Learning to Use the Toilet
Most children learn to use the toilet between the ages of 24 and 48 months. Staying dry all night often takes longer, sometimes up to the age of six or older. Toilet learning is easy for some children, but most toddlers take between two weeks and six months to learn. Start only when your toddler is ready. Do not pressure your toddler to use the toilet.
Is Your Toddler Ready?
If you answer “yes” to most of the questions below, your toddler is likely ready to get started.
- Does your toddler stay dry for a few hours at a time or occasionally wake up dry from a nap?
- Does your toddler show awareness when she or he urinates (pees) or has a bowel movement? For example, does your toddler go into a corner or squat to have a bowel movement? Does your toddler comment on soiled diapers?
- Can your toddler follow simple directions, such as “Let’s go to the toilet”?
- Is your toddler able to pull down his or her pants and underwear by himself?
Helping Your Toddler Start Using the Toilet
- Wait for a stable time in your toddler’s life to get started. The best time is when there are no other stresses going on, like going to a new daycare, a new sibling in the house, or moving to a new home.
- Use reminders: “I’m going to the bathroom – do you want to come too?” or “Your potty chair is waiting for you.”
- Give lots of praise for action. When your toddler is successful, give lots of praise but direct it at actions rather than “being good.” Encourage your toddler by saying something like, “It’s great that you went pee in the potty chair!” Do not use food or candy as a reward.
- Let you toddler watch you go to the bathroom. Explain what you are doing (if you are comfortable with it). Observing a same‑sex parent or sibling is worth a thousand words.
- Encourage your toddler to sit on and play with the potty chair. Encourage your toddler to help “dolls” toilet on the potty chair.
- Explain how using the toilet is a good change: “You won’t have to wear diapers anymore.” “You will be able to wear underwear like big kids.”
- Keep a potty chair next to the main toilet.
- Get a toilet seat that fits on top of the regular seat, if your toddler is interested in the big toilet. Make sure this seat is stable, and provide a solid step stool for your toddler to use to get up onto the toilet.
- Let your toddler claim the potty chair as “my own.”
- Use training pants or clothes with elastic waists that can be pulled down quickly and easily.
- Pants can be optional. You may choose to let your toddler go without pants around the easily cleaned parts of the house or yard. If your toddler feels the urge, she or he can sit on the potty chair quickly.
- Place your toddler on the toilet immediately after he or she awakes.
- If your toddler gets bored while sitting on the potty chair, give her or him something to do, like looking at a book. Check your library for books about toilet learning.
- Do not use sweet treats as rewards for success. If you do use a reward system, try stars on a chart, a coin in the piggy bank, or a song of success.