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Knowing When Your Toddler Is Ready To Get Potty Trained

Updated on October 2, 2009
Is your toddler ready to use the toilet?
Is your toddler ready to use the toilet?

Although I am not fond of changing diapers, I certainly do not want to rush my 16 month old toddler son to be potty trained before he is truly ready. I have to admit I got quite excited yesterday when he brought me a package of baby wipes after he saw me sitting on the toilet. At first I thought it was just a coincidence, but then when he ran in the living room and returned with another package of baby wipes, I was hoping that he is getting the connection that pee and poop go in the potty, then we wipe ourselves.

There will be signs that I will look for to know he is ready. If I try to potty train him when he isn't displaying these readiness signs, then him and I may get really frustrated. I pretty much know what to look for because not only have I potty trained my older child, but my occupation is to work with toddlers. I get asked frequently "Is my child ready to use the potty?". That is when I discuss the following signs of readiness in the child:

  • Understands what the toilet is used for and may watch parents, friends, or siblings on the toilet
  • Can express the need to go potty. This can be with words such as "pee" and "poop", gestures, or sign language
  • Is able to sit on the potty for up to a minute without getting up. It would be nice if the child sat longer, but one minute is a starting point. Redirections and distractions such as a toy or book often help the toddler to stay seated longer
  • After waking up from a nap, the diaper is still dry or not as soaked as usual. Some kids may also go for stretches of time up to 90 minutes (other than a nap) staying dry. It isn't realistic for all toddlers to go the whole night without pee-peeing, however some can
  • Wants to do things on his own or otherwise be independent
  • Willing to wear "big kid" underpants
  • Emotionally ready by not being too controlling or stubborn. You know the ones, they say "No" to everything and do the complete opposite of what is asked of them. If the child is negative, but can be redirected, he may be ready to be potty trained as long as he is somewhat cooperative and can cope with his fears
  • Holds self, squats, or hides while pooping
  • Dislikes a dirty diaper and fusses when it is soiled
  • Poops at a predictable time of day. This may not be the case for a child who doesn't eat snacks or meals at the same time every day; so serving food at a predictable time will aid in potty training readiness
  • Is able to follow simple directions and copy other people's actions
  • Not necessary, but added bonus- will look at a book or video about going to the potty, or pretending that a doll or stuffed animal is sitting on the toilet

If you see some of these signs, then your toddler may be ready. My daughter was 2 1/2 when I potty trained her, and I went forward with the training even though she was quite stubborn. She had all of the other signs though. She successfully peed on the potty without accidents within 2 days and poo-pooed without accidents within one month...yeah! I have to admit, I did have to bribe her with stickers and toys from the dollar store for her to successfully poop, but it was well worth it! Within a few months, she never asked for the stickers any more and didn't have any nighttime accidents. Now my friends who tried to potty train their kids much earlier than I did and ignored reading their child's lack of readiness signals, were not as successful. Keep in mind, some kids may be ready for potty training at 18 months of age whereas others may be 3 years old; everyone is different.


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    • profile image

      baby potty training 8 years ago

      Very good information. It helps when you are aware of the signs of potty training readiness.

    • Helen Cater profile image

      Helen Cater 8 years ago from UK

      This is great as a lot of parents feel under pressure for their tots to bacome potty trained. I was always told they were not going to be in nappies at 16 and thankfully they are not.

    • OTmommy profile image

      OTmommy 8 years ago from Southern USA

      Thanks to sandwichmom, creativeone59 & Kay Candle for encouraging me, the newbie.

      @Kay I would try the regular underwear along with a predictable feeding schedule of meals and snacks. Set him on the potty 30 minutes after each meal/snack & any other predictable time that he pees or poops. I am not a fan of pull-ups because they are too absorbant and aren't uncomfortable enough. All kids have accidents at first, but practice makes perfect! Good luck!

    • Kay Candle profile image

      Kay Candle 8 years ago from Naples Florida

      This is really good advice! My little boy will be 3 in January of 2010. He is definitely showing all the readiness signs you've talked about in your article. He especially likes to hide when going poo! What do you think? Should I keep regular underwear on him and let him have a few accidents? or keep in pull ups only?

    • sandwichmom profile image

      sandwichmom 8 years ago from Arkansas

      Very informative- I will pass this on to my sister- she has a son near the same age.

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 8 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Great info I will tell my daughter, keep up the good work. creativeone59