Where to start?

Has toilet training turned into a science over the past few years? When I had my first son nearly 13 years ago there was not much chatter around and at mothers group it was only mentioned in passing that we were starting. It now seems so much emphasis is placed on it with parents seeing it as a reflection of their performance as a parent. However, achieving toilet training early is not a measure of success and ultimately the key to success will depend on each childʼs individual readiness.

I have broken it down into what I hear from my clients as being the big issues in order to cover all areas.

Young vs old

What is the right age I am often asked? As mentioned above it is so dependent upon the individual readiness of each child. No age is right or wrong however I will note that prior to 12 months they don’t have the ability to regulate their urination. Consideration also needs to be given regarding what else is going on in your home and family life. It takes time and patience at whatever age. If your home life or routines are disrupted then it might be best to wait.

Showing signs of readiness is paramount to success. These can include your child:

  • telling you they have done a wee or poo
  • not wanting to be in a wet or dirty nappy
  • paying a real interest when you go to the toilet
  • wanting to wear “big girl ” or “big boy” undies
  • happily sitting on the toilet or potty to try
  • showing no tears or fears about the whole subject
  • showing ability to be independent in pulling up and down their own pants -staying dry for longer periods during the day
  • being able to follow simple instructions

Some children are ready between 18 and 24 months. However, as there is no prescribed age there is a wide age group being toilet trained. For us we waited and our first child was 3yrs and 3 months. It took 3 days and only a handful of accidents. With our twins we just left it until they were really ready. For him that meant just before they turned 3 and for her just after their birthday. Only a handful of accidents each over that first month or so. For us it was quite an easy process being older.

Potty vs toilet

Totally an individual choice for your family. Again no right or wrong answer- sometimes it is just about the practicalities. All of our 3 went straight to toilets with no steps or any attachments etc. We kept a potty in the boot of my car for the

twins for those “just in case” moments. Also great for the nights when we go camping!

Undies vs pull-ups

For us it was straight into undies for a few reasons. Pull-ups to me and all our kids were still nappies as well as there being a cost factor to consider. There was definitely a bit more washing however initially I just had cheap undies in case I needed to throw them away. I believe it is a much quicker process in undies as in pull-ups they don’t feel the consequences of an accident unlike undies. Again though do what is right for your family. We had friends who used pull-ups and found them to be a great transition item, potentially preventing lots of cleaning up and messy situations.


I know some parents use a sticker chart as a reward system for when their child successfully uses the toilet or potty. This works for some and not others, so find what your child responds to then go with it. The main aim is to not get cross or make a huge deal of accidents. This can sometimes cause the child to be anxious or concerned about toilet training, creating issues for many children in my experience.

Summer vs winter

The notion I hear a lot is that parents are going to wait until the warmer weather until they start toilet training. Personally I feel it should be started when your child is ready not in 5 months when summer hits for example. I can see the reasoning behind these thoughts, however we don’t want to miss their signs and cues of being ready.

A few final points to consider include:

  • always praise your child for using the toilet or potty but no yelling or fussing about an accident.
  • always carry a spare change of clothes in your bag or in the car
  • a little tip I saw in action. Carry a nappy for times when toilets are not

available. I was in a line at a factory sale where there were no toilets. A mum in front of me had a baby in a stroller and a 3 yr old who needed to do a wee. Mum took a nappy out of her bag, bent down to the little girl who pulled her undies down to her knees, mum held the nappy between her legs and the little girl did her wee and no one was aware of anything. A great tip for those times where there is no toilet or they are so dirty you don’t want to use them.

  • don’t restrict fluids at anytime under normal conditions as it has the potential to cause a urinary tract infection quite a common condition in little girls. Characterized by stinging, frequency of urination, stomach pain and even vomiting.
  • ensure they have lots of fibre and water while toilet training is vital. The last thing you want is constipation that causes pain as this then creates fear and exacerbates the problem.

Don’t try and make the process difficult by overcomplicating it, just watch each child and look for his or her own signs of readiness. Whatever your family does is right and suits you at the time. Please do not judge others for their choices and just focus on our own situation. Take the pressure off other parents. We place enough on ourselves.

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  • When toilet training my 2yo daughter her currency was choc chip cookies! One day she wanted a choc chip cookie and I said you have to do a wee first and she ran over to her potty and did a wee. An hour or two later she wanted another choc chip cookie, she raced over and did another wee. After a couple of days she wasn’t as obsessed with the cookies but was going to the toilet mostly without needing a reward.


  • Haven’t yet had a problem with toilet training. Took our daughter a little longer to master overnight dryness, but once that was sorted, it was all smooth sailing


  • I think with all parenting decisions someone is going to have a different opinion than you. So stick with what you think and are comfortable. Mine children’s ages were all different when it came to toilet training.


  • Some great tips here thanks for the refresher


  • My children are all grown up but I did find this article very informative and well written, great points and tips.. I am very sure this advice will be very useful for many mums and dads.. love the nappy idea for when there are no toilets. thanks for sharing.


  • My daughter is 27 months and I am in no hurry to toilet train her. She will do it when she’s ready. As long as she’s toilet trained by school, I’ll be happy :)


  • My 5th child I think is going to be the hardest! My sons were around 3yrs old when fully trained and my other daughter only took 2 days when she turned 2! My 2yr old has no interest yet.


  • Thanks for these great tips and tricks on toilet training, great advice


  • Thank you for the helpful tips.


  • each child is so different with toilet training


  • An informative article. Thank you.


  • Our Naughties are 18 months and one of them has started banging on the bathroom door after she has done a wee or poo, she did get it in time once to do her first wee in the toilet but nothing since then. Her sister has no interest and just bangs on the bathroom door to brush her teeth! We just figure they’ll tell us when they’re ready and however long it takes will be right for them!


  • You make it sound so easy… my almost 3 years old daughter was really good with the potty, use to do everything in it but had outgrown it almost a year ago. She has to use the toilet now but refuses to. She would rather pee in the bath or go outside and do one on the grass… otherwise it’s in her undies or on the floor.
    I am at my wits ends & now make her clean her own pooy undies. It’s been almost a whole year of just accident after accident after accident. We can go through 6 to 10 pairs of shorts in one day, even more some times. I swear I just put them on for her to wee them 2 minutes later. I can ask her if she needs to poo & I get ‘NO’, 1 minute later I can tell by her face she is starting/doing one. I sticker chart worked for a month & then she just didn’t care about putting the stickers on the chart for rewards & just wanted to put the stickers anywhere & everywhere.


  • Great article


  • The joys of toilet training, no two children are the same.


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