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How Will I Know my Toddler is Ready for Potty Training?

Potty training can test any parent’s patience. It can be hard to know when to start, and accidents are an inevitable part of the process — often at very inconvenient times! Sometimes potty training can seem to go on forever. Most children are trained for daytime bowel and bladder control between 3 and 4 years old, and nearly all are able to stay dry at night by age five. But when should you start? How will you know when it’s finally time to move away from diapers?

Except in very rare circumstances, children under one year of age are not ready to begin potty training.

Children this age don’t have control over their bladders, and attempting to potty train too early can result in frustration for both children and parents. As a general rule, you can start thinking about potty training when your toddler begins to wake up from nap time with a dry diaper or can go for at least two hours with a dry diaper. This often happens between 20 and 24 months of age but may not occur until 30 months of age or beyond.

When your toddler is ready, look out for a number of signs. You will often be able to tell when your child needs to urinate or have a bowel movement, as this will become regular and predictable. Some children might choose a special place in the house where they hide when it’s time to go, while others might complain about a stomach ache. Other children will announce their growing awareness of their own toilet needs verbally, perhaps by saying things like, “Poopie time!”

The most obvious sign, however, is if your child simply asks. Children may ask to use the toilet like Mommy or Daddy, or they may ask for “big boy” or “big girl” pants like those worn by an older sibling. They may also signal that they don’t like their wet or dirty diaper, often by removing it themselves.  You may even find them sitting on the potty chair or on the toilet like a sibling or mommy and daddy. You can helpfully encourage readiness by outfitting your bathroom with a child-sized potty and showing your child what it’s for.

Most importantly, it’s best to hold off on beginning toilet training until your child is ready and capable of success. Your child must be developmentally able to follow simple instructions, walk to and from the bathroom, and help undress themselves.  Many preschool programs require that your child be potty trained to attend school. While that may also coincide with the age your child is ready, it may not since every child develops at an individual pace. Don’t use the “threat” of not being allowed to go to preschool as a method for teaching toilet training or otherwise punish your child if their potty training isn’t on your schedule. Be sure that you hold off on potty training if you meet any resistance from your child, or if you have a major change in the home environment, such as a new baby or a move.  If you are patient and follow your child’s cues, you can accomplish potty training successfully.


  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • It’s Potty Time!

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