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A Blog from Your Kaiser Permanente Pediatricians in Northern California

Mother training her toddler to use the potty

Is My Child Ready For Potty Training?

Some children are ready to toilet train at around 18 to 24 months. Most do it closer to 3. They all do it eventually, but is there a “right time” to start?

If your child shows signs of readiness at 18 to 24 months, it’s a good time to begin. In fact, if you miss this early window of opportunity, it might be a while before they’re ready to try again. This happened with my first child, and it was frustrating! He seemed ready at one point, but I delayed acting on it – and then he lost interest. So, when my second was wanting to try the potty at just 18 months, I helped her – even though I was so pregnant I could barely get her on and off the toilet!

Starting later (usually between 2.5 and 3) works too. Older kids have more skills to help the process and often train quickly. They can tell you when they need to go, get on the potty themselves, and wash their hands after. They may be self-motivated to avoid accidents. They also really like sticker charts and treats!

Either way, make sure you’re ready to take training on. You might need to devote up to 3 months to helping and encouraging your child. If your family is facing big changes, such as moving or a new baby, it’s usually better to wait.

How do you know when your child is ready to potty train? Look for these signs:

Awareness of body sensations. They know what they feel when they pee or poop, and they tell you when they’re going. They may just pause what they’re doing and make a funny face. You can point out this awareness by saying, “It looks like you’re going poop!” or “Oh, are you peeing?”

Discomfort with a dirty diaper. They start telling you that pee or poop is in their diaper because they don’t like how it feels and want it changed.

Recognition that older kids and grownups use the toilet. To help encourage this, you can let them come with you to the bathroom. They can sit on their own potty next to you, even if they have their diaper on. It’s great practice to imitate you. It also helps them learn if you point to yourself before heading to the bathroom and say, “I feel that the pee (or poop) wants to come out. I’m going to go put it in the potty.”

Interest in trying the potty. They may pretend their toys are using the potty. Or imitate you doing so.

Kids move through this process at different speeds. Have patience – your child will get there! If they need more encouragement, you can help them along by:

  • Getting them their own small potty. At first, they can just play with it and proudly show it off!
  • Reading books or watch videos about potty training.
  • Having your child watch as you dump poop from their diaper in the toilet. Say, “This is where the poop goes. Bye-bye poop!” If children see the poop flushed, it can help them understand the process.

When they become interested in sitting on the potty encourage them – but don’t expect “results.” Just have fun at first. You can:

  • Read a potty book together while they sit.
  • Let them pour a small cup of water between their legs to practice peeing.
  • Let them drop several raisins between their legs to practice pooping.
  • Try having them sit on the potty when a poop is likely – like after a meal – once they’re comfortable with the idea.
  • Celebrate every success – even just sitting on the potty. Your praise is what they need!

As you continue with the process, keep a positive attitude. Scolding or showing frustration will just slow things down. Instead, your warmth and sense of humor will get them trained!

Resources for Parents
My Doctor Online
Toilet Training
The American Academy of Pediatrics
Toilet Training

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