To take the step of using a potty or toilet, children have to be able to control their bladder and bowel. Most children seem to be able to control the urge for a poo earlier than the need to urinate.
Potty training usually begins at around 18-24 months but babies don't work to any exact development timetable. The child continence charity ERIC says some may be nearer three years old before they're ready. Girls are often faster to use the potty than boys.
The decision to start potty training is important to get right so the child is comfortable with the process and parents and carers are ready to deal with little accidents.
Parenting experts often say summer is a good time to start when there are fewer clothes to take off and washing and drying may be easier.
Avoid times when there are other changes in a child's life, such as moving home.
Child milestones happen in different children at different times, and some may be earlier or later than others in steps like potty training. Being late to use the potty is not a sign of developmental delays. Equally, children who reach other steps early, such as walking or talking may not be ahead of the curve when it comes to toilet time.
Signs a child is ready for potty trainingYour toddler may start to give clues that the time is right for potty training. Telling you they have a dirty nappy shows the start of understanding what's going on with the bladder and bowel. Better still, they may let you know when they are having a poo or wee or that they're going to do either before it happens.
Modern disposable nappies are so effective at dealing with moisture, some children may be less aware that they've even had a wee. Some experts suggest introducing a non-absorbent liner - or pants - underneath before potty training to ensure the sensation of having a wee is understood.
A gap of around an hour to two hours between nappy wetting is also a good sign.
Starting potty trainingThis milestone is not one to rush or get stressed about. Take things slowly, letting the child see the potty, where it will be kept, and form an understanding of what it is for in advance of using it. Try to make it fun. Some experts recommend reading books, rhymes and singing songs about potties and letting the child help pick the potty or putting favourite character stickers on the potty.
Having older children around who use a potty or toilet can give clues to younger ones about all the steps needed: pants down, sit down, use the potty, bottom wiping, stand up, pants up, hand washing.
Letting children see you use the toilet may also help.
Understanding the language around bladder and bowel habits is important for a child. Your family may already have names for these. Is it poo or numbers twos? Is it pee or wee? Make a choice you are happy with and be consistent.
Most children love to talk about wee and poo. Use simple phrases like "Do you need a wee or poo?" and "Where's your potty?"
Some children may fill their nappy an regular times, such as after breakfast. This type of routine can give a head start on potty training. The nappy can be left off, and the child encouraged to use the potty instead.
If they don't take to it straight away or seem upset by the idea, go back to nappies and try again another time. A gap of a few weeks may be helpful.
Praising a child who is successful in using the potty is important, but a balance to make sure too much fuss isn?t made of it. Rewards such as sweets are seen as a bad idea for potty success. It is better to help them understand what a 'big' or 'clever' boy or girl they are.
Opinion is mixed about whether children should go straight from nappies to pants, or whether they need training pants which can be pulled up and down.
Potty problemsIf you're lucky, the child will enjoy their new potty skills and be happy to leave nappies behind. Some children may be more resistant to the change than others, but it shouldn't become a battle of wills between a potty resistant child and a frustrated parent.
Going back to nappies for a while can ease the pressure, but start-stop potty training too often can confuse a child.
Accidents will happen, but be understanding as you clear up the mess. Be reassuring to the child without making it too much of an issue or make them feel they've done something bad. Make sure there's a common approach to potty time with all the child's carers.
Children who seem to have taken to the potty may start having accidents later on. These can be due to emotional upsets such as change of routine. Other reasons can be medical, such as constipation, bladder infections or threadworms. Some children may need extra help, especially if they haven't got the hang of it before they're about to start school or pre-school. Children with learning disabilities may also need extra help adjusting.
Other parents you know may have potty training tips, as may health visitors or GPs
Once using the potty is achieved, it is time to step up to the toilet, literally. Special steps can help a child reach the toilet and be able to rest their feet on while using it. Special secure but removable child toilet seats are available.
Some parents choose to skip the potty and go straight to the toilet. The NCT says there are pros and cons. It may be more convenient, but children need help stepping up to the toilet and may be scared of the flush.
Even though boys will eventually stand up for a wee, experts suggest sitting down for a wee to start with. Once they progress to standing up for the toilet, some help with their aim and accuracy may cut down on cleaning-up afterwards. The parenting organisation NCT suggests a game called 'sink the cereal' where some pieces are put in the toilet and the boy challenged to sink them.
Boys may need reminding to sit down for a poo rather than just standing for a wee.
Regular toilet times can be helpful, especially in making sure potty or toilet time isn't rushed. Regular trips to the potty or toilet also help cut down on accidents.
As well as actually using the potty and toilet, wiping and hygiene are essential life skills. To avoid infections, girls need to learn to wipe from front to back and both sexes need to get in the habit of washing their hands properly after the potty or toilet.
Sleeping though the night and staying dry is another step to achieve, and again there are different views about whether night time nappies or pyjama pants are needed. Absorbent mats under the bed sheets can help protect the mattress.
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