Moving your child from nappies to being fully toilet-trained can be tricky for parents – and a process you may try multiple times before your child gets the hang of it. Generally, children are usually ready somewhere between 2-4 years old to start the process..
How do you know your little one is ready? Well, if he or she is staying dry for longer stints, seems interested in other family members using the loo, asks to wear undies and seems to want privacy when going in a nappy, those are all good signs.
Here are our tips for making the process as fun and as easy for the whole family as possible.
Let your child set the pace
Many parents come to us saying they’d like their child to be toilet-trained by a specific age, or worry that they’ve started the process and it’s not working as they’d hoped. The truth is, your child very much sets the pace on toilet training and will do it easily when they’re ready. If they’re not ready and you push it, the process may be frustrating and much more difficult.
If you’re seeing signs of readiness, ask if they want to use the potty. If they say no, don’t make a fuss. Just ask again a few hours later, and keep asking. You might also start changing nappies in the bathroom, or show your toddler how to pull down their nappy and pull it back up to helps them feel in control of the process.
Involve your child and make it fun
Perhaps you’re starting with a potty, a special seat for the loo or a step so kids can climb more easily onto the toilet? If so, bring your child with you and let them pick.
Similarly, let your little one choose a few packets of ‘big kid’ undies – perhaps with a favourite TV character or superhero. Explain that you’re going to try wearing undies instead of nappies (it helps your child feel when they’re wet). Prepare for lots of accidents and doing extra laundry during the process!
Establish a rough schedule
This might include encouraging your child to use the potty or toilet as soon as they wake up, just after meals, after naptime, and before you get in the car to go somewhere. This teaches your child that going to the toilet is a regular thing and helps build good habits. At home, give your child regular reminders that a bathroom break is coming – lots of kids will have accidents because they’re immersed in a game or TV program and don’t want to miss out, so offer to pause the TV or tell them their toys will be waiting when you get back.
Talk to your educators about their bathroom routine on childcare days, so you can try and keep a roughly similar schedule.
Many experts say reward charts – where your child gets a gold star sticker on a chart every time they use the potty successfully or avoid an accident – are effective for toilet training. And it’s true that for many children, reward chats can be motivating.
Just be aware that if toilet training is not going well or your child isn’t physically ready or showing signs of wanting to toilet-train, no chart in the world will help – and it can put additional pressure on a child and make a tricky situation even more angst-ridden for everyone. So think about what will work for your child and your individual circumstances.
Use props and praise
Popping a little pile of books next to the potty or toilet for your child to read when they’re sitting can help a reluctant child to relax. You might also like to try a book that’s actually about potty training such as Toilet Time, which offers separate ‘training kit’ books for boys and girls and a reward chart (if you want to use it).
Also make sure you praise your child whenever they go to the potty successfully or avoid an accident, to reinforce the behaviour and help keep your child motivated.
Don’t punish your little one for accidents
Toilet training is up there as one of the most frustrating parts of parenting toddlers, and when your child just doesn’t seem interested or keeps having accidents it can be hard to keep your cool. But resist the urge to get mad or punish your child – it won’t help.
It’s better to clean up quickly, pop new undies on and say, ‘It’s okay – we’ll try again later’. Stay calm and kind throughout the process, even during potty-training regressions (which can and do happen!)
Abandon ship if it’s really not working
Like we said above, every child trains at their own pace – that’s something we have seen over and over at Seaforth Childcare in the past 30 years. It’s not a process you can rush or put a deadline on. Your child will do it when he or she is ready.
If you’ve been trying for a while and are not seeing any progress, go back to pull-ups and take a break for a few weeks or a month. Taking the pressure off completely may motivate your child to develop more interest in the toilet, hopefully making the process easier next time you try.
And don’t worry. You don’t see adults walking around in nappies, do you? So that’s a pretty good indication that your child will be toilet-trained at some point!
We hope these tips help you out if you’re in the toilet-training trenches right now. Please don’t hesitate to ask our friendly educators any questions at all. We really have seen it all and we’re always available to offer advice or tips!