Although it would be great if parenthood came with a playbook that explains exactly when to begin potty training, the truth is that the best age to start the process—and how long it will take—is different for each child. Prepare by gathering all the gear you’ll need, and learning how to identify signs of potty-training readiness. Before you give potty training a try, consider these questions:
Is Your Toddler Curious About Adult Bathroom Routines?
If your child has started asking you questions about what you’re doing on the toilet, or why older kids don’t wear diapers, this could be a sign that she’s ready to try these tasks herself. Boost her interest by taking the time to explain what happens when and where in the bathroom.
Can Your Child Manage Basic Bathroom Tasks?
Toddlers who can climb up on a toddler step stool or sit themselves on a potty are showing they’re likely independent and capable enough to understand the basic process of potty training. Let them practice when you’re in the bathroom so they can get comfortable going through the motions.
Is Your Kid Bothered by Having Dirty Diapers?
When a child is unhappy about being in a soiled diaper, or reluctant to put on a clean diaper, he’s definitely getting close. This might also coincide with an eagerness to try on Big Kid underwear, or comments about diapers being for “babies,” which he no longer considers himself to be.
Can Your Toddler Get Undressed Without Help?
To get along without assistance in the bathroom, children will eventually need to handle pulling their own clothing up and down, and manage simple fasteners like Velcro or snaps. Walk your child through this process so she can learn how her clothing functions and get used to doing it for herself.
Is Your Child Having Increasingly Frequent Dry Nap Times?
If your toddler is waking up from naps and maybe even nighttime sleep with a dry diaper, then he’s demonstrating the increased bladder control that’s needed for potty training.
Has Your Kid Been Keen to Try Out New Gear?
For some kids, having their own equipment and accessories (like a potty seat that’s attached to the adult toilet only when it’s the child’s turn in the bathroom, or a travel potty that gets packed along for kid-friendly outings) makes the process of potty training more exciting. Why? Because the gear means the potty time is focused on them. Pointing out which items are specifically for your child can make her feel special and more interested in using them.
Is Your Child Able to Tell You They Have to Go?
For potty training to be successful, your child has to learn what it feels like to need to use the toilet and be able to vocalize it—because that’s what will get him past the stage of having accidents. Checking in with children when you think they might be getting close to needing a bathroom break can help them tune into their own body cues.
Ultimately, sometimes toddlers are excited to start potty training, but their curiosity cools—and that’s totally normal. If that’s happening in your home, it could be that your child isn’t quite ready for this transition just yet. So, keep a well-stocked caddy with a mat, diapers, creams and wipes on hand, and take a break for a few weeks before you try it again.
Want more tips? Read up on how others have made potty-training work for their kids.