Updated: May 30
Remember – going to the toilet is a skill that has to be learned. It's not a task that we can produce or do. That means it follows a process. It’s a learning process that you can guide and support. That begs the question ... how do you start toilet training?
Familiarisation with the toilet and toileting should begin early – no age is too early to be positive and involve your child in toileting!
By far, most research recommends the training phase begins around 18 months – 2 years of age. Girls at this age are usually developmentally ahead and may begin earlier than boys.
Positive practice toilet training
Everyone, including your child, begins learning by watching and taking in what’s happening around them – they absorb feelings and activity and learn how they should feel and do things.
Create a positive vibe around going to the toilet. Help your child understand that it's normal and something everyone does. You might sometimes say that you are “just going to the toilet” by mentioning when you leave the room and then letting them watch if they follow you. Don’t make it a big deal.
Toilet observation and exploration
As we watch, we start to get interested, which leads to curiosity and exploration. Your child will become curious and want to explore and be involved in toilets and toileting – following you in, flushing the toilet, wanting to watch, and playing with paper and a potty if you have one – Let them!
It's part of how we get ready to learn something new. Adults ask questions and experiment to get feedback and decide whether I want to have a go. So do children.
This is your time to be low-key but active – telling your child when you’re going to the toilet reminds them you need to stop what you’re doing and go somewhere else. Sit them on the toilet to wipe their bottom or give them their turn after they’ve been watching you go. Start putting tissues or toilet paper in nappies to create some feedback that weeing in your nappy leads to discomfort – this will help the child connect the feeling of weeing with a consequence of wetness. Remember, any signs of constipation need to be sorted first before any thought of training – kids won’t poo in pain.
For more on toilet training, check out our top 10 toilet training tips for toddlers!
Monica Ferrie is Parents You've Got This' Toilet Training Expert from Toilet Training Educators. Monica presents on the different stages of toilet training in the Toddler Experts on Demand Video Series and at the Parents You've Got This Toddler Masterclass, where she will answer your questions live.