Potty training can feel daunting but it doesn't have to be.
The key to getting through this challenging milestone is to put absolutely no pressure on either yourself or your child.
Somewhere between two and three is the average age to begin potty training. Every child is different and the best time to start potty training is when your child is ready for it. Waiting until your child is ready will take a lot of the stress out of potty training and the process will be much quicker. Trying to force a child to get out of nappies before they are ready can lead to trauma and is likely to be very frustrating for the parent.
So, how do you know if your child is ready to potty train?
-do they know when they've got a wet or dirty nappy?
-do they know when they're doing a wee?
-are they staying dry for longer stretches?
-do they hide when they're doing a poo or wee?
-are they interested in how other members of the family use the toilet?
-are they dry when they wake from naps?
-do they tell you when they've done a wee or poo in their nappy?
If you're going through any upheaval such as moving house or changing nursery, hold off. Potty training will be successful when your little one feels secure in themselves and in their environment.
So you think your toddler's ready to potty train? Great! Here are some of our top tips to help make the transition as stress-free as possible.
- Try out training pants first - training pants are a great first step as though they hold in urine your child will still feel the wetness. They can also pull them up and down by themselves (with a little help).
- Let your child choose a potty - either take them out on a special potty-buying shopping trip or let them pick one out online. This will be empowering for your child and will get them excited about using their own potty that they've chosen themselves.
- Let your child choose their first knickers - this can also be an empowering move for a little one. Choosing their own pants will give them a sense of control over the situation and colourful Paw Patrol and Frozen pants are much snazzier than boring old nappies!
- Keep the potty nearby when starting out - when you're starting out, stay in for a few days, mostly in one room, and keep the potty in that room. If your child can see the potty, they're more likely to remember to use it. Lockdown is perfect potty training time!
- Keep putting a nappy on at night at first - very few children are ready to stay dry both day and night right off the bat. Stick to training them to stay dry during the day, and when their nappies are reliably dry at night, start putting them in pants at night too. When they're mostly dry through the night you can get up in the middle of the night and sit them on the potty to do a wee, then put them back to bed.
- Don't tell them off for accidents - traumatic potty training can lead to a lifetime of emotional problems later on. Try to keep it as stress-free for them as possible, after all, it will be over soon (honestly!)
- Celebrate their successes - congratulate them every time they use the potty and they'll feel a sense of achievement and pride.
- Keep it consistent - it's best not to give mixed signals during potty training. If you're going to go for it - go for it. Otherwise, your child could feel confused and unsure whether they're meant to be using the potty or not. Once you decide to keep them out of nappies, don't put them back in them until they're ready for bed.
- If your child really isn't enjoying it, hold off - if you've given it a go and you're getting nowhere, or your child is visibly upset and reluctant to leave nappies behind and use the potty, consider waiting a few days or weeks before trying again. After all, there's no obligation to get it done before a certain time, so there's no rush.
- Protect any surface that will be hard to clean - if you sit your child on the sofa to watch a cartoon and they do a wee there, things could go quickly downhill vibe-wise. Put towels or something waterproof down on soft furnishings before they sit down. However, it's easy enough to clean carpet and sofa fabric, so don't worry too much.
- Encourage boys to sit on the potty for a wee - if they sit down they might also do a poo at the same time, and associate both functions with the potty.
- Dress them in clothing that's easy to take off - no clothes with poppers or fiddly zips or buttons! Straight up and down pants, or a skirt or dress. Even better, leave the clothes off completely so it's as easy as possible for them to pull their pants down and sit on the potty as soon as they feel the urge, without having to get you to help them first.
- Use a rewards system if they lost interest - if their interest seems to be waning, consider bringing in a sticker chart to track their successes. Gold star for every time they use the potty. Or it could be a treat from the shop when they've stayed dry a whole day for example. Incentives rather than bribery though!
- Watch some potty training cartoons - just type 'potty training song' or 'potty training videos for 2-year-olds' and you'll find loads of animated cartoons for kids that really help get them accustomed to the idea and excited to try it out for themselves. You can also get a few potty-training themed storybooks to read to them so they can identify with the characters and feel excited to do it themselves.
Eleanor lives in Brighton with her three year old daughter. They are always on the lookout for new experiences and environments to explore and exciting new activities to do together. One of their favourite ways to spend an afternoon is the cinema, you will always find them queueing for popcorn the minute a new kids’ film is released! They love getting the train to London in search of new activities and great places to eat. Eleanor is also training as a complementary therapist in her (limited!) spare time and is very interested in the practice of mindfulness.