Gentle toilet training

Some of you may be thinking it’s time for your little one to start toilet training, or they may be showing an interest themselves.  Physiologically, readiness occurs from around 18 months of age but children may not be fully out of nappies till after 3, often later for night training. 


Here are some tips for a gentle transition…


How can I tell if my toddler is ready?

§  Nappies may be dry first thing in the morning

§  Your toddler may poo only in the daytime

§  Your toddler is aware of having a wee or poo

§  Your toddler may ask you to change their nappy

§  They may tell you when they need to go

§  They may ask to wear undies

§  They may ask to use the potty

§  They may be interested in other family members using the toilet



What can you do to gently support this transition?


Give your toddler as much control over toilet training as possible

There’s no rush.  Allowing this transition to be child-led teaches your child that they are in charge of their own body.


Letting them choose their own potty  

Help them to consider comfort as well as looks.  We had a padded Thomas the Tank engine toilet seat with side handles which my son just LOVED to use. He felt safe and secure sitting on it, and of course…Thomas.  My mum had a potty that played music when the children sat on it.  They loved that too.


Letting them choose where the potty should go

In the bathroom next to your toilet is a good idea, then you can go together J Maybe one in each bathroom if you have more than one.  Does your child disappear to do a poo?  Some children prefer to poo in private so you may need to bring the potty to them (even behind the couch) if this is where your little one likes to hide for some privacy.


Create a new routine

You can make it a part of your nappy change routine that when the nappy comes off they have a little sit on the potty before the new nappy goes on.  Sometimes you’ll catch something, sometimes you won’t.  That’s okay, it’s just about getting familiar with weeing somewhere other than their nappy.  Keep it short (sing a song or two) and finish with a kiss and cuddle regardless of the outcome. 


Letting them choose their own undies

This can happen down the track rather than as soon as your child uses the potty as there will still be plenty of accidents.  When you’re ready to buy some undies this can be an occasion when you let go and embrace corporate branding.  We went with whatever lurid, Disney, superhero, fairy or star wars obsession each child had.  They were incredibly excited and proud of their choices and would show everyone.  The new undies were a very successful reinforcement to keep dry.


Model toileting

If you know when your child is likely to want to wee or poo then you could suggest the potty, or just go and use the toilet yourself and model it for your child.  Talking about doing a wee while you do one is also good modelling for your child.  They can even sit on their potty fully clothed while they get used to the idea.  After a while you can casually suggest they take their nappy off and sit on the potty.  They may say yes, they may say no.  Don’t force anything... 


Make it short, make it fun. 

Sing a song or read a book.


Watch their behaviour for clues

Notice the signs your child may need to go – squirming, bouncing, fidgeting and gently suggest they could use the potty.  Helping your child make the connection between those feelings in their body with using the potty is an important step.


Rewards & Praise

Rewarding your child with lollies or charts shouldn’t be necessary and may be more about you pushing the agenda rather than your child.  Children are naturally wired to want to try new things, learn, master and grow.  Verbal praise is fine though, perhaps reframing our comments from a ‘pleasing mummy’ focus to a more ‘self-aware’ focus.  For example, rather than ‘what a good boy you are to do a wee’ consider‘you must be so proud of yourself for doing a wee’.  New thinking suggests that we treat toilet training as a totally normal thing that all humans do, not an act to perform to receive a sticker on their reward chart or a sweet.


Take your time and be patient

Try to stay patient when there are accidents.  Clean up in a matter of fact manner and let them know ‘it’s okay to not make it, it can be hard to know when you need to do a wee, you’ll get the hang of it soon’.  Remember they are not being naughty and they will be sensitive to how you handle any accidents.  



Sarah Hockwell recommends that the potty should allow your child to have their feet resting on the floor or on a step as this is the most comfortable and ergonomic position for pooing easily.  It’s a good idea to keep up the fruit and the fluids so your child isn’t constipated and can poo easily.


Good books to read your children – You can order these from the library

Toilet Learning by Alison Mack

How to potty train your monster – DiPucchio & Moon

I want my potty (a Little Princess story) – Tony Ross

Zoo Poo – Richard Morgan

Pirate Pete’s Potty

Potty time with Elmo

Toilet time for boys – Geddes

Princess Polly’s Potty

Even firefighters go to the potty

Potty superhero

Poo goes home to Pooland – for older children