TOILET TRAINING TIPS FOR PARENTS – By Vicki Tomkins, Occupational Therapist

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If you’re the parent of a toddler, then you’ve undoubtedly spent a bit of time thinking about how to approach toilet training. Our occupational therapist, Vicki Tomkins has compiled some helpful, science-based tips to help get you started and take out some of the guesswork around toilet training.

When to start?

Generally toilet training readiness begins from 2 years onwards.

Signs your child may be ready to start are when he/she:

  • is interested in watching others go to the toilet
  • is walking and can sit for short periods of time
  • has dry nappies for up to 2 hours
  • does not want to wear a nappy
  • takes off or pulls at nappy when he/she has done a wee or poo
  • tells you she/he is doing a wee or poo
  • has regular, soft formed bowel motions

Getting Ready

Decide if you want to teach your child to use a potty or the toilet

Pros Cons
  • It can be easy for children to get on/off by themselves
  • Some kids find it less “scary”.
  • You have to empty the wee/poo and clean the potty.
  • Once they are using the potty you eventually need to transition to using the toilet.
  • No transitioning required.
  • Once familiar with sitting on toilet can access most facilities easily.
  • Some kids find the size and noises of the toilet daunting.
  • May need a special children’s toilet seat and footstool
  • Let your child watch you go to the toilet and talk about what you are doing.
  • Include plenty of fibre in your child’s diet and encourage drinking water to avoid constipation.
  • Introduce the toilet or potty and explain what to do.
  • Reading a book about using the toilet or potty with your child can be a fun way to
  • reinforce the steps of using the toilet.
  • Teach your child some words about going to the toilet (for example, ‘wee’, ‘poo’ and ‘I need to go’).
  • Start using ‘training pants’ to help your child feel wetness and understand what this means.
  • Allow your child to look at and become familiar with the potty or toilet without any pressure to sit and use it at first.
  • Choose a day you will start toilet training. Consider marking this on a calendar and discuss with your child what this means.
  • Explain to your child that they will wear underpants. No more nappies during the day, just for bedtime.
  • Explain that wee and poo are to be done in the toilet/potty.


Be prepared for accidents with wee and poo

It is normal and to be expected that your child will wee and poo in his/her pants at first. Don’t comment or get mad at your child. Just clean it up without fuss. If possible empty poo from pants into the toilet saying, “poo goes in the toilet”.

Steps for using the potty or toilet for wee and poo:

  • Dress your child in underpants or training pants and clothes that are easy to pull on/off.
  • Some parents find it easiest to begin toilet training in summer when you can leave your child in underpants when at home.Sit your child on the potty or toilet at regular times as part of their daily routine. Try 20-30 minutes after a meal or at other times you have notice he/she tends to pass a bowel motion.
  • As a general guide, sit your child on the potty or toilet every 2 hours.Say to your child, “toilet time” or “Time to try on the potty”Your child may only want to sit for a few seconds at first. Praise sitting regardless of how short a time it was (e.g., “well done for sitting on the potty!”).
  • You want your child to sit happily for 2-5 minutes. More than 5 minutes may feel like punishment and lead to negative associations with sitting on the toilet.
  • Look for signs that your child needs to go to the toilet and provide gentle reminders.
  • Do not pressure your child. If they are resistant or unwilling, just wait and try again another time.
  • Allow boys to choose if they will stand or sit for wees.
  • If your child misses the toilet or potty, try to keep calm and clean it up without fuss.
  • You might like to use pictures to remind your child of the steps of using the toilet. You can find free toilet routine pictures at and .
  • Wipe your child’s bottom front to back. When you child is ready to try wiping him/herself, it may help for you to place your hand over theirs to help them feel the action.
  • Teach your child to wash his/her hands after using the potty or toilet.

Tips from Real Mums

…Reading books (before and during the process) helped normalise it for him.

Don’t worry, they all eventually figure it out! Be realistic- lately I give myself permission to put him in nappies after 2 accidents.

I started with just letting her sit whenever I went to the toilet…

What has been working is frequently offering for her to go but letting her say ‘no’…

We give a sticker every time he sits to try for wees and poos on the potty.

If you’d like tailored advice about toilet training for your child, our occupational therapists can help. You can get in touch with us here

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