How can you tell if your child is ready?
Around the age of 2
There is good evidence that children are physically able to potty train around the age of two. The following graph shows that if you start training between 2 and 2 ½, then the duration of intense training is likely to be less than three months. If on the other hand you start too early or too late training can take up to six months. This is based on averages, therefore it is good to use the age of 2 as a starting point, but there are other signs to look out for.
(Relationship Between Age at Initiation of Toilet Training and Duration of Training: A Prospective Study, Blum et al)
Changes in pattern of dry nappies
One of the other signs of readiness is a change in the length of time your child is going in between wees. The ideal is having a dry nappy for about an hour and a half to two hours. This pattern of less frequent but bigger wees shows the bladder is able to hold on for longer, and is a good sign of readiness. Disposable nappies can make it harder for parents to tell if there is a pattern of dry nappies. Look out for dry nappies after daytime naps.
Keep track of patterns by completing an assessment chart such as this one.
It’s also important to check your child is not constipated as this makes it harder to gain bladder control. Ensure they are eating well and drinking enough to ensure poos are easy to pass.
Awareness of doing a wee or poo
Often children will start telling you that they have done a wee or poo in their nappy. This is a good indication of increasing awareness and is a good first step to being potty trained. Once children know when they have had an accident they can then learn the feeling of a full bladder and so understand when they need to go to the toilet.
Good communication skills
Potty training is much easier when the child can indicate when they need to go to the toilet. Good language skills are key but it can also help some children to have a sign they can make to show they need to go to the toilet. If they can follow simple instructions such as washing and drying hands, then it’s a good sign they are ready.
When children are good at listening and watching what’s going on they often learn faster. It’s a good idea to talk to them about wet and dry nappies, and about the whole toileting routine, from finding the bathroom to managing clothes and washing hands. Letting them watch you or older siblings can be a useful way to teach them the routine.
Potty training includes teaching children to be independent in their toileting. This includes being able to find the bathroom, and switch the light on, manage clothes and eventually wipe their own bottom. Having a more independent child helps accelerate this stage and towards independent toileting.
A stable environment
A change in routine can be upsetting to children, therefore it is a good idea to start potty training when everything else is calm. Parents often use major milestones such as starting nursery or the arrival of a sibling as a reason to potty train, however try to make sure the process is well underway before the change occurs.
It’s a good time for you
Potty training is stressful and can try the patience of a saint so it’s always a good idea to tackle it when you feel mentally and physically prepared! Avoid stressful times such as moving house, new jobs, divorce or separation.
Sometimes your child won’t show signs of readiness
Nappies are very good at keeping your toddler dry, but that can prevent them from learning one of the first stages of potty training, which is to recognise when they have done a wee. This helps the bladder and the brain to connect to enable the child to recognise their body’s signals that they need a wee.
Sometimes children won’t show any signs until the nappy is removed. If this is the case, use age as an indicator and then start to practise some of the other parts of the routine to test the water before fully committing to starting training.