Learning how to use the potty/toilet independently and stopping wearing nappies is a big milestone for your child. There are lots of new and exciting skills for them to learn with your help.
It begins with preparation to use the potty, moving on to practising potty skills before eventually stopping using nappies as your child gains confidence.
When should you start toilet training?
Potty learning means helping your child use a potty or toilet as part of their overall learning.
Benefits of a potty learning include:
- You don't need to wait until your child is ‘ready’ and able to do everything on their own before they can start potty learning.
- There's no need to wait until your child decides they no longer want to wear nappies.
- Your child will already have some of the key skills they need to make the move to pants and potty easier when you stop using nappies
- Helping your child learn as they go along, according to what they are capable of at each stage of development, gives them a gentle learning process towards stopping using nappies.
- The more practice and help your child gets, the easier it will be when you decide to stop using nappies.
What is the best age for toilet training?
- Most children are ready to master potty independence and lead in many parts of the process from around 18 months.
- Research shows it is better for your child’s bladder and bowel health to stop using nappies between 18 and 30 months.
- The majority of children will be capable of doing most things (wiping for example) by themselves when they start school.
The longer you leave it, the harder it can be for your child to learn this new skill and accept not having a nappy on anymore.
Supporting children with additional needs
Children with special needs such as delayed speech, autism or a physical disability may find the process towards stopping wearing nappies more difficult.
These children often need more support with learning to use a potty or toilet. This can be challenging for them and for you, but it's important not to put off potty training for too long.
Almost all children can learn to be clean and dry, but the longer they wear nappies, the harder it may be to introduce a new place for them to wee and poo.
Why feeling comfortable using the toilet is important
Teaching your child how to use a toilet or a potty and feel comfortable around wee and poo, at least some of the time, gives them a gentle journey towards being independent from nappies. It also helps avoid many common potty training problems in the future.
There may be times when it is more difficult for you to help your child use a potty, for example if they are unwell or if they refuse to cooperate. At these times, it’s important not to put pressure on yourself or your child and only do what feels manageable for you both.
Using praise and rewards to motivate your child
For most children, encouraging and supporting them to be as independent as possible is the best way to motivate them.
Tips for keeping your child motivated:
- Give your child plenty of encouragement and praise their efforts. When your child uses the potty or manages to stay dry, even if it's just for a short time, tell them how pleased you are.
- Try to stay calm when accidents happen and do not make a big fuss.
- Give your child the opportunity to do things for themselves as far as possible. This will help them to feel in control, positive and relaxed about the process.
- Use favourite toys, books or songs to help them feel comfortable on the potty.
- Try to avoid prompting or asking your child too often. Instead, wait until you think they need to go and then direct them gently, e.g. “it’s toilet time” or “let’s go to the potty!”
- Be clear, confident and consistent so your child knows what you are asking them to do.
Toilet training tips
Whatever stage your child is on their toilet learning journey, stopping using nappies is a big change for them. Below are tips which could support you and your child through this process:
- Try to change nappies or pull-ups as soon as they are wet or soiled. This teaches your child that it is normal to be clean and dry.
- Once your child can stand, do nappy or pull-up changes standing up and involve them in cleaning up and flushing poo down the toilet. This will teach your child where wee and poo goes.
- Leave your child’s nappy or pull-up off for up to 30 minutes after your child has had a wee or poo. This will help them get used to not wearing it, without having an accident.
- Having regular, short periods without wearing a nappy or pull-up can help prepare your child for how it will feel when they stop using them completely.