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Potty Training Tips

The idea of getting your toddler out of nappies may seem attractive, but exactly how do you get them to potty train?

Some parents will tell you that they haven't had to train their child at all, it just happened. This seems to me the best and easiest way, and if it happens for you, excellent! However if you find yourself with puddles on the floor, wet clothing filling up the sink, and are wondering if your child will be the one who is still in nappies when they start school, read on - I've been there, done that 4 times so am extremely sympathetic - read on for my tips!

We stock a range of reusable trainer pants which may be helpful.

Before you begin…

It’s important to understand that there can be a world of difference between a child knowing they have done a wee or poo, and knowing that they need to do one soon. Remember, they’ve spent a couple of years not having to think about this, it’s going to take a bit of getting used to the idea that you have to hang on until a convenient toilet can be reached. Therefore, brace yourself for a few accidents. It’s quite normal, and most children get past this stage fairly quickly. Avoid toilet training at stressful times – eg if you’re about to move house, emigrate, have a new baby, go into hospital – save the whole family a heap of stress and don’t do it! Trust me. I’ve tried potty training within 2 weeks of the arrival of a new sibling. It’s not a good idea. Two in nappies is much easier than a newborn plus a newly toilet training toddler!

So, is your child ready?

If so, the chances are that your child is:

(a) 2-3 years old (some are earlier, and some are much later, this is only a guide – the age they potty train is not linked to their IQ, but does seem to be linked to what age mum/dad did it!).

(b) Able to tell you when they are about to do a wee or poo (and hopefully hold on for more than 30 seconds while you get there!)

(c) Able to get the necessary clothing off. Preferably back on again, though this is less essential to start with!

What “equipment” will I need?

In theory, a toilet, and a toddler in nappies (preferably a willing one!). In practise however, many children find the idea of using the big toilet a bit scary, hence the multitude of potties and trainer seats on the market. You don’t have to use a potty, actually it’s a lot easier if children get used to the big toilet straight away, so it’s worth trying. See what reaction you get and go from there. If you want to get a potty, the useful features it should have are a handle or hole at the back, making it easier to hold a potty full of wee/poo and tip safely into the loo; a high front for little boys (avoids splashing); smooth surface – easy to clean! Alternatively, or in addition, you can get special seats that fit over the adult toilet seat, giving a smaller hole that even little ones can’t fall down. If you really want to go the whole hog you can get ones with handles and steps attached. Follow your own judgement, but bear in mind how much equipment you really want your child to be dependent on when you go out anywhere. There are always times when you have to use a normal loo and no potty is available.

Trainer pants are available too, both disposable and washable varieties. Now the problem with disposable ones as I see it, quite apart from the whole eco aspect, is that most children in my experience know full well that they are a pull up nappy. If it looks like a nappy, feels like a nappy and will absorb like a nappy, why on earth should the child think twice about using it like a nappy? To have any chance of success, I recommend setting aside a few quiet days when you don’t have to go out too much, and ditch the nappies and go straight for pants. You can get washable trainer pants – the advantage here is the child is aware when they are wet, but usually the wetness is contained in the pants, so no change of clothing is needed. If you'd rather not have trainer pants, do buy plenty of cheap pants to start with, it takes a few days and sometimes weeks to get the idea properly, and until then, be prepared for accidents.

OK, I’m feeling brave, how do we get going?

Early steps – get your child used to the idea that wee/poo can go in the potty or toilet. Let them see you going to the toilet and tell them what you’re doing. Talk to them about what they did in their nappy and tell them that when they are bigger they can use the toilet or potty instead.

Ditching the nappies – ideally, choose a quiet stress free time, when you are both free to concentrate on the toileting without too much distraction. Explain to your child that they need to try and use the potty or toilet if they feel a wee/poo coming, and make it easy for your child to get to. If you don’t have a downstairs toilet, keep a potty downstairs to start with so they don’t have too far to go to get to it. If they have an accident, don’t make a big fuss about it, remind them that next time they need to try and get to the potty in time. Encourage your child to sit on the potty/toilet at regular intervals, particularly after mealtimes, or if you know they’ve had a bit to drink. I find it helpful to try and have drinks around the same time as my child, so I have a fair idea when they might need to do a wee! It doesn’t always work but it can be helpful. Encourage your child’s every effort and praise whenever they try to use the potty, whether or not they manage it. When they do succeed, shower them with praise and make it clear they’ve done a really fantastic thing! Kids are pretty canny and will soon try to repeat behaviour that makes mummy and daddy proud, so make a fuss of them and emphasise what a big girl/boy they’re being.

Staying dry – if your child is ready for toilet training, you should find that within a few days of starting, their success rate (doing it in the right place without the need for new underwear!) is well over 50%. When they manage a day or two without any accidents, bingo, you’re nearly there! Don’t forget to keep up with the reminders for a few more weeks, a new habit takes a while to form and it’s quite normal for the odd accident to occur for weeks if not months after they first train. Tiredness is often a factor.

Night training

When your child has got the idea of being dry by day, the next step is night training. This can be a tough one to crack. Some of my friends children – often those who were later to potty train – were dry at night within weeks of being dry by day. My own experience has been very different, only one of mine being dry at night before the age of 4, and one still struggling at the age of 7. Don’t worry if your child is also slow to get the idea at night, statistics indicate that around 1 in 10 children aren’t dry at night when they go to school, and most health visitors won’t suggest intervention until children are 7. Wet beds are no fun for anyone concerned.

When to try night training – some advocate waiting until your child is waking with dry nappies. This is a good plan, dry nappies indicate the child is ready and able to hold on all night. However, many children find that if a nappy is there, they’ll use it, often last thing before going to sleep or first thing on waking, when they feel too snoozy to go to the toilet. If your child falls into this category, you’re going to need to employ some persuasion! This is something ideally left until school holidays, or sometime when they can catch up on their sleep if they have broken nights. Summer is even better, from the point of view of drying wet bedding! I’d highly recommend using some form of bed protector to protect the mattress. We do have reusable nappies that fit older children, if they still need something overnight - the Real Easy range includes 2 sizes that suit toddlers and preschoolers and give a lot of protection as well as cute prints they will love.


DO Take your child to the toilet before they go to bed.

DON'T give your child lots to drink in the last couple of hours before bedtime – what goes in has to come out again! Spread drinks throughout the day instead.

DO Lift your child for a toilet visit when you go to bed. Although this disturbs the child a bit, it’s usually less disturbing to them than having a wet bed, and can start them forming a habit of getting themselves up in the night if they need to go.

DO Remind your child to get straight out of bed and go to the toilet in the morning.

DO Try a star chart to encourage their efforts.

DON'T punish or criticise a child who can’t get dry at night. Talk to your own parents, if your child is having problems, the odds are that you were a bed wetter too!

If it’s not working….

…pushing on with toilet training if your child isn’t ready will only cause stress on everyone concerned, and can do far more harm than good. If it’s not working, I strongly recommend giving it a break for a month or so. Don’t make an issue of it, and don’t keep mentioning it – drop the subject entirely for a bit. The more pressure your child is under, the more they will worry about it, and worried little bodies tend to clamp all orifices shut! Try again in a few weeks time, chances are you’ll find things go much more smoothly second time around.

Remember to check out our range of potty training products!