, it is best to keep your child’s clothing as simple and easy for them to manage as possible. Avoid clothing with buttons, zips or snap crotch fasteners. Another great way to motivate your child to stay clean and dry is to take them shopping and let them pick out underwear with their favourite characters on.

They Can Sit Still Long Enough

Finally, your child will need to master the ability of sitting still long enough to go to the toilet without becoming distracted or bored. This too is a skill that may take practice, time, and patience.

The most important thing to remember is to ensure that toilet training is a positive experience for your child. Praise them when they try, even if they don’t get it right straight away and don’t feel frustrated or embarrassed if your child’s toileting timeline is different to their peers. They will master the potty or the toilet in their own time and rushing them before they are physiologically and cognitively ready will not only prolong the process, but turn it into a period of stress, anxiety and frustration for all involved.  

Good luck, and remember, this phase too shall pass!

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