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Potty Training

Using a potty is a new skill for your child to learn. It's best to take it slowly and go at your child's pace. Being patient with them will help them get it right, even if you sometimes feel frustrated.


Children are able to control their bladder and bowels when they're physically ready and when they want to be dry and clean. Every child is different, so it's best not to compare your child with others.


Bear in mind that most children can control their bowels before their bladder.

  • By age one, most babies have stopped doing poos at night.

  • By age two, some children will be dry during the day, but this is still quite early.

  • By age three, 9 out of 10 children are dry most days – even then, all children have the odd accident, especially when they're excited, upset or absorbed in something else.


It usually takes a little longer for children to learn to stay dry throughout the night. Although most learn this between the ages of three and five, up to one in five children aged five sometimes wet the bed.


Remember, you can't force your child to use a potty. If they're not ready, you won't be able to make them use it. In time, they will want to use one. Many nurseries only accept children who are out of nappies.


Most parents start thinking about potty training when their child is between two and two-and-a-half, but there's no perfect time. Some people find it easier to start in the summer, when there are fewer clothes to take off and washed clothes dry more quickly.

Getting ready for potty training

You can try to work out when your child is ready. There are a number of signs that your child is starting to develop bladder control:

  • they know when they've got a wet or dirty nappy

  • they get to know when they're passing urine and may tell you they're doing it

  • the gap between wetting is at least an hour (if it's less, potty training may fail, and at the very least will be extremely hard work for you)

  • they show they need to pee by fidgeting or going somewhere quiet or hidden

  • they know when they need to pee and may say so in advance


Potty training is usually fastest if your child is at the last stage before you start the training. If you start earlier, be prepared for a lot of accidents as your child learns.

They also need to be able to sit on the potty and get up from it when they’re done, and follow your instructions.


Useful tips for successful potty training

Using a potty will be new to your child, so get them used to the idea gradually.

  • It’s usually easier if boys start by sitting on the potty before they switch to standing up later on.

  • Talk about your child's nappy changes as you do them, so they understand wee and poo and what a wet nappy means.

  • If you always change their nappy in the bathroom when you're at home, they will learn that's the place where people go to the loo.

  • Helping you flush the toilet and wash their hands is also a good idea.

  • Getting a child-size toilet seat adapter means you can start them off just sitting on the toilet with no pressure to do anything.

  • Leave a potty where your child can see it and explain what it's for. Use a cuddly toy and pretend it is using the potty. Praise it and get your child to praise it.

  • Children learn by watching and copying. If you've got an older child, your younger child may see them using the toilet, which will be a great help.

  • It helps to let your child see you using the toilet and explain what you're doing. 

  • Make joint trips to the toilet and announce them cheerfully, without your child having to ask to go. Just say 'let's go to the toilet' and both of you go. Over time, going to the toilet and sitting on the toilet or a potty will be the only occurrence your child associates with toileting.

  • Do the same at night. Take your child to the toilet even if they are partially asleep - and encourage them to wee once they are seated. This too will help them subconsciously relate sitting on the toilet or potty with beginning to wee.


Potty training pants and pull-ups

Disposable or washable potty training pants (also called pull-ups) can be handy when you start potty training and can give children confidence when it's time to swap nappies for "grown-up" pants. They don't soak up wee as well as disposable peel and close nappies, so your child will find it easier to tell when they are wet and will feel more uncomfortable and more likely to not want a repeat of the discomfort.

Training pants should be a step towards normal pants, rather than a replacement for nappies. Encourage your child to keep their training pants dry by using the potty.

If your child is not ready to stop wearing nappies and it's hard for them to know when they've done a wee, you can put a piece of folded kitchen paper inside their nappy. It will stay wet and should help your child learn that weeing makes you feel wet.


More on night-time potty training
  • Focus on getting your child potty trained during the day before you start leaving their nappy off at night.

  • If your child's nappy is dry or only slightly damp when your child wakes for a few mornings in a row, they may be ready for night-time potty training.

  • Make sure your child uses the potty last thing before they go to bed and take them to the toilet during the night (as outlined above).

  • A waterproof sheet to protect your child's mattress is a good idea.

  • Just like daytime potty training, it's important to praise your child for success.

  • If things aren't going well, don't stress or your child will stress - just keep trying gently.

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