potty training readiness signs

When to Start Potty Training: 7 Signs Your Child Is Ready

June 19, 2019
4 min read

When it comes to potty training, and when to begin the process, patience is usually rewarded. Many parents find that the best plan is to wait until their child shows signs of readiness, rather than bowing to pressure from friends or family to jump-start the process too early, or to have their child potty trained by a certain age or deadline.

Read on to discover some of the signs that your little one is getting ready to start potty training, how to prepare your child for potty training, and how to actually start potty training.

What's in this article:

Signs of Readiness for Potty Training When Will Your Child Be Ready for Potty Training? Things You Can Do to Prepare Your Toddler for Potty Training How to Start Potty Training When to Delay Potty Training

Signs of Readiness for Potty Training

A key point to remember is that there’s no single “right age” for when to start potty training — a process that requires your little one to develop a complex set of skills. You know your child best, and you might sense when the time is right. Learning how to use the potty might be easier, and go more quickly, when your child is at least 2, or even a little older.

In fact, instead of focusing on age, you might find it’s better to look out for the signs that your little one is getting ready to start potty training.

What Are Some Potty Training Readiness Signs?

Here are some signs that your child may be ready to start potty training:

  1. Your child shows an interest in learning to use the potty and wanting to be more independent. For example, he might show interest by asking questions if he sees a family member going to the bathroom.
  2. Your child can understand and verbalize words about using the potty. For example, he might say “my diaper is dirty” or “I need to go pee pee.” He might even tell you he needs to go potty even if his diaper is already dirty or wet.
  3. Your child can make the connection between having the urge to pee or poop and going to use the potty.
  4. Your child can follow simple instructions and likes to copy your behavior, including bathroom habits.
  5. Your child can keep his diaper dry for at least two hours.
  6. Your child can get on the potty, stay on the potty long enough to pee or poop, and get off the potty.
  7. Your child can pull down his own diapers, training pants, or underwear.

When Will Your Child Be Ready for Potty Training?

Although early training is possible, studies show that many children who begin potty training before 18 months aren’t completely trained until after the age of 4. In contrast, children who don’t start training until around the age of 2 are likely to be fully potty trained before they turn 3.

Girls tend to be ready to potty train a little earlier than boys, but the readiness signs for both boys and girls are the same.

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Things You Can Do to Prepare Your Toddler for Potty Training

Even before you start noticing the signs of readiness, there are steps you can take to prepare your child for potty training and help make the experience successful.

Tackling some of these pre-potty training steps will help familiarize your child with the concept of the potty before training begins. It may also make the process less scary and confusing for your child — which in turn may make potty training your little one easier for you.

Here's what you can do to prepare your child for potty training:

  • Get a potty chair to keep around the house, explaining in simple terms what it’s for and how it works. When you’re choosing your child’s potty seat, perhaps you can let your child pick one he likes to help him get more excited about the potty.
  • Use words like “pee pee” and “poop” to familiarize your child with what’s happening when you’re using the toilet or when you’re changing a dirty diaper.
  • As your child gets a bit older and closer to actual potty training (and you’ve spotted some of readiness signs mentioned above), show him where the poop from his diaper goes, and let him put it in his potty or flush it down the toilet.
  • If possible, let your child watch when other family members of the same sex use the toilet.

How to Start Potty Training

Once you’ve seen most of the signs of readiness mentioned above, it’s time to start potty training.

It’s a good idea to start with bowel training, which is focusing on potty training when your child is pooping or about to poop. Peeing usually happens during pooping, so young children often have a hard time telling the difference. Once bowel training is established and your child is typically successfully pooping in her potty chair, most children — especially girls — will begin to relate the pooping with peeing and then can start to understand the difference between them.

Because you’ll start potty training with a focus on bowel training, boys usually learn to pee sitting down. However, they can gradually learn to do it standing up. Imitating an older sibling of the same gender or maybe Dad can help him learn. There are also books you could refer to that show how boys can pee standing up.

If you started preparing your child for potty training in advance, you probably already have a potty chair at home.

The First Steps of Potty Training

Once your child is familiar with “her” potty chair, these are some steps you can take to start potty training:

  1. Let your child sit on her potty fully clothed while you talk to her about the potty and what it’s for.
  2. Once your child is sitting on the potty by herself without being prompted, you can try getting her to sit there with her diaper off. Don’t make your child sit on the potty if she doesn’t want to.
  3. When she’s comfortable with that routine, try changing her diaper while she’s on the potty. If she pooped, show her how you drop the poop into the potty chair or the toilet.
  4. Introduce the habit of handwashing every time your child gets off the potty, even if she didn’t pee or poop.

An important thing to remember is to keep the experience positive and praise your child for all her potty successes. If you can make potty training fun, your little one will have an easier time making this transition.

When to Delay Potty Training

Trust your instincts on whether or not the time is right to launch into potty training. Even if your toddler is showing signs of being ready for potty training, you might want to put off introducing this new skill in the following situations:

  • If your child is sick
  • If you’re in the middle of traveling
  • Around the birth of a sibling
  • If your child is transitioning from the crib to a bed
  • If you’re moving to a new home.

FAQs at a Glance

  • Q : How do I know when my child is ready to potty train?
  • Q : What is the normal age to potty train?
  • Q : Is 18 months too early to start potty training?

Starting potty training can be a great learning experience for your little one if she’s ready for this next step towards more independence. Although accidents will happen along the way, staying patient and positive will help your little one learn more quickly and have fewer problems with it. Have fun and good luck!

See all sources
All sources links

KidsHealth: Toilet teaching

Cleveland Clinic: Potty training parents step by step guide

Book: Caring for your baby and young child birth to age 5, Sixth Edition Paperback – November 2, 2014 by American Academy of Pediatrics (Author)

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