Potty training: Is my child ready to start?

There’s nothing that strikes fear and anxiety in a parent quite like the words “potty training”. This stage of development often conjures up a range of emotions. Whether you refer to it as potty training, toilet training, or toilet learning – the fact remains – it is a huge milestone for both children and parents. So, it’s no surprise that one of the most common questions I get asked by parents is “When should I start potty training my child?” There is so much conflicting information about when to start, it’s no wonder there is confusion. My message is simple:

  • There is not one specific age at which to start
  • Let your child set the pace for when to start potty training
  • Look for signs that your child is ready to learn how to use the potty

Children's legs hanging down from a chamber-pot

The secret to potty training success is timing (and a lot of patience!). Often parents are ready before a child is. You may have heard the old saying “You can lead a toddler to the potty but you can’t make him use it until he’s ready.” Any parent who has ever embarked on the toilet training journey will tell you – this is true! When it comes to toilet learning, every child is different. Some children are ready as young as 18 months, but most children are ready to learn how to use the toilet when they are between the ages of two and three. At this age children are not only starting to develop the physical signs that they are ready, but also the mental and emotional skills they need as well.

Here are some signs your child is ready to learn to use the potty.
Mother Potty Training Her Son
Ask yourself… Does my child:

  • Stay dry for one to two hours at a time and/or get up dry from a nap?
  • Have bowel movements that occur at fairly predictable times?
  • Dislike being wet or soiled?
  • Follow simple instructions such as “go get your toy”?
  • Pull their pants up or down?
  • Have awareness that they are going to the bathroom or have a wet or dirty diaper (this can be verbal “I pooping now!” or non-verbal (retreating to a corner/grunting)?
  • Express and understand words related to the bathroom (whether it’s ‘poop’ or ‘pee’ or more formal words like urine and stool, your child should understand your family’s bathroom words)?
  • Show interest in imitating family members in the bathroom?

You don’t have to wait until your child has shown all of these signs before getting started. If you’re noticing some of these cues, encourage them. Talk to your child about the potty and the whole process. Begin to read books about potty training – try to generate excitement.

Keep in mind that every child is different and every child learns at his or her own pace. If your toddler is not ready for potty training, even the best tactics will not work. Be patient – Toilet Learning Will Happen When it Happens.

Do you have any potty training tips and tricks to share? Are you looking for more helpful hints? Our webpages have more great information on them.

Please leave us a comment below:

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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About Maureen Harris, RN

I have been working as a Public Health Nurse for many years. I enjoy working with families and supporting them along their parenting journey. I’m passionate about promoting a healthy active lifestyle for families. When not working, you can often find me hiking the beautiful trails in Halton Hills with my family.
This entry was posted in Parenting, Parenting Your Toddler & Preschooler, Play, Growth & Development, Preparing for Kindergarten, Toddlers & Preschoolers and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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