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When to start potty training

For all parents, this can be a confusing time knowing when is best to get started. The most important thing is making sure your little one is ready to start training. If they are not, it will make things much more difficult and you will not feel like you’re making progress as quickly as you should be. 

Most children will be physically and emotionally ready to start potty training when they are between 18 months and 3 years old. This may seem like a wide gap, but it really just depends on your child and their development stage. It’s been found that girls are ready to be potty trained quicker than boys. You shouldn’t worry if your child isn’t ready when others are.

What is the right age to start potty training a child?

The majority of parents choose to start potty training between 2 and 3 years old. This is usually when children are developed enough to understand and follow a process. This will make it much easier to learn. Some parents may start potty training earlier than this. If you feel like your child is ready, there is nothing stopping you having a go.

Between 2 and 3 years old is only what’s the most common age. Officially, there is no actual age where you should start the learning process. Some parents find that they don’t really need to potty train their child at all. With the mixture of watching parents going to the toilet and also catching onto this in day-care, they may start naturally trying to do these things themselves. They will still need assistance at this point. If your child no longer wants to use a potty, you shouldn’t force them to still go to the toilet on it. Instead, listen to them and slowly move to a toilet – this will make them feel proud of themselves.

when to start potty training

Potty training before your baby is 4 months old

As we mentioned earlier, some parents decide that they want to start potty training their little one as soon as possible. However, you should only do it if your child is comfortable with the process. You may think it’s impossible to start potty training before 4 months old, but it has been done. 

This can be done by watching for when your baby needs a wee or poo and then catching it in a potty. The method is called elimination communication and is something that is tried by many parents. Many health experts have advised against this method as it has been known to lead to problems later on in the child’s life. Problems can be setbacks with using toilets at school and not being able to deal with stressful situations. It’s advised that you should wait until your child is ready before you start potty training. 

When a child is under 2 years old, they cannot control when they go to the toilet as their muscles that control the bladder and rectum do not fully work. This is why waiting till their ready is so important. Your child will show you when they are ready to start potty training or using a toilet. You will know if you’ve started too early as there will be a lot of accidents. It’s normal for these things to happen, but when there are too many it can signal that your child is not ready for it yet.

Signs that your child is ready to start potty training

Like we’ve said, your child needs to be ready before you start potty training. But how will you know if they’re ready or not? What signs should you look out for? We’ve got some great tips on what to look for to know if your child is ready or not. Your child does not have to meet every one of these signs to be ready, the most important thing is that they’re willing to start the process.

1.    Showing interest in the potty

If your child has no interest in potty training, they are most likely not going to work with you well in the process. The last thing you want is a screaming child who refuses to use their potty. If you’ve noticed that your child isn’t showing any interest in learning to potty train, you can add an element of fun to it. There are plenty of books and videos available for your child to read or watch about potty training. These usually use fun characters that children get attached to and therefore want to do what they do.

How do you know if your child is interested? If they are curious about what you are doing when you go to the bathroom or they want to get “big kid” underwear, they are definitely interested. You should start the process as soon as you notice any of these signs. Having your child onboard will make life much easier.

when to start potty training

2.    Your child is staying dry

As your child start developing, they will have less accidents and their nappy will stay dry for longer. If you notice that their nappy is staying dry for 2 hours or more, their bladder is starting to develop, and the capacity is increasing. This is really important for potty training as they will know when they want to go instead of just going.

You can keep track of this by making a little log where you write down each time they have got to the toilet in their nappy. When it begins to get longer in-between each time, you know that their rectum and bladder muscles are getting stronger.

3.    Your toddler knows when they go

You can know if they are realising this because they will start to show some impendence when they go to the toilet. Although they are wearing a nappy, they will still go to their own space to do their private business. Whereas before they would have gone to the toilet wherever they are, they may now be going into a different room or hiding when they go. 

There is nothing wrong with this and simply shows that they can identify when they need the toilet and understand the concept of privacy. This is a perfect time to start potty training as it will be much easier for them to make their way to the potty if they know when they need to go. It’s advised that you don’t start potty training before they are aware of this. It can make it much more difficult to go to a potty if they don’t know when they need the toilet. This can cause confusion for your little one around potty training.

4.    Independence

Independence is a great milestone in your child’s development. Once they are independent, there are so many things they can do without your help or only little assistance. One of these things is potty training. Once you start hearing the words “I can do it myself”, you’ll know that it’s time to step back a little bit and only assist them and help when it’s needed. 

Your child’s independence can come later in their development if there are big changes happening around them. These changes can be a house move or a baby in the home. You should wait until your child is comfortable for their independence to start showing, and then move ahead with potty training.

When they have true independence, it means they will know how to:

  • Use the toilet
  • Get to the toilet in time
  • Flush the toilet
  • Pull their clothes up and down
  • Wipe their bottom without help

5.    Undressing themselves

In order to use the potty, your child needs to know how to properly pull down and pull up their pants. You can teach them this before starting potty training so that they won’t risk having any accidents. Avoid dressing your child is clothing that is difficult to take off or pull down whilst they are still getting the hang of it. Stick with clothing that is looser on the legs and make sure there are no buttons or zips that get in the way. 

Clothing that can be difficult for young children include tights, undershirts, pants with belts, jumpsuits or playsuits.

when to start potty training

6.    Following directions when potty training

Although going to the toilet is easy. For children that are just learning, it comes with many new steps that they haven’t had to do before. It’s important that your child can easily follow steps before you introduce potty training as it can be very confusing otherwise. Go through the steps with your child before you start to make them familiar with them. 

It may also be easier to make a little poster that you can put in the house which reminds your child of the steps. If your child cannot read, you can use illustrations to demonstrate what they should be doing and in what order.

Steps that are important to include are going to the bathroom, turning on the light, pulling their clothing down, sitting on the potty or toilet, wiping, flushing and then finally washing their hands. If they are constantly reminded of this, it will be much easier for them to understand. It’s great to allow them to try and remember these rules by themselves and then butt in if they miss something out.

7.    Sitting still

Going to the toilet requires a bit of patience and if your child doesn’t have it, there’s going to be a lot of accidents. One way that you can know if your child has patience is if they can sit at a table with all of the family during mealtimes. If they sit without moving until they are told they can do so, it proves they are able to sit still. 

Make sure your child can do this before you start potty training, it will make potty training a distressing task for them to do if they feel distracted and irritable.

8.    Walk and run properly with no support

When your child needs the toilet, they need to be able to get there in time to avoid an accident. For this to happen, they need to walk and run properly without falling over. All children learn to walk and run at different development stages so don’t be worried if your child is still getting the hang of it. If you notice they are still tripping up and struggling the balance, leave potty training for another time.

We’ve highlighted 8 things that you should look out for before you begin potty training. Overall, it’s completely up to parents on when they think the best time to start is. However, it’s important to make sure your child is confident and mobile enough to be able to carry out the steps. 

We hope that we’ve given you some great tips on when to start potty training. It can be a daunting time for parents as it’s not clear to how difficult or easy it will be. By making sure your child is ready to take these steps and to learn, it will make the learning process much easier for both you and your child. 

For more tips on potty training, read out blog about how to potty train a child.

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