If you have a toddler ready for potty training, the summer months can be a perfect time to “buckle down” and help your child learn how to use the toilet.

The biggest factor in potty training success is readiness. While you might be tired of diapers, many toddlers are are not physically and developmentally ready to potty train until around 2 1/2 or 3, but it’s not uncommon for others to take a little longer. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Your toddler can tell you that they are wet or soiled.
  • Increased interest in bodily functions.
  • Their diaper stays dry for 1 to 2 hour stretches.
  • They show an interest in the potty, or a strong dislike of having a soiled diaper.
  • Your toddler frequently pulls off their diaper.
  • Bowel movements (BM) become predictable (For example, a BM in the morning).

Getting Started

Once it appears your toddler is developmentally ready for potty training, it will go more smoothly if you have a plan in place.

Pick a stretch of time when your family can stay home and your kiddo can run around either naked, in just pants (so they can feel when they are wet), or training underwear—choose based on your comfort level. Make sure any clothes they wear are loose and easy for your child to get on and off.

Let’s Talk Toilets

There are several types of toddler toilets on the market. In the beginning, a small toilet chair that can move room to room with you might be a good option. You’ll also want a toilet that is easy to clean. Another advantage to this style is that your child can get on and off without much help—the disadvantage, not surprisingly, is the clean up.

Another option is a toilet seat that sits on top of your own toilet. Your child will need a step stool to get onto the seat and back down. On the plus side, your toddler urinates directly into the toilet—no clean up!—and your toddler will be able to use this seat for several years to come.

Include your toddler in the selection process. They might have fun going with you to pick out their very own special toilet!

Ditch The Diapers

Now that you’ve picked your start date and toilet of choice, it’s time to get down to the basics.

You’re going to need to show your toddler how to use the toilet by providing the following instructions:

  • “Tell mommy or daddy when you need to go pee.”
  • Walk to the toilet.
  • Pull down your underwear.
  • Sit on the toilet.
  • Try to pee or poop.
  • Help your child clean themselves.
  • Wash hands.

A visual story involving your toddler’s favorite doll, action figure, or stuffed animal could be a great way to demonstrate how the potty works. Pick up your child’s toy: “I think Ella needs to go pee. Let’s show her where the potty is.” Follow the steps above using the toy and praise “Ella” for doing a good job.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Stay positive and don’t rush!  It’s a big developmental step – and a natural progression that takes time to develop.
  • Keep your toddler’s bladder full by offering lots of fluids.
  • Throughout the day say: “It’s time to go pee.” Then offer a choice, such as, “Do you want to take your toy with you or leave it here?”
  • Watch for clues: Holding their genitals, making a strained face like they are passing a BM.
  • Practice sitting on the toilet for 3-5 minutes at a time, especially: first thing in the morning, after meals, before leaving the house, and when returning home.

Don’t force your toddler to sit on the toilet if they are resistant. Wait until they are relaxed and open to using it. Praise them when they use the potty correctly. Sticker charts or a small reward can help encourage them to keep using the potty correctly. Some families like to stock up on small toys (like race cars, which are in abundance at thrift stores) and let their child pick one out every time they go to the bathroom in the potty.


Download this free sticker chart here.

Expect That Accidents Will Happen

Potty Training isn’t learned overnight and accidents are bound to happen. Even after months of successfully using the potty, toddlers can start having accidents when their routine changes, there is stress at home, or they get sick. If this happens, don’t get angry – just take a break from potty training and try again. Here are some more tips for helping prevent accidents:

  • Make sure your child can easily reach the potty.
  • In the beginning, take your child to the bathroom about once an hour.
  • Use diapers during sleep until your toddler stays dry through the night.
  • Ask your toddler to sit on the toilet before going to bed.
  • Praise your child for success – even for small steps.

Some parents might tout that they potty trained their toddler at 18 months and it only took they 3 days! Don’t get hung up on expectations. Your child will learn to use the toilet when they are ready. With patience and support, your toddler is going to succeed.


This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com).  Parenting Now! is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now! please visit their website (https://parentingnow.org/) or contact us at info@parentingnow.org

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