8 Signs Your Toddler Is Ready to Potty Train

Like learning to sit up, crawl, and walk, potty training is a skill that your child must learn. While most children are ready to start toilet training between 18 months and 3 years, there are several other skills and abilities a child must master before training can begin. Potty training is best accomplished when your child's physical and emotional development are at a certain point.

A child’s emotional readiness—a desire for independence, control, approval, and self-mastery, as well as their social awareness—is key for toilet training.

Starting potty training before your child is ready can backfire and lead to frustration for both parent and child. Every child is different, but these are common indications of potty training readiness that you can keep an eye out for.

Your Child Shows Interest

mother and daughter pottytraining
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Perhaps most importantly, your child needs to show an interest and desire to learn to use the potty. You can spur this interest along by reading children's books and watching videos about using the potty, and talking about it as you go about your daily parenting life.

If your child is interested in keeping dry or clean, is curious about what you are doing when you go to the bathroom, and wants to wear "big kid" underwear, your child is probably ready to get started.

Your Child Stays Dry

When your child stays dry for two hours or more, it shows that her bladder capacity is increasing, which is important for toilet training.

She Knows When She Goes

If your child is hiding behind furniture or curtains, or goes to another room to pee or poop, that's a pretty clear sign that your child recognizes when she is in the process of going.

If you try to potty train before this time, you'll likely run into trouble, since your child isn't really aware of what she's doing and, therefore, is unable to control something she can't understand.

She's Showing Her Independence

Once your toddler starts saying things like “I can do it myself,” she is probably ready. However, if your child is going through changes or stressors, like the transition to a new home or a having a baby in the house, you may want to hold off until your child is feeling more secure. 

Your Child Can Undress

To potty train, your child must be able to easily pull her pants up and down. She may not have had any reason to do so in the past, but this skill is easy to learn. You may want to avoid dressing your child in clothing that's difficult to take off and put on during toilet toilet training, such as tights, rompers, undershirts with crotch snaps, and pants with belts, ties, or zippers.

She Can Follow Directions

To adults, going to the bathroom is simple. But some kids can be challenged by the many steps involved—finding the bathroom, turning on the light, pulling down pants and underwear, sitting on the potty, going, wiping, flushing the toilet, then washing their hands.

Being able to follow simple instructions is a very important skill for toilet-readiness.

Your Child Can Sit Still

Using the toilet, especially to poop, requires a bit of patience. Your child should be able to sit and engage in an activity for several minutes without becoming distracted or irritable.

She Can Walk and Run Well

Since the urge to use the bathroom is often sudden in toddlers and a potty isn't always a few steps away, it's important for your child to be able to make it to the toilet before an accident occurs.

If she is still struggling to walk and run, she isn't ready.

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Article Sources
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  1. The Right Age to Toilet Train. healthychildren.org. American Academy of Pediatrics

  2. Toilet learning: Anticipatory guidance with a child-oriented approach. Paediatr Child Health. 2000;5(6):333-44.

  3. Awareness of the Need to Go. healthychildren.org. American Academy of Pediatrics

  4. Choby BA, George S. Toilet training. Am Fam Physician. 2008;78(9):1059-64.

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