According to experts, an appropriate age to start potty training is between 18 months and two years. In my experience, the key to success is to look for the right signs – and not necessarily the right age. I have potty trained many toddlers and each child is different. Here are some of the signs to look for – and make sure your child shows most of them before you start the process to guarantee success.

  • Does your child have a slightly damp diaper after a nap or between three- hour intervals? This indicates they have some bladder control.
  • Does your child know when they are making a poop and do they ask for privacy?
  • Do they understand and follow simple instructions?
  • Is your child eager to participate on the potty? If they show no interest then potty training could be a long battle with poor results.
  • Is your child able to undress and dress with very little help? Could they take down their own pants and get them back up again?

I always suggest having two potties and try to keep them the same: one for upstairs and one for downstairs. You can also buy two toilet inserts. Have extra pairs of underwear on hand that are one size too big – and have a pail of water nearby too.

If the truth be known, the longer you leave your child in a diaper, the quicker the potty training process. My last charge was a boy who turned three in December and we trained in March. Three little tinkles on the floor and potty training was over in a few days with a dry bum. It’s really that easy if they are ready. I had tried three months earlier and knew from the constant pees on the floor and not in the potty that he just wasn’t ready. We often overlook the fact that a child’s bladder has to mature along with the child to make potty training work

Start to take your child to the bathroom with you so you can show them how the process works. Yes, it’s show and tell time! Show them what you do and walk them through the experience by explaining, “Look! Mommy is having a pee in the toilet!” Your child will probably tell anyone that will listen about what you did on the toilet but that’s the fun of parenting! No secrets.

Let your child sit on their potty while you do your business. Be sure they know it’s not a toy and talk them through everything. Share the bathroom experience for some time and have your child come with you as often as possible. Show them how to wash their hands, buy new big kid underwear together and make this a really special moment. This needs to be a fun time, not a stressful one.

Once they are comfortable with the potty, step it up and suggest that they sit naked on their potty – maybe when they first wake up or at bath time. Do not force them and if they refuse, let it pass for a few days before trying again. When you do start potty training, don’t revert back to diapers with the exception of nap and bedtime. If you are ready and your child is too, try this:

Day 1
After breakfast, get dressed with no diaper, just underwear. If you prefer, forget the pants altogether to save on the laundry. Do remember to tell them that it’s time to wear big kid underwear like mommy or daddy, and that they should come and tell you when they need to pee. You should also constantly remind and guide them to the potty every 15-20 minutes to see if they need to go pee. The child should sit on the potty for about 10-15 minutes each time.

Make a note of the last drink and the first pee on the floor, and then you can aim for that time the next day in the potty. Keep a log of the little accidents as well as the pees in the potty.
If there are lots of little accidents, be sure to treat them with a calm voice and assure them that it’s OK and to try to pee on the potty the next time.If your child pees in the potty on Day 1, it’s great but Day 1 is all about getting used to the potty. Your child will need frequent reminders during the first few days of training and try to keep the potty training to one room. Once your child is successful and pees in the potty, reward them with lots of praise so they feel proud of their big accomplishment.

Day 2
Follow the same routine as Day 1.

Day 3
By Day 3, you should start to see a pattern of when your toddler pees. Use this as guidance as to how often and when to remind them. It is important that you now leave some of the responsibility to your child. Your job is to empower your child and help them figure things out on their own. Do not get despondent if they still have accidents. Remember that this is training time. You wouldn’t expect to drive a car on Day 2 without supervision so don’t expect too much with potty training on Day 2 either.
Some children have many accidents for the first couple of days while others have hardly any – and that’s just the way it is. Each child handles potty training differently and this is out of your control. A positive approach with persistence and encouragement wins every time.