Potty Training - our top tips

Does the very mention of potty training fill you with dread? Have you tried and failed to potty train your child, leaving you reluctant to try again? We're here to help you get to grips with it all

Getting started

Make sure they're ready If your child is starting to notice when their nappy is wet or dirty, or if they tell you when they're about to do a wee or a poo, then they're ready. The transition from nappies or diapers to underwear will be much smoother if you react to their awareness, rather than let their age dictate.

Make sure you’re ready Some children potty train in days, others in weeks. It’s crucial that you remain calm throughout. Don’t even try to potty train when you’re moving house, expecting a new baby or there’s some other stressful event happening in your lives. Wait until things settle down so you can both cope with the inevitable accidents.

Get them used to the idea

Introduce the potty Have the potty in the bathroom from birth so it's already a familiar item, and let your child sit on it wearing a nappy before potty training starts.

Let the toys have a go Play some games where you both teach a favourite toy how to use the toilet or potty.  

Go shopping Let your child choose their own knickers or pants in the shops. Being able to wear underwear with a favourite TV show character on it may offer powerful motivation for your child to stay dry.

Read a book There are plenty of books available from libraries and shops that will help to prime your child for the big day.

Now go for it

When? Pick a couple of weeks when you’re staying close to home, and make sure you let everyone who looks after your child know your plans.

Where? If possible, stay at home for the first full day. If you must go out, pack at least one change of clothes, plenty of wipes and disinfectant hand gel.

How? In the beginning, ask your child about every 40 minutes if they need a wee. If they do, put them on the potty and see how you go.

Dos and Don'ts

Don’t make your child sit on the potty for more than a few minutes. If they want to get up even after not doing a wee, allow this and praise them for trying and for telling you they needed a wee.

Do choose a new book or toy that your child only gets to read or play with when they're on the potty or toilet. It may encourage them to sit there for longer. If they don't go within a few minutes, let them run off to play and try again later.

Do use plenty of praise when the first wee is done. You could invent a special potty song to sing together.

Do avoid fiddly dungarees and one-piece outfits so it’s easier for your child to pull down their clothing when they need to wee.

Do think about a reward or star chart to help enforce this new routine. Every child will love it, and it also gives that extra bit of encouragement for continuous potty use.

Most children pick up potty training pretty quickly, especially if they are completely ready. But what if they don't? Check out our potty training problem solver.


Related links

Elizabeth Pantley's Potty Training Q and As - part one...Finding potty training a challenge? Much needed help is here in the form of parenting expert Elizabeth Pantley. Read the first part of our brilliant Potty Training Q and A here.

Elizabeth Pantley’s Potty Training Tips - part two: Poo problems! Is your little one happy to wee in the toilet, but not so happy to do anything else? Expert Elizabeth Pantley may just have the answer....

Elizabeth Pantley’s Potty Training Tips, part 3, dribbles, accidents and how long should it all take?! Expert Elizabeth Pantley answers your questions.....

Your potty training problem solver: Potty training not going the way you’d like it to? If your toddler is using the potty to bath her dolls and leaving damp patches (or worse) on the rugs, try Supernanny’s tips to get her to sit, stay and do her stuff! 

Find out more

  •  ©My Wee Friend ™ is a black sticker, stuck to the bottom of the potty, on which a smiley face appears when the child has done a wee. A great tool for you and terrific fun for the kids: they practically train themselves!
  • Once Upon a Potty by Alona Frankel. There’s a boy and a girl version of this book. Cute illustrations and text which focuses on the rewards of potty training.
  • I Want My Potty by Tony Ross. Terrific because it doesn’t patronise, just points out that sitting in a pooey nappy is, well, ‘yuuech’

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