An Overview of Potty Training

Is your toddler ready to potty train? While most parents are thrilled to move on to the diaper-free stage of their child’s life, potty training isn’t as simple as showing your toddler where to sit and how to flush.

Potty training is a major milestone for toddlers and there are typically bumps along the way. But before you dive into potty training, make sure your toddler is actually ready. It will save both you and your child a lot of frustrations. Once you’ve determined it’s time to train, arm yourself with the essentials, then determine a potty training plan of attack.

When Will My Toddler Be Ready?

While many parents choose to potty train a child at a specific age, such as 18 months or two years old, that strategy can backfire if a child is not ready. So how old is old enough to potty train? Like most things with kids, it depends. And, while we’ve all heard stories about the potty-trained two month old, many children aren’t ready until after their second birthday. Some toddlers may not be ready for the potty until they are approaching three.

In addition to age, reaching certain developmental milestones are key to being able to successfully potty train a toddler. Ability to communicate, being able to identify the need to go potty, and even having strong enough muscles to get on and off of the potty are important skills when determining if your child is ready to potty train. Also look for signs that your child’s ability to “hold it” has increased. If your toddler has fewer and fewer wet diapers, it likely means that their bladder muscles have developed sufficiently.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make sure your child is showing a desire to use the potty (as well as an interest in keeping dry or clean), to wear "big kid" underwear, and to observe what you're doing when you go to the bathroom. If they aren’t interested yet, don’t feel like you have to force it. Chances are their interest will be piqued sooner rather than later.

Working With a Caregiver

Babysitters who see your child daily or nannies with years of experience are often the first to notice the signs that your toddler is ready to start potty training. To successfully potty train a toddler in partnership with a caregiver, communication is crucial.

For working parents, it's important to talk to your caregiver about your potty training expectations and plans. However, it's also good to keep in mind that your experienced nanny or sitter might be able to provide guidance and even lead the way on potty training with the child.

Whatever the case may be, it's important that everyone commits to the same potty training process. Consistency is key. If a child is being trained during the weekdays with a nanny or at daycare, don't relax the regime at night or on the weekends. That will likely confuse the toddler and extend the amount of time it takes to train them.

Getting Equipped

If your child is ready to potty train, take some time to make sure you're armed with the right potty training gear before you go any further. In addition to a potty seat or a seat reducer (or both), you'll want to invest in "big kid" underwear and pants or other clothing that are easily pulled on and off to prevent accidents that happen while your child is trying to get to the potty.

Getting your child involved in the process of choosing these items can often help heighten their excitement about using the potty. Make your child feel like a big kid by bringing them with you to the store to choose a potty as well as underwear featuring the characters of their choice.

Girls vs. Boys

While there are many similarities between potty training for girls and boys, there are some differences and parents should be mindful of them. It's not uncommon to hear that potty training girls is easier and happens earlier. In addition, typically, boys learn to potty train sitting down like girls, but once they've mastered sitting on the potty, you can transition them to standing up. (A decal known as a "toilet target" can help boys better learn how to aim.)


People choose to go about potty training toddlers in many different ways. The three-day potty training method is popular among parents for its quick results. it involves hunkering down at home for—you guessed it—three days and letting your child go diaper free while you vigilantly take them to the potty.

The process can be stressful and accidents will happen, but many children quickly learn to recognize the signs that they need to go and successfully get themselves to the potty on time.

Other parents choose to potty train over longer periods of time. Whatever you choose, you'll likely want to keep your child on a potty break schedule when you first begin training. In addition, you might want to consider a reward system for your toddler. Charts or small pieces of candy are often used keep your little one motivated throughout the process.

Remember, as a parent you’ll need to accept that there will be hiccups which will be frustrating for both you and your toddler. For many children, potty training doesn’t begin and end in a few days without some setbacks along the way.

Some children may be able to go to the bathroom at home but refuse public toilets. Others may have no problem peeing in the potty but may not be convinced to go number two. Most toddlers won’t be able to hold it overnight for at least a few months, if not longer. Others will do great—for a few weeks or months—before experiencing a potty training backslide. But don't worry, it will all work out alright!

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