Toilet Training

Health Visiting Advice

It can be messy!

There will be accidents!

How do I know if my child is ready to be toilet trained?

Potty Training

Potty or toilet training is an important milestone for your child but learning to gain control of your bowel and bladder can be a complicated process and your child needs to be emotionally and physically ready to potty train such as being physically able to sit themselves on the potty and be able to stand up when they’ve finished.

If your child can follow instructions and let you know what they want or need, that could also be a sign of readiness. It has to be the right time for toilet training to start; when you can devote lots of time and effort to it. If you’re moving house or there’s a new baby on the way, it’s probably not the best time to start teaching your child to use the potty

When to Start: All children are different and when to start potty training will depend on the individual child. Every child is different; they learn to walk and talk at different times and they learn how to use the toilet at different times too. However, most children are ready to be potty trained between 18 months and 3 years old. You know your child better than anyone else so don’t feel you have to start potty training just because other people think you should.

It helps to keep track of your child’s wee and poo habits and get an idea of how many times a day they go for a wee and poo. Babies do lots of little wees but as their bladder develops it learns to store more so toddlers do fewer, bigger wees. If they can stay dry for an hour or two, they are ready for potty training as their bladder is storing more wee and developing control.

It can be hard to tell if a child is wet as disposable nappies are so good at soaking up wee and keeping it off the skin. A good tip is to put some folded kitchen paper into the nappy which will stay wet when they do a wee. As well as letting you know when they’ve done a wee, it may also help your child connect the feeling of being wet with weeing.

If your child starts to notice when they’ve done a wee or a poo it means they are starting to learn the signals their body is giving them – a great time to get ready for potty training.

Check out this video on ways you can see if your child is ready!

Video by ERIC The Children's Bowel & Bladder Charity


How do I get my child ready for potty training?

It helps if you can:

  1. Get your child involved with changing their nappies. Change them standing up, get them to help with their clothing and wash your hands together when you've finished.
  2. Talk about wee and poo. Tell them if their nappy is wet or dry when you change them and talk about the wee or poo inside.
  3. Keep the nappies in the toilet and change your child in there so they associate wees and poos with that room.
  4. Plan a reward system like a sticker chart or lucky dip bag. Reward every little step towards potty training like getting dressed or washing their hands.
  5. Read picture books about potty training together. There are lots of great books out there !
  6. Show that you do wees and poos too! Leave the toilet door open and ask family members to do the same. Young children learn by watching and copying.

Children with additional needs can be potty trained too but it may take longer - see the link’s below for more support with this. You’ll want to plan carefully and prepare in the same way. 



Get a potty or a toilet seat and step for your bathroom and practice with your child. Sit them on the potty or toilet in the bathroom (just get them used to sitting on it and relaxing first - we often skip this step !) and do all nappy changes there too standing up. Involve your child in the process as much as possible. This is how they will learn independence.

 Continence Diagram


Top Tips to Potty Training

  • Make sure your child is not constipated?

    Your child should pass soft stools at least four times a week. If they are passing fewer poos than this and /or harder poos they may be constipated.  Leaking, runny poo can also mean constipation……

  • Don’t limit drinks to help them stay dry - this doesn’t work. The bladder needs to be filled and emptied to behave properly.

  • What should your child drink ? Water is best and aim for a minimum of 6-8 drinks every day to keep the bladder and the bowel healthy.

  • Today’s disposable nappies soak up the wee really well and you can’t potty train in a nappy or a pull up so make the move to PANTS and just wear a nappy at night (nightime may take a bit longer) and make the underwear colourful and fun – involve your child with this process and if you can get some with their favourite characters on the pants even better! Buy lots also as they WILL have accidents. Don’t use pull ups they are just a different shaped version of a nappy so just chose a day and stop using them.

  • If its not possible to remove the nappy, use a liner so that the child will still feel wet.

  • Let the child be involved with buying the POTTY, choosing the type or colour of the potty if possible and keep in the bathroom. Or invest in a family toilet seat and use a stool if using the toilet ( so they feel supported when sitting). Make sure the room where your child is using the potty or bathroom is kept warm and inviting and keep tissues next to the potty also. You could also get a second potty if your only bathroom is upstairs.

  • BUILD up a routine - don’t ask your child if they need a wee or a poo as they probably haven’t learnt to recognise that yet - simply say its ‘potty time’ every couple of hours….

  • CLOTHES – choose ones that are easy to pull up and down – avoid zips and buttons and practice getting dressed and undressed. Choose clothes that are easy to wash as accidents WILL happen. 

  • MAKE it FUN - use a sticker chart - with one of your childs favourite characters if you can - rewards need to be small and instant and make the tasks achievable – such as a reward for sitting on the potty initially rather than staying clean and dry.

  • Use the bathroom whenever possible. Make it a special time for you both -  the whole experience will be much more positive if you invest time to learn together. . Have a toilet toy/bag of toys  which is kept by the potty/toilet so they can remain happy to sit on for 2-3 minutes.

  • What if the child will only poo in a nappy? In the short term if they ask for a nappy to do their poo I would them let them. Otherwise they are likely to hold onto their poo and the vicious cycle of constipation will begin. Some children are frightened of the poo falling into the potty or toilet. Give them lots of reassurance but be firm that the place poos happen is in the bathroom. Involve them in bottom wiping and emptying the nappy into the toilet and saying bye to the poo. Aim to gradually move them to removing the nappy - first by sitting on the potty with the nappy on and then loosening the nappy a little more each day, moving it away from their bottom bit by bit.

  • WIPPING - can take time – show your child how much paper to use and how to get clean and give lots of encouragement. Flushable wet wipes and coloured patterned toilet paper can help.

  • GOING OUT – when you have made some progress at home - make sure you go out in pants ( rather than a nappy). Keep the trips short and make sure you have access to a toilet and take everything you need - potty, wipes, change of clothes as accidents WILL happen.

  • ACCIDENTS are very very normal and just part of the learning process – just deal with the accident calmly and praise your child when they get it right! If you do decide that they are not ready then don’t chop and change just have a break for a couple of weeks and restart with new enthusiasm.

  • NIGHTIME when your child is reliably dry during the day you can start to think about night time. Watch out for dry nappies and get your child used to stopping drinks an hour before bed and sitting on the potty/toilet before sleep and when they wake up. Protect the bed with a waterproof sheet, put a gentle light by the bed and practice going to the potty or toilet. Make sure your child can pull their pyjamas up and down. Some children take longer to learn to have nightime dryness - if bedwetting persists – you can always contact the Starting Well Service for advice.



Helpful video clips for toilet training

Video by ERIC The Children's Bowel & Bladder Charity


Video by ERIC The Children's Bowel & Bladder Charity


Video by ERIC The Children's Bowel & Bladder Charity 


Video by ERIC The Children's Bowel & Bladder Charity 



Useful links:

Fussy Eating


Head banging


Useful resources: 

ERIC's Guide to Potty Training - (pdf) 

Thinking About Wee and Poo Now You're 2 - (pdf)

Thinking About Wee and Poo Now You're on Your Way to School - (pdf)

Guide for Children with Additional Needs - (pdf)

Sensory Needs and Toileting - (pdf)