Potty training for toddlers

by Dawn Kelly. Knowing when your child is ready for toilet training - and some top tips for success.

child on potty


As our babies grow and develop, it's fascinating how our conversation moves from comparing sleeping habits, to comparing our best efforts in toilet training.

Most parents and carers are keen to get their little one out of nappies, but with all the horror stories and embarrassing moments we've heard about, it can seem rather daunting!

We really want to get it right, but what is the best age to start? Is our little one even ready, and (if they are) how do you go about it?

How CBeebies can help

CBeebies can be used in many ways to help your child with their potty training.

There are reward charts that can be used to encourage them, and games that can be used as a reward.

How to make a magic moment

Keeping a star chart by the loo or potty with some simple stickers - or drawing a smiley face on the chart - is an appropriate reward. As is a little clap or doing a 'high five' together.

Toddlers don't need huge fanfares or presents, just recognition that they've done really well. Making too much of a fuss can often add pressure and make your child anxious.

Extra information

There are going to be accidents and you will find it frustrating at times - that's guaranteed.

The whole process needs to be as light-hearted and fun as possible for you and your toddler. Getting impatient, angry and stressed will rub off on your child and could even lead to them 'withholding' (holding their poo in) and getting constipated.

It can really help to talk openly about your toilet habits. As grown-ups, we've usually learnt not to discuss them - but it's important to tell our toddler that we all go to the loo and that wees and poos are perfectly natural. Letting them come to the toilet with you and watch what you're doing can really help too. A fun thing to do is to go out and choose their new big girl / big boy underwear and if you've not already bought a potty, let them help choose. The more they are involved in the whole process the better. For boys weeing standing up, draw a face on a ping-pong (table tennis) ball and pop it in the loo for something to aim at.

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Expert opinion

It's much easier to start toilet training when your toddler is at least two years old. Before then they have very little voluntary control over their bladder and bowels.

By the time they're two, they generally want independence, are able to say or sign the words for wee, poo, potty/toilet and understand simple instructions.

Children develop differently, with some not being ready until nearer four. Even if you are more than ready, wait for your child to show signs of readiness.

Expect your toddler to have accidents. Calmly clean them up and gently remind them to use the potty next time. When they do succeed remember to praise them and give them a big smile and a hug.

Dawn Kelly, Baby & Child Development Expert, (RGN, RSCN, BSc, PGDipHV, PGDipEd, RNT, PGDipRes)

Top tips

  • Signs your toddler is ready:
  • They tell you just before they go that they have a dirty/wet nappy (rather than afterwards or while they're in the middle of doing it)They follow simple instructions (eg 'Get your coat please')They aren't negative about everything ('No, no, no!')They imitate other people's bathroom habits and like to watch you or other members of your family on the toiletThey understand the value of putting things where they belong.

Parent's tale

Potty training my two children was easy with my first and a nightmare with my second. My daughter seemed to get the idea immediately and it really wasn't a problem so I thought it'd be plain sailing with my son. He'd just turned, he chose his little undies and off we went. Except he didn't. He just had loads of accidents. He just wasn't ready really.

My mum said I should stick with it, but after a few weeks I decided to stop and we tried again 6 months later - this time it just took just over a week!

Jayne, From London

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