Toilet training: Practical Guide for Parents



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Updated on Apr 01, 2024 · 5 mins read
Toilet training: Practical Guide for Parents

To toilet train or not to toilet train. We get it. Knowing when your toddler is ready for toilet training can be challenging. You might not know what signs will tell you exactly how they’re feeling and when they want to transition from using nappies to being toilet trained. First off, you should have an understanding of the difference between your toddler being toilet aware and toilet ready.

What is ‘toilet aware’?

When your toddler is simply toilet ‘aware’, it means they know when they have done a wee or poo and know that the toilet exists. It’s the first step to being toilet trained.

A lot of parents often think that there child is ready to start toilet training, simply because they have show interest in the toilet or what’s going on in their nappy.

Toilet readiness or being ready to toilet train is only once your child has the cognitive development to stop what they are doing (if they’re busy playing) and get to the toilet in time to go all by themselves. This means removing layers of clothing along with their underpants. That’s the point that they’re ready for toilet training.

When to start toilet training?

If you start seeing the below signs in your little one between 18 and 24 months old, that’s a great sign they’re ready to start toilet training. But many little ones aren’t ready until they’re about 3 years old, so it’s totally fine to delay toilet training. There’s no point forcing them to use the toilet before they’re ready.

7 signs that your toddler is ‘toilet ready’

1. Consistent bladder and bowel movements

2. Control of sphincters

3. Ability to dress and undress

4. Physical ability to get dressed and undressed to go to the toilet

5. Ability to sit still long enough to sit on the toilet

6. Ability to stop what they are doing and get to the toilet in time

7. Ability to communicate what they are doing and that they need to go to the toilet


Your toddler doesn’t need to show you all these signs before they’re ready for toilet training. Remembering that you have no control over when your toddler is ready for potty training and that you cannot force them into learning to use the toilet. They’ll resist, it will take you much longer and you will both just end up frustrated.

Mothercraft Nurse, Chris Minogue suggests trying in the Summer closest to when they turn 2.5 years old. It is often much easier to try when there are less layers in warmer weather and you can spend consistent days at home working through toilet training together.

There will be accidents, and that’s ok. Your toddler needs to feel supported through this process and not rushed to use the toilet amazingly straightaway. There really isn’t a medal for those who have the youngest babe toilet trained, so take your time and go their own pace. Finally, it’s important to note that night time toilet training will often come later. Some children are still in night time pull ups until they are much older.

How long does toilet training take?

Typically, a child’s development has them learn toilet training in about six months. But it can really take anything from days, to a few weeks, to a couple months. Every child learns at their own pace, just like every child’s life has it’s own journey.

Toilet training equipment

If you think your child is ready to start toilet training, there a couple of things that can make the journey a whole lot easier. And if you’re tossing up between the potty or toilet, there’s no right or wrong answer! Some parents find that potties can be easier to move around, and having them sit on a potty might be less intimidating for your little one. But the toilet is where we all wee or poo, so it could be helpful to get used to it. If they’re a bit nervous about the big toilet seat, you could use a toddler toilet seat.

For clothing, your child is a lot more likely to understand potty or toilet training if they stop wearing nappies. This is where training pants are really handy. Training pants are less absorbent underwear for toilet training that can hold bigger messes, if things go topsy turvy (always expect accidents). Great for transitioning to the potty or toilet, training pants are a comfy option for any surprise bowel motions.

How to start toilet training

  • Prepare the bathroom by setting up potty training equipment like a potty or toddler toilet seat.
  • Encourage your little one to tell you when they’ve done a wee or poo in their nappy.
  • Get familiar with signs that they need to go to the toilet.
  • Move quickly to the potty or toilet hen they are about to “go.”
  • Don’t force it. Avoid making them sit on the potty or toilet for longer than a few minutes, otherwise it could feel like a punishment for not being able to wee or poo.

If you’ve had a few successes, you can move form having them wear nappies to training pants.

Common toilet training problems

Sometimes problems using the toilet can happen with the following.

  1. If they’re not ready to toilet train yet. Make sure to follow their body’s signals, and don’t feel pressured to rush them into it like many parents do.
  2. If there’s a lot of change or stress in their life. The best time to start toilet training is when they’re in a comfortable routine and won’t get overwhelmed.
  3. If you’re child’s unwell. Little ones with temporary illnesses will probably have extra issues getting started, so best to wait until they’re feeling better.

And always remember that you’re not without support. Reaching out to a maternal child health nurse can be really helpful, and having a support unit or parenting community can help the toilet training troubles learning experience!


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