Toilet Training

By Tresillian Nurses

Once your child begins to show they are recognising their bodily functions, this is a good time to think about starting toilet training. This is usually anytime from around 18 months up until two or three years.

One sign is when your child’s nappy is drier for longer.

Another sign is when your child starts to tell you when their nappy is wet or soiled as they start to recognise this is happening. At this stage begin talking to your child about the toilet and read stories promoting toilet training.

How do I start?

Start by gently sitting your child on the toilet using a seat attachment (especially for children) or step up attachment on your toilet to allow them to comfortably use your toilet. A great incentive for children is that it is just like mum/dad/siblings using the ‘big’ toilet.

Begin to sit your child on the toilet between nappy changes so they are familiar with using the toilet.

Let your child watch you or their siblings use the toilet, this is a great learning experience for them.

Once you are ready and you feel your child is ready, set aside at least a week or two at home to toilet train your child.

What about a potty?

Some parents choose to begin toilet training by starting their child on a potty. However keep in mind it gives the child one more step to master before they get used to the toilet. It also means you will need to take your ‘potty’ with you everywhere while your child is toilet training.

When do I introduce underpants?

Take your child shopping and let them choose their own underpants. This is a big step and they will be excited when they can wear their very own underpants.

Explain that they are no longer wearing nappies and will need to use the toilet to avoid soiling their underpants.

Starting toilet training

Try only using underpants and be prepared for some accidents. Your child will need reminders to use the toilet. Use phrases such as “it’s toilet time” or “time to go to the toilet” rather than asking “do you need to go to the toilet?” As your child is still recognising the feeling of needing to go to the toilet they are likely to say ‘no they don’t need to go’ and then have an accident.

Give your child a 5 minute and then a 2 minute warning (i.e. it will be time to go to the toilet in 5 minutes), so they are prompted to finish what they are playing with and prepare themselves. Sometimes children do not want to leave what they are doing to use the toilet as they don’t want the experiences to end. Remember to remind your child they can come back to what they are doing or place it somewhere “safe” on a shelf out of reach of younger siblings so your child knows they won’t “miss out” for using the toilet.

Be happy and excited when your child uses the toilet whether it is “just a practice” or if they go. Tell them how proud you are and what a good effort they have made. Reward them with a sticker or stamp.

If your child has an accident remember to tell them it’s okay and even if you feel disappointed or frustrated, don’t show it. Change and clean your child and let them know they can try again.

The best clothing to wear when toilet training is:

Pants with elastic – overalls and pants with belts and ties are too tricky for most children to remove themselves and can mean the difference between an accident in front of the toilet trying to get undressed or a successful toileting experience

Underpants the child has chosen (not too tight). They will be excited to use them and make sure they’re easy to pull up and down.

Sandals if the weather is warm. If they have an accident their shoes can become wet so having a spare change is always handy. (If closed toe shoes remember a change of socks may be necessary too).

My child won’t toilet train

If your child regresses or makes it clear they do not want to start toilet training (even after a month of trying toilet training) do not push or force the issue. This can make them become fearful of the toileting experience. Simply explain it is okay if they don’t want to use the toilet but they will need to wear a nappy and if they change their mind you can take the nappy off and use the toilet. Most times children will decide to start using the toilet again after a short period of time.

It’s not a good idea to start toilet training your child at the same time as stressful major life events such as a when new baby is born or moving house.

What about night times?

It’s common for children to be fully toilet trained in the daytime but for many it takes longer to stay ‘dry’ overnight.

Set up good habits from the start by ensuring your child uses the toilet prior to bedtime.

Place a night light in their room so when they wake up in the night, they can use the toilet without feeling scared of the dark.

In the very early stages a pull-up nappy overnight may help your child gain confidence, however it’s not recommended as a long term option.

What happens when my child starts in Childcare?

Ideally have about a week of mastering toilet training at home to give your child a head start before they begin childcare. At care children are busy and often get distracted and so are likely to have more ‘accidents’.

By giving your child a week’s head start at home, they are able to recognise and communicate the feeling of needing to use the toilet with their educators. Remember to pack lots of changes of clothes including underpants, socks and a change of shoes.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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