Potty Training

Updated: Apr 21, 2020

Being potty/toilet trained is a new skill for your child to learn and one of the first steps in becoming self-sufficient! Many parents worrying about the timing and method of potty training: What is the best time for me and my child to start potty training? What is the best method? Is my child too young to be potty trained? What are the signs of readiness? 

When to begin training?

Advantages and disadvantages associated with potty training in four different age groups

Infants (0-12 months)

When exactly can training start? 

Traditionally, infant potty training begins during the first three months after birth. Others recommend a later start (3-6 months), when babies go less frequently and can sit up on their own. They can then be trained with a potty chair. 

In places like India, China, and East Africa potty training traditionally starts in early infancy. By learning to recognize their babies’ body signals, parents can anticipate when their babies go. They then hold them over a sink, bowl, toilet, or the open ground and make a characteristic sound or gesture while the baby goes. The baby associates this parental sign with discharging, and, eventually, they learn to hold back until they hear/see the characteristic sound or gesture. Of course, infant toilet training is more modest than later toilet training – the goal is to stay dry with parental supervision.


(1) parents no longer needing to spend time or energy on nappy changing 

(2) savings on costs   

(3) preventing nappy rashes 

(4) enhancing children’s mastery and self-esteem.  

(5) early potty training age does not lead to behavioural or personality problems

However, younger children have fewer motor skills, are less able to express their needs, and have more frequent bladder voiding thus requiring more adult supervision and longer training times. Furthermore, early training means basic training only. 

Older infants and young toddlers (12-18 months)

12-18 months could potentially be a difficult potty training age first because:

(1) older babies and toddlers may find it hard to break the nappy habit

(2) toddlers may be too excited to sit still on a potty chair. 

In one study, children aged 15-19 months were more resistant to sitting on potty chairs than were younger and older children. 


Children under 18 months are often happy to please adults in comparison to children over 24 months. 

Potty training after 18 months

According to many potty training guides most children are not ready to begin training until 18-24 months. 

This recommendation is based on the idea that children should show signs of toilet readiness before potty training begins. 

• Be able to walk 

• understanding and following verbal instructions, and 

• being able to stay dry for two hours at a time. 

• child wanting to do things for themselves

• child being interested in underwear. 

Meanwhile, although toilet independence may be reached much later some experts propose to help children get ready. Indeed reviewing the official checklists of toilet readiness signs (e.g., NHS guide https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/potty-training-tips/), it is obvious that many of the signs can be encouraged or taught. 

Potty training after 24 months

For many Western children today, “potty training age” means 24 months or beyond. Unfortunately, there has not been much research on whether this is beneficial

Problems with late potty training:

• they have spent more of their lives wearing nappies, they have learned to ignore body signals and must relearn them

• they are more independent and more likely to test your authority and they may resist change. 

• A late starting age might also put kids at risk for developing problems with incontinence and infections although evidence is not conclusive. 

If you decide to wait until a later potty training age, you can still use this time to start preparing the child. Potty training can become easier if you actively prepare your in advance. You can find more info about how to prepare your child below:


Major modern potty training methods

Most modern toilet training methods, parent- or child-led share several important positive points:

• they use praise and affection

• they are compatible with using rewards--for example, giving your child a sticker for each successful use of the potty

• they should follow certain health and safety guidelines

The child-oriented approach to toilet training

This method was developed by paediatrician Brazelton (see further reading below) and suggests that toilet training should begin when the child shows spontaneous signs of readiness (see https://www.parentingscience.com/toilet-training-readiness.html for a list of signs). Once your child shows these signs, you follow a series of steps provided that the child is interested. If the child seems upset, you pull back and wait. 

From about 18 months

Step 1: child chooses potty from a shop

Step 2: encourage child to sit on potty with clothes on (especially when adult goes to the toilet)

Step 3: after 1-2 weeks remove child’s nappy and encourage to sit, but make no demands

Step 4: When comfortable on potty, if they fill their nappy empty contents into potty and tell them this is where it goes

Step 5: if they show interest, take them to the potty several times a day

Step 6: Move them to trainer pants and show them how to take them up and down

Gradual, parent-led toilet training

This approach combines several potty training techniques. It is parent-led, gentle and gradual. 

One approach is Dr Schmidt's

1. Taking them to the shop to pick out a potty chair, 

2. Leaving the chair wherever the child spends most of their time, 

3. Encourage them to sit and play on with clothes on, 

4. Begin training after a couple of weeks and when the child feels comfortable with the potty. 

Important steps in this method include 

(a) watching the child for signs that he needs to go and then remove nappy and place them on the potty 

(b) reward them with praise, cuddles, and/or special treats if they use the potty and 

(c) even if nothing happens after 5 minutes of sitting on the potty do not force the child to sit and always let them off the potty with an encouraging word (e.g.,“good try”).

Toilet training in "less than a day" 

One-day potty training techniques were first introduced in 1974 by psychologists Nathan H. Azrin and Richard M. Foxx. These methods were designed for children over the age of 20 months without previous toilet training experiences. 

Scientific studies have reported that if parents follow the instructions closely and both parent and child is comfortable with the process then fast-track potty training techniques can be very successful.  


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