Potty training your child can be a major parenting milestone. It’s a big step for kids and parents, but before beginning this long and sometimes trying process, it’s important to know how and when to begin potty training with your child. 

Most children are ready to begin toilet training between 22 and 30 months of age; however, each child is different and some may be ready earlier or much later. It’s important to wait until your child is both physically and emotionally ready, or potty training can be a long and difficult experience for you both.

Some signs to look for that may indicate whether your child is ready for potty training or not include:

  • Bowel movements around the same time each day
  • No bowel movements at night
  • Dry diapers after a nap or for at least 2 hours at a time
  • Complaints about wet or dirty diapers
  • Use of words or facial expressions to communicate when they need to go to the bathroom

In addition to these signs that your child may be physically ready, children should have mastered basic motor skills and be able to walk, talk, and remove clothing in order to begin potty training.

Once you have decided that you and your child are ready to begin potty training, create a plan for the process and remember to map goals and plan ahead for rewards! Staying positive and encouraging your child will go a long way in helping them learn to use the toilet on their own.

Here are some other useful guidelines to help you and your child through the process:

  • Place a potty chair in the bathroom and explain its use to your child while they sit in it.
  • Discuss the bathroom using simple, correct terms and let your child know that they can talk about using the bathroom in the same way.
  • Schedule regular potty breaks throughout the day and sit with your child while they sit on the potty chair and try to use the toilet. Reading a potty-training book or giving your child a special toy to use while sitting on the chair will help keep them occupied as they try to use the toilet.
  • Offer regular praise, even just for trying. Letting your child know that you are proud of them for trying or succeeding and reminding them that they can try again later helps reinforce using the toilet as a positive behavior.
  • Pay attention to signs that your child may need to use the toilet (squatting, squirming, or becoming quiet) and respond quickly.
  • Encourage children to speak up and let you know when they need to use the toilet.
  • Dress your child in clothes that are easy for them to remove when they need to use the toilet and avoid belts, overalls, tights, or other items of clothing that take more time to remove.
  • Let your child flush the toilet and wash your hands with them afterward to show proper hand-washing techniques.
  • Conquer daytime potty training before tackling nighttime training. Use pull-ups or disposable training pants at night and during naps until your child has control of their bladder during the day.

Remember to celebrate the small milestones along the way, such as the first shopping trip to buy “big kid” underwear or a day without an accident. If and when accidents occur, prepare for them by carrying a change of clothing, staying calm, and refraining from scolding or disciplining your child. Discuss the accident in a matter-of-fact way and talk to your child about what can happen differently next time.

Potty training can be quick and simple or a long process, but patience, positive reinforcement, and a good sense of humor can help make this an easier experience for both you and your child.