Potty Training Signs of Readiness

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Potty training signs of readiness – is your toddler ready for potty training?

Parents of toddlers look forward to the day they can finally ditch the diapers. No more lugging around a bag full of diapers, wipes and changing mats – hooray.

Then the reality of potty training sets in, and you find yourself thinking changing diapers was a lot less work.

Potty Training Readiness

Potty training is just one milestone in your child's journey through life, and before you know it, it will seem like a distant memory.

How do you know if your toddler is ready for potty training?

When Should You Start Potty Training?

It is important to remember that potty training is not a race to the finish line. Every child is different, and whilst there is an average age for potty training (18 – 36 months), potty training is more about readiness signs, including emotional readiness, than age. Girls generally tend to potty train earlier than boys, but as we said, every child is different.

If you start potty training too early, you may inadvertently create potty fears resulting in tantrums. Starting too early may result in the process taking even longer. Alternatively, start too late, and you may find your little one resisting the change.

So rather than being concerned about your child's age, focus on the signs that they are ready.  

Like many other milestones to date, learning to use the potty is a skill they must learn. So you will have better success if your child is ready to take on this next challenge.

Potty readiness signs fall under one of three skills:

  • Physical
  • Behavioural
  • Cognitive

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10 Signs of Potty Training Readiness

Sign #1 – Your child has some bladder and bowel control

Around 18 months, your toddler will start to gain bladder and bowel. Signs that your toddler is developing control includes:

  • Waking up dry from short naps
  • Remaining dry for two hours or more while awake
  • Fairly predictable bowel movements

Sign #2 – Your child does not like wet or soiled diapers

If your child starts to dislike being in a dirty nappy and either verbalises this, pulls on the dirty diaper or even removes it, this is a good sign that your child is ready for potty training. Now is an excellent time to transition your child into training pants.

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Sign #3 – Your child has shown an interest in the toilet or potty, including watching other people use the toilet.

When children get ready to potty train, they often start to show an interest in watching other people use the toilet. Let your child follow you into the toilet; after all, imitation is a big part of learning for children.  

Sign #4 – Your child has the motor skills required to pull their pants up and down. 

Potty training will be easier if your little one can pull their pants up and down. They do not have to do this perfectly (a few twisted pairs of underwear is perfectly normal 😊). However, if your little one cannot at least pull their pants down, you may consider waiting before potty training. 

This skill is usually relatively easy for children to learn, so help them practice every day when you are getting them dressed and undressed. Help make this learning process a little easier by avoiding clothes with buttons and zips. Try to keep clothing loose and simple.

Sign #5 – Your child can follow simple multi-step instructions.

Whilst going to the toilet is natural to us, when your little one is first learning to use the potty, they can be overwhelmed by the number of steps involved. They need to notice they want to go; they have to go to the bathroom with time to spare, pull down their pants, sit on the potty, use the potty, wipe, flush (if using a potty seat on the toilet) and then wash their hands. They not only have to be able to understand multi-step instructions, but they also need to be willing to do them, and this can take some time. 

Sign #6 – Your child has started to express a desire for independence.

It can be a heart-wrenching moment when your little one declares, “I can do it” or “Let me do it” or “I am big now.” They may start wanting to feed themselves, dress themselves and make some of their own choices. These behaviours are signs your child is developing some independence so use this to your potty training advantage. 

Sign #7 – Your child can communicate their need to use the toilet.

If your child can communicate verbally or through gesture that they need to pee or poop or that they have already gone, this is a good sign that they are ready for potty training. 

Sign #8 – Your child can sit down and get up from the potty unaided.

Your child should be able to sit down and stand up unaided from the potty or training seat (you can read our review of the best training seats for boys and girls here) . Your child should also be willing to sit at least for several minutes. If your child cannot engage in an activity and sit still, they may not be quite ready to potty train. Potty training, especially when doing a poo, does require a bit of patience. Make sure you have some books handy to read or some other activity to keep your little one occupied.

Sign #9 – Your child is emotionally ready.

Emotional readiness can be a tricky one to ascertain. Generally, when your child starts showing more independence, a willingness to please and mimics others behaviours, including older siblings, they are likely emotionally ready to potty train. 

Sign #10 – Your child is aware of their bodily functions.

Some sure signs that your child is aware of their bodily functions include:

  • Hiding when peeing or pooping
  • Going off in private to pee or poop
  • Make grand announcements that they are peeing or pooping.

You can download a copy of our Potty Training Checklist here:

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When to Delay Potty Training

There will always be events that may disrupt or get in the way of potty training. However, if significant changes or events are going on in your little one's life, it is probably best to delay potty training until the change has passed.

Significant events would include:

  • A recent or upcoming house move
  • New child care arrangements
  • Transitioning from a parents room into their room to sleep
  • The transition from a cot to a bed
  • The birth of a new sibling
  • Being weaned from a pacifier or breastfeeding
  • Illness

Waiting for these kinds of events to pass will ensure that the potty training process is a lot less stressful for all involved.

You’ll never love diapers more than the day you start potty training.

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