It’s the beauty of nature and genes that every child is different – physically, emotionally and developmentally. As a result, no buzzer sounds at a certain age when all children are spontaneously ready for potty training. For every child, the right time for potty training is their right time. There’s certainly no trophy for the child who attempts potty training first. Indeed, it’s worth noting – just to get anatomical for a moment – that the muscles controlling a toddler’s rectum and bladder are not sufficiently developed before 18 months, so trying any earlier could be stressful and messy for all concerned.
It’s probably wise not to try if there are other changes going on at the time, such as:
you are moving to a new house.
a new sibling has just arrived.
you’re in the middle of another celebration, for example Christmas or Ramadan.
your toddler is being weaned from a dummy or a bottle.
Mum is about to give birth.
your toddler is moving from a cot to a bed.
they’ve suddenly become frightened of something, for example the dark, thunderstorms, spiders.
Try not to feel pressurised by friends and relatives to whip off the nappy, or by stories that little Johnnie or Jenny was dry at 20 months. They probably weren’t. On the whole, girls tend to be ready earlier than boys – at around 2-2.5 years, compared to 2.5-3 years for boys – but really a parent knows best when their child is likely to be receptive to the potty. You can spot any changes in your child’s ways and bodily functions which might suggest they could entertain the thought of a potty.
So, what changes should you look out for? Well…
the occasional dry nappy shows that your toddler can go a couple of hours without urinating.
dirty nappies might start coming at a similar time each day.
your toddler might start hiding themselves away to fill their nappy, standing behind the sofa for example.
they might inform you when they’ve done something in a nappy.
you might notice you are changing nappies less often.
they might start using words for “wee” and “poo”.
they seem keen to please you and get excited when you praise them.
they complain when their nappy is dirty and ask you to change it.
Don’t be too ambitious, take things slow
It would be hasty to produce suddenly a potty one day with a big” Tahdah!” and expect a toddler to be dry within a week or two. That’s asking a lot. If the signs are there that they’re ready to try, introduce them to big boy/big girl pants first, then gently suggest the potty. If you go in hard, you could be setting up for a battle of wills from the very start. Let your child know that potty training is a team effort and that Mum, Dad and nursery staff are all there to help.
Once they’re trying out life without nappies in the day, accidents can happen. Here’s how to minimise the chances:
get into the habit of taking them to the loo before leaving the house and before leaving nursery.
dress your child in clothes that are easy to pull up and down, and pack spare clothes and pull-up pants so changing after accidents is quick and not distressing.
at nursery, children might get anxious and flustered about using the potties or toilets in the bathrooms, so show them the facilities yourself.
It may not be a one-way road to success, so be prepared for occasional set-backs.
Accidents are totally normal and can be caused by a variety of reasons: maybe the toddler is excited about something, is engrossed in a game or is in a deep sleep. If, however, once your child has mastered the art of staying completely dry, they then start wetting again on a more regular basis, pop to the doctor to have a chat. Stress or physical illness can be the root cause.