Toilet Training 101

Posted: July 15, 2022

Toilet Training 101

Toilet training can be very scary for some parents but with these tips, I am hoping it will make this adventure a bit easier to get through.

When it comes to toilet learning parents have so many questions about how to approach this toilet learning journey.

How do I start this whole process? How old should my child be? What do I need to help my child be successful in toilet learning? What type of underwear do I put my child in? How do I know if my child is ready for this? Am I ready for this?

In my opinion, summer is the best time of year to try toilet training, but only if your child is ready for it.

During my career I have done my fair share of toilet training so here are some tips that may help you.

Watch for signs of readiness.

Is your child showing an interest in the toilet and will they sit for 2 or 3 minutes?  Can they let you know that they have to go? Maybe they are using their words or they are giving you visual cues that they need to go- such as doing the bladder boogie (a wiggly dance).

Is your child staying dry for a few hours (2 to 3 hours)?  This shows that they are starting to have some control of their bladder.

Is your child noticing that their diaper is wet or that they have had a bowel movement and want to be changed? They may even pull their diapers – not really like being wet or poopy.

Can your child pull their clothing up and down- or are they showing an interest in wearing big kid underwear?

Is your child showing an interest in others using the washroom?

Is your child able to tell you that they have to go to the washroom or that they have just gone in their diaper?

How old should your child be?

Every child is different and we should respect that.  Watch for the above signs, then make that decision. Some children will start at 18 months and some not until age 3 or older.  Remember that to be successful with toilet learning you want to observe your child’s readiness skills, and their comfort level, and respect that.

What do I need to help my child with toilet training?

A sense of humor and a truckload of patience! Oh, maybe stock up on laundry soap. Once you are prepared to tackle this endeavor here are a few things that might help you out.

If you are thinking of toilet training you might have noticed that your child has certain patterns or signs, that they have to go to the washroom. Maybe your child has a bowel movement every morning at ten. You may have noticed this because just before your child poops, you find them hiding in the corner. Or maybe they are waking up dry from their naps. Or you might have noticed them wiggling and holding their private parts –this is what I call the bladder boogie. These patterns or signs are showing us that your child knows something is happening with their body.

Read some children’s books about toilet training.

Reading stories to your child about toilet training helps them to understand the process. Lots of children are visual learners and feel more comfortable with the process of toilet training if they have had a story or two read to them about the process. If you don’t have books about potty training take a trip to your local library and see what they have. This special trip to the library may make the process of toilet training interesting. When you are reading these stories talk about what the characters are doing and how similar it is to what your child is doing. Sometimes giving your child their favorite book in the bathroom can be a handy way to get them to sit a bit longer.

Choose your words carefully.  

When you are talking to your child about going to the washroom try not to ask “do you have to go?”. Nine times out of ten the answer to that would be NO! Try to say “it’s time to go to the washroom” or “let’s go to the washroom”. You may even want to set an alarm on your phone when you are first starting just as a reminder to everyone. If your child is not wanting to go right away you could try these words… First” you go to the washroom “Then “you can finish playing.

Bathroom words.

When you are toilet training your child use proper words for identifying body parts and bodily functions. If your child says bowel movement make sure that everyone who cares for your child knows they need to poop. If you use the bathroom words that you want to use then your child will learn to use them too. Remember that at the beginning of this journey your child might not have the words they need to express what is happening and you may have to watch their body language for signs they need to go and help your child identify/label what is happening to their body.

Choosing a seat.

You will need to decide with your child if are they going to use a potty seat (toilet ring style) or the regular toilet or a child-size potty.  In my experience, it is best to try a few and see what your child is comfortable with. If you are using a regular toilet with a ring seat try to provide a stool for your child to rest their feet on. Your child will feel more secure with their feet flat on that stool. I prefer to use the ring seat as it will travel with you easily and as your child gets older transitioning to a regular toilet is not that hard. When you have decided on the seat of choice explain how to use it.

Dress for success.

One of the reasons I like summertime for toilet training is because you could let your little one outside in the back yard with just their underwear on or some easy up and down shorts. If they have an accident it ok because…

  1. It’s outside so not as much mess to clean up
  2. Not a lot of laundry.

Dressing your child in easy-to-manage clothing will set them up for success.  Choose loose-fitted clothing with elastic waistbands. Try to stay away from overalls or things with buttons and snaps.

You may want to purchase some training pants or underwear for toilet training – some of this underwear is thicker and helps to absorb the accidents when they happen.

Pack for an outing.

You will need to have extra clothes when you go out and I mean a full wardrobe: socks, shoes, pants, shirts, and underwear. A child may have accidents when they get around other children and are getting into their play. When you are out give your child gentle reminders and watch their body language will help them be successful. Show your child where the washroom is when you arrive. When they are playing reassure them that they can come back to what they were playing with after they go to the washroom. One of the things that I find hard is when a child is starting to toilet train and they come to a playgroup to play but have an accident – then they have to leave because there are no extra clothes for them. They are so sad when this happens.

Using pull-ups and diapers.

When you start to toilet train your child it may be confusing to them if they are bouncing back and forth between diapers and pull-ups. I find it best to use training pants or underwear during the day and a diaper and pull-up for nighttime. When your child shows an interest in toilet training have them go with you to the store and pick out their own “big kid underwear”. Don’t worry about nighttime toilet mastery as that usually comes later after you have daytime success.

Teaching bathroom responsibilities and routines.

Wiping, washing, flushing, and turning out the light are all part of the bathroom routine. Remember that your child is learning and they will need to be shown how to do all of these things. With time and practice, it will become routine for them.

How long will this process take?

Don’t expect overnight success as it takes time, practice, and a few extra loads of laundry. Always praise your child for any success that they have and never punish them.  When your child has an accident reassure them it’s ok.  Don’t make a big deal about it even if you were just in the washroom. Remember it’s a learning curve.   Celebrating your child’s success is in their best interest and leads to a strong sense of self and well-being.

Be consistent.

Being consistent is key when you take on this toilet learning adventure. Lots of patience and understanding are needed. Remember that some children will catch on quickly and others may take some time. Accidents will happen! So when they do, take your child into the washroom and help them clean up. Remain calm and relaxed, it will get better with time. Your child needs you to help them through this learning process.

Some children’s books that might be good to read  

P is for Potty. 123 Sesame Street book by Lena Cooper

Potty time Songs. 123 Sesame Street book illustrated by Bob Berry, Warner McGee

Don’t forget to Flush. Golden Book by Melissa Lagonegro

Have you seen my potty? by Mary McQuillan

No More Diapers for Ducky! by Bernette Ford and Sam Williams

Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi

The New Potty by Gina and Mercer Mayer

You can always come to EarlyON and talk to the facilitators and see if they have any other ideas to help you on this journey!