Toilet Training Readiness

Most children have the muscle control to regulate themselves between 18 months md 3 years of age. Children with disabilities or certain medical problems may not have this ability until later. On average children are fully day trained between ages 2 1/2 and 4. Night training for wetting is much more variable, between the ages of 3 and 8.

How do I know my child is ready?

Your child may be ready to begin toilet training if he/she:

  • Has regular, soft, formed bowel movements
  • Imitates others bathroom habits (e.g., likes to watch you go to the bathroom, wants to wear underwear)
  • Makes physical demonstration when he/she is having a bowel movement (e.g., grunting, squatting)
  • Has words or gestures for urine and bowel movements
  • Is able to follow simple instructions
  • Can inform, by words or gestures that he/she has to urinate/bowel movement before it happens
  • Does not like the feeling of a dirty diaper
  • Has “dry” diapers or underwear for at least 2-3 hours
  • Can walk and sit down

How Long Does Toilet Training Take?

Once you begin toilet training it may take children 3 to 4 weeks before they are mostly dry during the day, but for some children it may take several months. Many children still accidentally wet or soil their pants up to a year after training begins. Most children find that learning to urinate in the toilet is easier than passing a bowel movement and it may take children longer to learn to pass a bowel movement in the toilet.


How Can I Prepare My Child and Myself for Toilet Training?

  • Find your child’s pattern, their schedule or routine. Keep track of the times during the day when your child usually wets or passes bowel movements. Begin to sit your child on the toilet during those times when you begin training.
  • Get everything ready that you need. You can use a potty or the toilet for training. If you choose to use the toilet, get a toilet seat ring so that your child will not be afraid of failing in. Also provide your child with support under their feet (e.g., a stool or stable step).

Help your child get ready

  • Only use diapers when your child is sleeping. Diapers are a sign that it is all right to wet or pass a bowel movement
  • Put your child in underwear. The feeling of wet underwear may help your child realize when they are wet. Training underwear made of thicker material may be helpful
  • Dress your child in loose clothing. Clothing without fasteners or buttons is easier for children to get on and off
  • Talk to your child about the potty and what it is for. You may want to let your child do a special activity (e.g., like playing with a favorite toy) while they practice sitting on the potty
  • We all learn by watching others. Let your child follow you into the bathroom to see the steps that you go through when using the toilet. Talk to your child about what you are doing

Article by W. Douglas Tynan, PhD
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