Toilet training can be one of the most stressful and testing things you do with your toddler. Sue and I know as we’ve toilet trained 5 kids between us and I am about to start with my 3rd. Every child is different but here are 17 bright ideas to keep in mind and try out to see if you can get your little one out of nappies for good. Let us know what your experience has been or any tips or tricks that might help out someone else.
Know when your child is ready. It is so much harder to toilet train if your child isn’t ready. Look for signs like they have a dry nappy for a few hours, they are interested in the toilet and other people going, they dislikes their nappy, they tell you when they need to do a wee or poo and they need to be able to sit in one spot for a few minutes.
Your child needs to be the right age. 2 ½ to 3 ½ years is the most common time for toilet training. Although, children as young as 18 months can show signs of readiness and can be toilet trained and some parents may need to wait until 4 years to get results. From my and Sue’s experiences, though, around 3 is a good time to start trying. Every child is different so you need to be the judge of your own child’s readiness. Don’t feel pressure to toilet train just because all the other kids in your mothers group have started training – go with your own judgement.
Prepare your child for the big day. Talk to your little one before you take away their nappy and tell them that they are going to have to use a toilet/potty. There are loads of picture books that can help you to explain the process. Dr Phil recommends that you get a self-wetting doll and re-enact the process with the doll, showing your child how the doll drinks then sits on the toilet and wees. You could go shopping with your child to buy underwear/pull-ups. Let them pick out underwear with their favourite character on it. For kids with a great imagination, you could even tell them that the Nappy Fairy will be coming to take away their nappies or put any leftover unused nappies into the bin together. Let them know what is happening and get excited with them because they are going to be a big boy or girl.
Let your child go with you to the bathroom. You are your child’s biggest and best role model, so don’t feel embarrassed to let them come to the bathroom with you. Let them see what you do, that you are relaxed and that going to the toilet is a natural part of life.
Set aside a week where you won’t have to leave the house too often. It may take a lot quicker but be prepared that it might not happen in a day or two. Toilet training will take a lot of focussed attention and if you can arrange to have less other things going on then you won’t get too stressed by the whole process. If you have older kids and you do school pick-up, try doing the toilet training in the school holidays.
At first you will need to prompt your child on when to go to the toilet. Put your child on the toilet every 30 mins to 2hrs, even if they don’t do anything or have had an accident beforehand. You may want to start with 30 min intervals then make the intervals longer as your child gets better. Try to keep toilet visits at a regular time and think about when they might need to go such as 1st thing in the morning, after lunch, after playing outside. Also, don’t leave them on the toilet for too long at one time. Limit their sit to 2-3 mins, max 5 mins.
Repetition will help cement the idea into your toddlers mind. Another Dr Phil technique is that if your child has an accident, take them through the process of pulling their underpants down and sitting on the toilet ten times afterwards. It isn’t important that they do something rather that they repeat the process so that something in their brain clicks as a result of repeating the process.
Decide between training pants or underpants. People who use training pants feel that this helps kids to understand if when they are wet. But if your child is really ready, try to go straight into underpants. Sometimes kids may see training pants as just another form of nappy and not really feel the need to use a toilet. If you prepare yourself and make toilet training a focus for the week, there is no reason why you can’t just go into underpants during the day (it is still ok to use nappies at night until a later stage). Whichever method you choose, it is best not to go back and forth between the two as your child might get confused.
Give lots and lots of praise (and don’t get angry when things don’t work). You want to make the training fun. You could use a rewards chart, like the FREE one we have in our templates section. Every time they get to the toilet in time you can give them a reward like a jellybean, an M&M or sticker. If you have a little girl, buy some beads and add a bead to a string every time she has success to make a bracelet and she can wear the bracelet when she is trained. I used to do a little dance to celebrate my kids’ success. My kids seemed to enjoy seeing me being silly!
Use some tricks to get them to use the toilet. To encourage your child to wee in the toilet, try to use a trick or two to make it fun: Make up a song about going to the toilet; colour the water blue or red with food colouring so that when they wee, the water changes colour to green or orange; if you have a boy, give them something to aim at like Fruit Loops or confetti; run the tap as the sound of trickling water encourages things to happen.
Wear the right clothes. Dress you child in clothes that are easy for them to remove in a hurry. Summertime is always a better time for girls to try to toilet train as they can wear a dress or skirt. In winter, try to avoid tights or tight pants, for the first week at least. You could even pop boys into their swimming trunks so their pants don’t get too wet. Be prepared to do a bit of extra washing.
Buy some fun hand soap. Washing hands is part of the toilet routine but it can also be a bit of an incentive for kids. Get them to go along with you and pick out their favourite soap from the shop that they can use after they use the toilet. You can buy soap that foams or soap that comes out of an automatic dispenser.
Decide if you are going to use a potty or a toilet aid. A potty is good as it is at child’s level and they can look bright and fun. With my 1st daughter, I bought a white potty and would add stickers to it every time she used it. You will, however, need to get them to use the toilet at some stage. If you decide to go with a toilet aid, make sure it is easy to get on, so that you don’t have to stumble around when it’s time to go to the toilet. Also think about getting a step to help your child reach the toilet. Use which ever method you think will work best with your child and family.
Make sure your child eats a good diet. Make sure your little one drinks plenty of water and eats fibre rich food. This will help make it easier to go to the toilet.
Tackle things one step at a time. Aim to get the wee in the toilet first then tackle getting the poo in the toilet. Some kids get scared of doing a poo in a toilet. Then, teach them to wipe themselves properly and finally, worry about night time. Night time toilet training can take a lot longer to master. Most kids will master this skill by age 5 but many will require a bit more time.
If after a week you don’t feel like you are getting anywhere – don’t worry! Maybe your child just isn’t ready. Wait a month or so and try again. Don’t be disappointed in your child. Let them know that they haven’t failed and things may take a bit more time.
Have all your cleaning tools ready before you start toilet training. Put together a ‘little accident kit’ with a bucket, old towels, paper towels, disinfectant or even try a Pet Stain Remover if you have alot of carpet and upholstery. This way you won’t be so stressed when accidents happen, and they will happen. Also have an ‘away-from-home’ emergency kit: wipes (also good for cleaning down public toilets), spare underpants and clothes, plastic zip-lock bags and something for the car seat.