Getting Ready For Toilet Training

Published by Baby Bunting on Monday, January 28, 2019

Toilet training: few terms provoke as many questions when it comes to raising toddlers. When do I start? How will I know? How early is too early and how late is too late?

How old will my toddler be when they start toilet training?

With so many changes taking place during the toddler years, every child reaches their developmental milestones at a different age. As a general guide though, most toddlers start toilet training around 2 years of age, although some might start as early as 18 months.

Traditionally, parents have decided when their child starts toilet training. Although children can't learn how to use a toilet without the assistance of their parents, it's thought that using certain signs of readiness given by your child might be a better approach to deciding when to start.

What signs do I look out for to start toilet training?

The key to understanding the signs is to conceptualise them as part of a developmental puzzle; not all of the pieces need to be in place for you to get the general picture. Likewise though, some of those pieces, or developmental stages, rely on the presence of others to go into place.

Using the above analogy, and reading the following list, you'll understand why some of these signs might indicate your child is ready to start toilet training.

The signs

Your toddler might be ready to start toilet training if they:
  • Start to copy your behaviour, taking greater interest in what you're doing and why you're doing it
  • Can follow instructions, especially regarding objects and their place
  • Can pull their pants down unassisted (you might notice toddlers enjoy removing articles of clothing) but can also pull them back up
  • Have more than 2 hours of dry nappies each day. This shows that your toddler is learning bladder control, rather than weeing automatically whenever their bladder gets full
  • Know the words for wee and poo
  • Tell you when they have done a wee or a poo, or tell you when they need to do one of either
  • Want to be changed because of a soiled nappy, or try to take it off themselves
  • Are producing firmer stools
  • Are generally becoming more curious and independent
  • Show an interest in what people are doing when they go to the toilet. Although this can be awkward for an adult or older child, from your toddler's perspective going to the toilet is part of the membership to the adult world

What do I need to do to get ready?

The equipment you need for toilet training will depend on a range of factors such as your toddler's age and developmental stage. The beauty of having a toddler is that they can indicate preference, and you can make a lot of decisions together. The first decision you will need to make is whether to start with a potty or the toilet.


A potty has the advantage of being mobile, while also being your toddler's very own throne. They can get familiar with it more easily, especially if it is kept in their play area, and many come with fun designs.


On the other hand, your toddler might want to use the toilet like a grown-up. In this case you'll probably need a specialised seat that fits onto the toilet and stops them from falling in. If you're using a toilet, you'll also need a step so that your toddler can reach the seat. For boys who are ready to urinate into the bowl standing up, some parents will put a ping-pong ball into the water so that they have something to aim at.

Training pants

Rather than having the absorbent properties of nappies, training pants allow toddlers to feel the sensation of wetness associated with urination. They also provide a bit of a barrier to accidents during the training phase, which can help if you're away from the house.


There are many fun books and DVDs on the subject of toilet training. Not only do they help guide you both through the process, but they are aimed at bringing it out into the open so that your toddler feels comfortable discussing going to the toilet with you.

Waterproof bed sheets

Although the idea with toilet training is to move away from nappies and such accidents, the reality is that toddlers are unlikely to pick it up overnight. Having waterproof bed sheets provides a bit of extra protection during the training phase. Keep in mind, too, that night bed wetting can be prolonged into childhood. Remember, your toddler might not exhibit all of the above mentioned signs and still be ready for toilet training. The key is looking out for that general picture – if they're not ready, you'll soon find out! Do keep in mind this is one of the key milestones in a child's development on the path to maturity and independence, and therefore the process of toilet training deserves a lot of respect, patience and understanding.
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