Don’t expect too much of your child! Most children don’t become reliably clean and dry until some time between the ages of two and two and a half, and many take a lot longer.

Plenty of toddlers may learn to recognise the feeling they get of needing to wee or poo, and they may also know when they have a nappy that needs changing. They may even know how to tell you.

But they just can’t hang on for long.

True toilet or potty independence is knowing you want to go, and then waiting before you do it. And that comes as your child gets more mature.

You can prepare your child for this stage though, from about 18 months to two years:

  • let your toddler get to know the potty and to sit on it from time to time
  • talk about nappies when you are changing your child, and say what’s in them
  • let him see you on the loo
  • in warm weather, let your child run round without a nappy where the odd accident doesn’t matter. This might be the first time your child realises that ‘stuff’ comes from him!

The later you leave training, the easier and quicker the whole process tends to be. Tall children who are good climbers and have a good sense of balance can use the loo and miss out the potty stage altogether.

getting started

Choose a time you think your child’s ready to learn and practice, and which is a good time for you , too. If you’re starting a new job, or making other big changes, leave it a while. Don’t do anything if there’s a new baby in the family, either.

  • ask your child to sit on the potty
  • do this a few times a day, and give lots of praise when you get a ‘result’

Stay calm about wet pants or accidents. They are normal, and natural, and very few people manage to train a child without at least a few – and some of us have several over quite some time.

what about going out the house?

At first, use trainer pants, or nappies, for visits away from home. You can then judge how reliable your child is, and how long he can manage to wait for the potty. You may have to take a potty with you on visits at first – though it makes life a lot easier if your child can use the loo at least occasionally.

Never make potty training a big deal. If it’s getting you cross, then go back to nappies and try again in a few weeks. Sometimes, that extra ‘growing up’ time makes all the difference.

© Heather Welford