The process of toilet training can bring about a mix of emotions. It’s an exciting rite of passage in your journey as a parent, helping your little ones become “big boys and girls”. But the anticipation, pride and joy, brings with it a realistic amount of frustration--especially during those setbacks that make you feel like you might never get there.

Here are some of the basics of toilet training and some tips to make the process a little easier.

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When To Start?

Despite the fact that many children start toilet-training when they’re between two to three years old, there’s no strict age guideline as to when you should start training. Although age can be one of the deciding factors, it certainly is not the only factor that indicates a child’s readiness. What you should really be looking for are the following signs, which might suggest that your child is ready:

  • They start having dry nappies during the day for a few hours at a time
  • They show curiosity and interest in using the toilet, i.e. they start watching you when you go to the toilet
  • They tell you when they’ve done, or are about to do a “wee” or a “poo”
  • They become reluctant to wear their nappy
  • They’re able to pull their pants up and down without help.

We recommend you only start toilet training when your child is ready for it. Starting before your child is ready will only frustrate them (and you), and stretch out the process.

Before You Begin

There are a few things you’ll need to plan out before getting started:

1. Equipment

Before you start, you need to decide on whether you’re going to use the toilet or a potty. There are pros and cons to each, so it’s a matter of which one your child prefers. If you decide to use the toilet, you’ll need a child-size seat to place on top of your existing toilet seat, and a step for your child to climb on. You’ll be able to find these items in the potty-training section in most stores that sell baby products (e.g., Baby Bunting, Kmart, Babies R Us).

2. Toileting Words

Choose and teach your child the words you’ll be using associated with going to the toilet – for example, “poo”, “wee”, or “pee”, “potty”, “loo”, and so on.


Getting Started

1. No more daytime nappies

Stop using nappies during the day, except for when your child sleeps. Put them in either underpants or disposable training pants instead. A handy tip is to dress your child in comfortable, fuss-free clothing during this process, so they can easily undress themselves.

2. Routine, routine, routine

Identify the times your child usually has their bowel movements and encourage them to sit on the toilet or potty during those times. After recognising the patterns, set up a daily routine. For example, take your child to the toilet before they sleep, when they wake up, and after each meal.

3. It’s all about communication

Use simple and clear instruction such as “when you need to do a wee, tell me and we can go to the toilet together”. Throughout the day, ask them regularly (but casually) if they need to go to the toilet. Be sure not to sound like you’re forcing them to go.

4. Positivity

Positive reinforcement is key! Praise your child even for small achievements. You can also try using rewards such as stickers or stamps. Also, don’t get them to sit on the toilet for longer than five minutes--you don’t want them to begin associating the toilet with punishment.

5. Consistency

If your child goes to childcare or is looked after by a nanny or their grandparents regularly, make sure you communicate your toilet training approach clearly to other carers so they can all follow the same procedure. Remember that consistency is crucial in this process!

6. Setbacks and accidents

It’s important to manage your expectations and understand that accidents will happen during this process. When your child wets or soils himself or herself, don’t stress, and most importantly, don’t punish them for it. Remain calm, tell your child that it’s just an accident, and give them reassurance.

It’s hard to say how long this process takes, as every child is different. While some children can master toileting in a couple of weeks, others might take months. One thing for certain is that it’s a process that requires consistency, communication, and lots of patience! Good luck!