Potty Training Tips


1) Check for Potty Training Readiness
Look for these signs in your child to see if they exhibit potty training readiness:


  • Communicates needs
  • Follows Directions
  • Interest in underwear and toilet habits of others
  • Simple dressing skills (able to pull elastic-waist pants up and down)
  • Stays dry for two hours or longer
  • Regular bowel movements and increased awareness of when they occur (asking for a new diaper, moving to another room or having a certain ‘look’ when having a bowel movement)

2) Get a Potty Chair
Allow your child time to become familiar with their potty chair so it does not seem strange or scary to them. Role play with dolls, sit on it with clothes on, read potty training books while sitting on it, etc.

For boys, start toilet training with them sitting on the seat first, as they are typically not tall enough to stand to pee. There are two types of potty chairs for children:

  • Standalone, toddler-size potty chair with a removable bowl that can be emptied into the toilet.
  • Toddler-size seat placed on top of toilet seat that will let your child feel more secure and not fear falling in. It is helpful to get a foot-stool to support your child’s feet when sitting on this.

3) Provide Positive Feedback
Praise your child for every step of the process (sitting on the toilet, washing hands, etc). Avoid punishing your child if they have accidents or showing disappointment if they wet or soil themselves. Explain that it was an accident and reassure them they are doing a great job learning how to use the toilet like a “big kid”. It is okay to ask your child to “help you” clean up the mess.
There are a variety of ways to provide praise and rewards during this time:

  • High-fives
  • Hugs and kisses
  • Cheers filled with positive words
  • Sticker charts
  • Cheerios in the toilet water to try to practice peeing on a “target”

4) Be Patient
Toilet training can be a stressful time, try to pick a time to start the process where you can devote the majority of your energy to it. Your approach to toilet training should be based on your child’s individual needs and personality and your availability to help them. If there is a big change or extra stress going on in the family, like the birth of a sibling, a move or illness; it may not be the best time to start toilet training. Some parents choose to toilet train their child gradually over time as their child starts to show more interest. Others choose to spend a weekend at home and allow their child to get lots of practice using the toilet, even going from diapers to underpants right away.

6) Transition from Diapers
It is controversial whether to use a training pant (pull-up) when toilet training. Some people feel that a training pant slows the toilet training process because it allows the child to use the pull-up like a diaper. Others feel that the training pant is a helpful step in learning how to use the toilet; but allows a backup method for accidents. If your child uses training pants you can try switching to underpants when the training pant remains dry for several days. Buying “big kid” underpants can be a very positive and rewarding step for children.

Don’t expect your child to achieve night-time dryness at the same time they achieve day-time dryness. It is common for typically developing children to have night-time accidents until around age five.

Talk to your health care provider if you have questions about whether your child is ready to start toilet training or if you have concerns about your child’s toilet training habits. If your child has special needs read “Managing Special Needs Toileting” by one of our AbilityPath Experts

Links & Resources:

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Website/HealthyChildren.org
KidsHealth, part of The Nemours Foundation’s Center for Children’s Health Media, provides families with information.