Getting started with toilet training
It’s best to start toilet training when you have no big changes coming up in your family life. Changes to avoid might include going on holiday, starting child care, having a new baby or moving house.
And it’s a good idea to start toilet training on a day when you have no plans to leave the house.
When to take your child to the toilet
Try to make toileting part of your child’s regular daily routine. For example, encourage your child to use the potty or toilet in the morning, and before or after snacks and meals.
Encourage your child to go to the toilet when they show signs like wriggling around, passing wind, going quiet or moving away from you. But don’t force your child to go.
Encourage your child to sit on the toilet when a poo is more likely – for example, about 30 minutes after a meal.
If your child is 3-4 years old, encourage them to go to the toilet when they change activities. For example, you could remind your child to go to the toilet before they sit down for lunch.
How to encourage and motivate your child
Praise your child for trying. You could say, ‘Well done for sitting on the potty’. You could start a reward chart for using the potty or toilet.
If your child misses the toilet, try not to get frustrated. Just clean up without comments or fuss.
If your child doesn’t do a wee or poo after 3-5 minutes of sitting on the potty or toilet, let your child get off. Sitting for too long can feel like punishment.
How to dress your child
Start using underpants or training pants all the time. It takes longer to stop wetting the bed during sleep, so use nappies, absorbent sheets or mattress protectors at night and during daytime sleeps.
Dress children in clothes that are easy to take off – for example, trousers with elastic waistbands. In warmer weather, you could leave your child in underpants when you’re at home.
How to keep your child clean and hygienic
Wipe your child’s bottom until your child learns how. Remember to wipe from the front to the back, particularly with girls. This reduces the risk of urinary tract infections.
Teach your son to shake his penis after a wee to get rid of any drops. Early in toilet training you could float a ping pong ball in the toilet for him to aim at. Or he might prefer to sit to do a wee. This can be less messy.
Teach your child how to wash hands after using the toilet.
Children learn to use the toilet at their own pace. It might take days, weeks or months. And it might take longer for poos than wees. Your child will get there eventually, so stay positive about your child’s achievements. Too much tension or stress can upset everyone, and your child might avoid going to the toilet.
Out and about while toilet training
It’s easier to stay home for a few days when you start toilet training, but you’ll probably have to go out at some stage.
Wherever you’re going, it’s a good idea to check where the nearest toilet is. It’s also helpful to have a spare change of underpants and clothes for your child when you’re out. You might also need a waterproof or plastic bag for wet or soiled clothes.
If your child goes to a child care service or to friends’ or relatives’ houses without you, let people know that your child is toilet training. Your child will probably need an adult’s help to use the toilet or potty.
Accidents and setbacks while toilet training
Accidents and setbacks are part of toilet training.
Children might get upset because of an accident or setback. If this happens, reassure your child that it doesn’t matter and there’s no need to worry.
Here are ideas to help with avoiding accidents:
If your child says they need to go, take them to the toilet straight away.
If you’re sure your child hasn’t done a poo or wee in a while, remind them that they might need to go. Your child might be too busy doing an activity to go to the toilet.
Check whether your child wants to go to the toilet during a long playtime or before an outing. If your child doesn’t want to go, that’s fine.
Try to make sure the potty or toilet is always easy to get to and use.
Ask your child to wee just before going to bed.
It might help to know that daytime wetting isn’t considered a problem until it’s happening regularly in children older than 5 years. If you’re concerned about how your child is adapting to toilet training, check with your GP or child and family health nurse.
Staying dry overnight
It can take toilet-trained children months or even years to become dry at night.
The main sign that your child is becoming dry overnight is a dry nappy first thing in the morning. When you notice this starting to happen, you can try stopping nappies at night.
Bedwetting is common, even in school-age children. If your child wets the bed, there are things you can do about it when you and your child are ready.