Potty training can be an exciting big step for your toddler to take but it can also be very daunting as a parent. Even with my years of experience supporting parents and toddlers with potty training as my children entered the potty training era I felt a certain amount of pressure, external and internal about getting it ‘right’. I wanted to start at the right time so my little ones could achieve but also a kind of internal pressure that I should know when to take this big leap. As friends started to potty train, I found everyone had an opinion about when and how and that just added more pressure.
I felt that understanding readiness made me much more confident in the decision to start and also gave me inner confidence that when we hit bumps along the road I could handle them.
When talking to parents I am finding there is a bit confusion with how to tell your child is ready which then can mean delays in starting or having a lack of confidence to be sure that yes this is the right time.
Unfortunately, there are no lovely little easy to follow list of instructions that can determine this. Experts are even at odds with the when to start, so how can parents have access to the right information at the right time. In the past 60 years there have been 21 signs of readiness talked about- this is a huge number of things to look out for and to be honest as I started to delve deeper it became more and more confusing as experts didn’t agree!
This is very overwhelming and then totally understandable that it is a confusing thing to pin point!
However, I have found with experience and research that it is a combined number of factors which shows your child is ready, these are age, physical development and emotional and social developmental readiness too. (Kaerts et al 2012)
What age is the right time to potty train?
There is no right age to potty train as children develop at different rates. Some children can show signs of readiness as early as 18 months or as late as 42 months. There has been some evidence to suggest before the age of 2 years old the process can take a little longer and some experts suggest there is a ‘sweet spot’ or ‘window of opportunity’ between 25 – 30 months. (Brazelton,1962)
It is important to use age as only a guide mixed with the other factors involved.
What does readiness mean?
From talking to parents I have found that there is some misconception with the term ‘readiness’, showing interest in the potty or asking to go aren’t really the signs that it is time to start. The main reason for this is that although weeing and pooing is a completely natural bodily function- it isn’t natural to go on the little plastic thing in the corner!! So it could be a big ask to connect the dots by themselves. These obvious signs could come later, in fact much later.
Here are some signs of readiness to look out for:
Letting you know they are going or been in their nappy – This could be asking to be changed, pointing to a nappy when they are weeing or saying “wee wee” or “poo poo” , showing signs they understand some toileting concepts.
Long periods of dryness with a nappy on – Noticing dry nappies for longer periods of time, so not needing to be changed as much, this can even be at night.
Going off quietly to go for a wee or poo in their nappy - You may notice your little one going behind the sofa or in another room and having a quiet moment alone, usually then you notice that they have had a poo- this is a good indicator of readiness because they have had the warning and control to go off.
Able to follow a one-step instructions – Being able to follow a simple one part instructions such as “can you pass me the ball?” or “Go and find your shoes”, this means when you start to prompt them to go they are able to understand this form of communication.
Can communicate some needs – Expressing some needs is a good indicator that your little one will be able to express and communicate they need to go. When a child communicates needs it doesn’t necessarily mean with words, being able to communicate if they are hungry, tired or thirsty can mean with gestures or some words.
There is no firm order to readiness and having knowledge of the signs can make you more aware of the subtle signs it is time to start potty training.
If your child is showing signs of readiness, Little Ones At Home ‘Potty Training From Scratch Program’ can help you make the most of this window of opportunity. The program provides a personalised step by step approach tailored to the specific needs of your child. I encourage parents to build on their skills and motivate them in ways to match their unique temperament and learning style. Click here to learn more.
Blum et al. 2003 “ Relationship between age initiation of toilet training and duration of training. A prospective study”
Brazelton, T. Berry. 1962 “A child orientated approach to toilet training” Paediatrics 29 (1): 121-28
Kearts et al .2012 “Readiness signs used to define the proper moment to start toilet training: A review in literature” Neurology and urodynamics (31): 437- 440