You might see signs that your child is ready for toilet training from about two years on. Some children show signs as early as 18 months, and some might be older than two years.
It might be time for toilet training if your child:
• Is walking and can sit for short periods of time.
• Is becoming generally more independent, including saying ‘no’ more often.
• Is becoming interested in watching others go to the toilet.
• Has dry nappies for up to two hours.
• Tells you with words or gestures when they do a poo or wee in their nappy.
• Begins to dislike wearing a nappy, perhaps trying to pull it off when it’s wet or soiled.
• Has regular, soft, formed bowel movements.
• Can pull their pants up and down.
• Can follow simple instructions like ‘Give the ball to daddy’.
Not all these signs need to be present when your child is ready. A general trend will let you know it’s time to start.
Things you need for toilet training
Potty or toilet
Children can start toilet training using a potty or the toilet. Your child might like one better than the other. Or you can encourage your child to use both. A potty is easy to move around, and some children find it less scary than a toilet.
On the other hand, the toilet is where everybody else does wees and poos.
If your child will be using the toilet, you will also need:
• A step or footstool – your child can use this for getting onto the toilet and resting their feet while sitting.
• A smaller seat that fits securely inside the big toilet seat.
Training pants and pull-ups
Your child is more likely to understand going to the toilet if they’re no longer wearing a nappy. So it might be time to get some training pants and/or pull-ups:
• Training pants are absorbent underwear for toilet training. They’re less absorbent than nappies but can hold in bigger messes like accidental poos. Once your child is wearing training pants, dress your child in clothes that are easy to take off quickly.
• Pull-ups might help your child get used to wearing underwear. They’re more absorbent than cloth training pants and can be handy if you’re going out.
You could let your child choose some underpants. This can be an exciting step.
Preparing your child for toilet training
Well before you start toilet training, you can prepare your child for this big step. Here are some ideas:
• Start teaching your child some words for going to the toilet – for example, ‘wee’, ‘poo’ and ‘I need to go’.
• When you change your child’s nappy, put wet and dirty nappies in the potty – this can help your child understand what the potty is for.
• Let your child watch you or other trusted family members using the toilet and talk about what you’re doing.
• Once or twice a day, start putting training pants on your child – this helps your child understand the feeling of wetness.
• Make sure your child is eating plenty of fibre and drinking lots of water, so your child doesn’t get constipated. Constipation can make toilet training harder.
Getting started with toilet training
It’s best to start toilet training when you don’t have any big changes coming up in your family life. Changes might include going on holiday, starting day care, having a new baby or moving house. And it’s a good idea to start toilet training on a day when you have no plans to leave the house.
When to take your child to the toilet
• Try to make toileting part of your child’s regular daily routine. For example, encourage your child to use the potty or toilet in the morning, and before or after snacks and meals.
• Encourage your child to go to the toilet when they show signs like wriggling around, passing wind, going quiet or moving away from you. But don’t force your child to go.
• Ask your child about going to the toilet when they change activities. For example, you could remind your child to go to the toilet before they sit down for lunch.
• If your child doesn’t do a wee or poo after 3-5 minutes of sitting on the potty or toilet, let your child get off the toilet. It’s best not to sit your child on the toilet for too long, because this will feel like punishment.
How to encourage your child
• Praise your child for trying. You could say, ‘Well done for sitting on the potty’. Gradually reduce the praise as your child masters each part of the process.
• If your child misses the toilet, try not to get frustrated. Just clean up without comments or fuss.
How to dress your child
• Start using underpants or training pants all the time. Use nappies only at night and during daytime sleeps.
• Dress children in clothes that are easy to take off – for example, trousers with elastic waistbands. In warmer weather, you could leave your child in underpants when you’re at home.
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