Turns out there’s no ‘best time’ to start potty training, but one thing everyone agrees on is to start when your child is ready, not you. The trick is spotting when they’re good to go. Here’s what the experts have to say about signs of potty training readiness.
The NHS on potty training readiness
As you’d expect, the NHS takes a no-nonsense approach to potty training and bowel control in children. In terms of timing, they say, ‘Most parents start thinking about potty training when their child is between two and two and a half,’ but stress that ‘you cannot force your child to use a potty’. The signs of readiness the NHS suggests you look out for are:
- They know when they've got a wet or dirty nappy
- They get to know when they're peeing and may tell you they're doing it
- The gap between wetting is at least an hour
- They show they need to pee by fidgeting or going somewhere quiet or hidden
- They know when they need to pee and may say so in advance
The NHS also mentions avoiding times when your child or family are experiencing disruptions to their routines – although we all know such things can’t always be planned for. Some might also prefer to potty train in the summer when fewer layers mean frequent changes of clothes are less of a faff.
The toilet-training expert on potty training readiness
The UK’s leading toilet-training expert, Amanda Jenner of the Potty Training Academy, helps guide parents, children and childcare professionals through the experience. She pinpoints three signs of readiness:
- Longer periods of dry nappies, which indicates their bladder has developed stronger muscles
- When your toddler stops in their tracks when doing a wee or a poo
- When your child can understand and follow instructions… most of the time
The childcare professional on potty training readiness
Senior nursery manager at Kids Inc. Jeni Sutton points to when your toddler is able to tell you when they’ve done the business, as well as when they are physically confident enough to get on and off a potty. “Also, make sure they are showing an interest – too early and they may get a little bit scared.”
The parent on potty training readiness
We love being reassured by other parents who have emerged in one piece on the other side. Clare Bradbury, mum of two, learned the hard way. “I felt rushed into potty training the first time around by older family members constantly asking when we were going to start. My daughter wasn’t ready at all and it took ages.” Second child? “Piece of cake. My second daughter just decided to take her nappy off one day and never put another one on.” What advice would she give to her younger self? “Worry less. Let them take the lead.”
Making sure your toddler is ready for potty training
There’s consensus about the signs of when to start potty training and three themes keep coming up – the ability to communicate, physical capabilities and the desire to start taking control and move towards independence. All these factors have more to do with a particular child’s development and personality than their precise age. A quick summary:
Talking the talk
When your child is able to let you know when they are going to the toilet and communicates an awareness of what’s going on, it’s a signal they are ready to move to the potty training stage. As communication is a two-way street, also consider their readiness to understand and follow your instructions.
Walking the walk
If your child is physically able to get on and off the potty, it’s obviously going to be a big help!
If your child is starting to fill their nappy less often, stops what they are doing when doing a wee or poo, or becomes more regular in their bowel movements, these are signs they’re beginning to develop bladder and bowel control. If they show an interest in using the toilet, taking off their nappy, or wearing Huggies ® Pull-Ups®, they’re striking out for more independence – something you can capitalise on when potty training.
Ready? Deep breath. We’re with you all the way.