Ten tips to toilet train your toddler

Kinderling News & Features

Image credit: Nathan

Toilet training your toddler can be a messy affair, so we asked our resident Kinderling Helpline expert Chris Minogue about the best way to turn the tide. Follow her top tips for going with the flow and establishing a stress-free, nappy-less routine. 

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1. Know when the time is right

“I think the window between two and a half and three is probably the ideal time to start toilet training. Girls tend to do better around the two and a half year old mark. But boys actually do it quicker if you hold on until they’re three.”

2. Look for the signs they’re ready

“If your child starts to tell you they’ve done a wee or poo, it’s time to initiate taking your child to the toilet. This is called 'toilet timing', which is the precursor to toilet training.”

3. Pop them on the throne 

“An ideal moment to start toilet timing is to put your child on the toilet while you’re running the bath with no preconceived idea of what they might do. Some children sit on the toilet and get off straightaway and some children stand on it and push the button a lot. They’re not ready for actual training quite yet, so keep on with the parent-led toilet timing.”

4. Get them to sit and relax

“You’ve got to get the idea across to your child that they need to sit down and relax to do a wee. This is not the nudie run after the bath where you piddle on the floor as you go along! Even boys will sit down initially to do a wee. Maybe while you’re running the water for a bath you might read them a quick book just to teach them to sit on the toilet. As time goes on, they might actually do a wee and then they start connecting the fact of sitting on the toilet with doing a wee.”

5. Increase the pees 

“Once your toddler’s made that toilet/wee connection, increase the number of times you take your child to the toilet. If you were doing it once a day, it’s now time to do the toilet trip five times a day. Ideally, mid-morning, lunch, mid-afternoon, bath time and before they go to bed.”

6. Prompt them politely

“I use language like ‘We’ve had a nice sleep, let’s go to the toilet and see if we can do a wee.’ Put a little tone of command in your voice. You can ask your child if they feel like going to the toilet and if they say no don’t force them. Sometimes children actually need to almost wet themselves so they know what it feels like. If that goes well and you see that you’re getting there or four wees a day then that’s a signal you can start toilet training.”

7. Don’t stray too far

“You don’t have to stay at home when you’re toilet training but don’t expect to go too far from home. You might go to the park, but maybe pack an extra set of clothes to take with you. When you start toilet training take off your child’s nappy and get them to wear their undies for the entire day. Set your expectations very low and be prepared that on that first day there’s going to be piddle all over the place. It’s OK. Remember, the more stressed you get about it, the more stressed they get about it.”

 8. One wee does not score a sticker

“I’m not into bribery, corruption and deception when it comes to toilet training. If they do a wee in the toilet I just say ‘That’s really good! I’m very proud of you!’ and just move on. I don’t have sticker charts. Kids are way too smart for that. Also, if you start a system like I’ll give you a red frog every time you wee in the toilet, you may end up stressing your child out.”

9. Drop the potty 

“I’m not a believer in potties because children are very ritual in what they do - and there’s no potty at David Jones! So I’m like if we’re going to do this let’s get the step out, let’s get the soft cushion insert that you put into the toilet and let it be what it looks like in the general population.”

10. Understand the psychology of pee versus poo

“Doing a poo can be very scary for some children because they think part of their body’s falling off. They don’t understand why it’s happening. Toilet training them to do a wee might be really quick and easy, but doing a poo might take a whole lot longer. Go gently with them. Never force the issue!” 

Hear Kinderling Conversation every weekday at 12pm or grab the podcast.