Parents' practical guide to toilet training your child.
You can do this - and your child can do it too!
Don't restrict yourself by setting time limits, as this could take longer than you expect. The essential element is to be flexible in your approach and be prepared to change wherever something isn't working.
How do I know when?
There is no “right” age to start toilet training. Generally, children begin to take an interest in using the toilet when 18 months to 2 years old, but this can vary significantly from one child to the next.
As the parent, you also need to be ready. Do not start the process if you are stressed, short of time or preoccupied with other concerns - choose a period which suits you, and where you can support your child through the process.
This is a big change for everyone and requires a huge effort from both you and your child. A calm and consistent approach is key, as children are excellent at picking up on your own anxieties and frustrations. You have to accept they will poop around the house!
Watch for signs that your child is ready to start:
- Can they tell you when they need something?
- Can they follow simple directions, such as “sit on the potty”?
- Can they pull their own clothing up or down?
- Are they beginning to need fewer nappy changes each day?
There are different approaches to training your child, so you need to do consider what suits you best:
1. NakedLet your child run around the house without any clothes. They will be able to feel when they have had an accident. This method requires the most cleaning up but your child will quickly feel the effects of not getting to the toilet on time.
2. Wearing UnderwearIf you feel more comfortable with this, it will have effects as similar effect to above. Your child will realise quickly when they have missed a trip to the toilet, but solids will be contained. This requires some vigilance on your part, so they do not get sore. You will also need to have plenty of underwear handy.
3. Pull Up's / Cloth Training PantsThis saves a lot of cleaning up, but your child may not feel when accidents occur or make the connection with needing to ask to use the toilet.
Regardless of which approach you use, it is essential to remain positive and relaxed at all times. Never punish a child for having an accident.
Focus on what your child is doing right, and use praise and rewards. Keep re-emphasising the need to ask for (or go to) the toilet before an accident happens, using clear and consistent language.
It helps enormously if everyone in your child's life is involved, with everybody using similar language and encouragement. Be sure to let your nursery teacher, learning assistants and the Manager know you are working on this Milestone!
It is essential you think through the process before you start toilet training, so you can remain prepared and without stress:
Potty or toilet?Will your child be using a “potty” or a toilet seat topper? Consider having several of them, so they are available in each toilet / bathroom your child is likely to use. Consider having one in the car/stroller for use when you are out in shopping malls or visiting friends.
Spare clothesA plentiful supply of underwear or pull up's is essential. Your child will have plenty of accidents, so you don't want to run out.
BagsAll these wet and dirty clothes have to be transported, sorted and washed. Think about how this will work. Disposable bags are great for taking wet clothes home when you are out and about.
Cleaning productsStock up on sanitising or flushable wipes, tissues, creams etc. Ensure you have a good supply not just at home, but also in the car and when you are out.
EntertainmentHow are you going to entertain your child when they are on the toilet / potty? The more you can do to make the experience enjoyable and interesting, the better for you both. They may be sitting there for a while, so a good supply of toys, stories, books etc is essential!
RewardsVerbal praise and encouragement help your child to understand what you are trying to get them to do. Also consider creating a sticker chart to celebrate their successes - this is a great way to keep a track of progress and children always love it.
I have listed below some excellent books you might find useful to share with your child to support you both on this journey:
- Big Boy Underpants – Fran Manushkin
- Big Girl Panties – Fran Manushkin
- Bloop Bloop Goes the Poop – Tamara Moore
- It Hurts When I Poop – Howard Bennett
- Once Upon a Potty – Alana Frankel
- Potty – Leslie Patricelli
- Potty Superhero – Parragon Books
- The Perfect Potty Zoo – Agnes Green
- Time to Pee – Mo Willems
- Where's the Poop – Julie Markes
Remember to stay positive - don't stress or push the child. Children do figure it out eventually - you don't see many adults going around in a nappy :)