Toilet TrainingWhile attending a recent talk I was chatting with a mum and she was telling me how easy it was to take care of her baby, she’s very agreeable and hardly ever cries. There was one thing though that she was really having trouble with and that is toilet training. They had been trying to work on it for months but there still hasn’t been any significant improvement.

As she was telling me all the different techniques she has tried, I suddenly realised that training children how to use the toilet is similar to teaching them how to sign because both activities require consistency and repetition. Children learn to do things faster when they are constantly exposed to them and exposure leads to habit forming behaviour.

Knowing this, I got more curious and so decided to do some more research. I found some very useful information online and I decided that it would be a good idea to share what I have learned with everyone and also how to use baby sign as part of your toilet training routine.

Children are very different individuals. They learn at different paces that may not always be the same with others of their age group. Some children learn right away, as if it is almost second-nature to them, while others may struggle at first. The same is true with any activity that we try to teach them, even more so when it comes to toilet training.

So how then do you know if your child is ready to start using the toilet? Although it would vary for most children, the average age when they start showing signs that they’re ready is from 18 months up to 3 years of age. According to a poll I found online, most parents start toilet training their children when they are about 2 years old.

Now this was according to one poll, but I found many other stories where parents had started potty training much earlier, same at 5 months.  If you can recognise the signs that your baby either needs to wee or pooh or is just about to go then you can start teaching them that there are alternatives to going in the nappy.

Try looking for some of these particular signs that might give you an indication if it may be a good time to start toilet training;

Signs your baby is ready to start toilet training;

  1. Your baby keeps their nappy dry for two hours at a time or more, this shows that your baby’s bladder is able to store wee
  2. They wake up with a dry nappy after their naps
  3. It becomes more evident when they are getting their nappies wet or soiled as you can see it in their facial expressions or in their posture
  4. Your baby begins to dislike wearing a nappy and trying to remove it themselves
  5. If they have a regular toilet routine such as going every two hours or straight after a feed for example
  6. Your baby can follow simple verbal instruction or instruction through signing
  7. Your baby can remove their own trousers and put them back on again (or attempts to) Now there are a few very obvious ones too but I’ll cover them anyway
  8. If they show an interest in using the toilet or a potty
  9. If they tell you they want to use the toilet or that they have soiled their nappy
  10. If they use a sign that they need the toilet or have just soiled their nappy

When any of these signs happen, especially when they tell you about wanting to poop, you should praise them and encourage them. This would reinforce this positive behavior and would let your child know that it is the right thing to do.

If you don’t have or notice any of these signs particularly then this doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to just wait until your baby is ready.  You can begin to teach them by introducing toilet stops as part of the routine.  This may help to encourage earlier bladder control as they become accustomed to visiting the toilet at regular intervals.

Getting started with toilet training:

One of the biggest challenges you may encounter in potty training your child is the possibility that they will deliberately refuse to use the toilet. This is when you get creative and think of ways to avoid this.

One thing you can do is to choose a potty seat that your child likes. Have them decorate it the way they want to. If your child forms an attraction to it and gets familiar with it, you increase the likelihood that they will use it on a more regular basis. If your child is a bit older and does not really show interest in using a potty, you may use the regular toilet that you have at home. Just make sure to have a child-friendly toilet training seat, one that is stable enough and would not let your child fall off.

  1. You may like to pick a particular day that you want to start on when you are going to be around the house to ensure that there is a toilet available at all times
  2. Have you child dressed in easy to remove clothes so that the minute they need to go on the potty there is no hold up with hard to undo buttons or zippers
  3. Make sure that your child has a good diet with plenty of fluids and fibre to ensure regular bowel movements
  4. Get your child to sit on the potty at a regular time of the day when they are likely to have a bowel movement such as after breakfast
  5. Don’t make them sit on the toilet for too long if nothing’s happening.  If being on the toilet starts to seem boring they are much less likely to want to use it
  6. If they do go while on the potty praise and encourage them.  Re-enforcement praise is very important so that they know what they have done is a good thing
  7. Ask your child through the day if they need to use the toilet but not to much.  Again if using the toilet starts to sound like it’s not fun they are less likely to want to go there
  8. If they go to the toilet but “miss” try not to make a fuss, clean it up and try to explain to them that your proud that they tried and next time you can work on getting it right together
  9. Get your child to wash their hands after using the toilet and the best way here is to lead by example and show that it is part of the regular routine that you have after visiting the bathroom

A common mistake that parents make when potty training is pushing their children too hard and punishing them for mistakes such as when they have accidents. Be patient and don’t make a big deal out of these mistakes because they are all a part of the learning process. Remind your child that there is no pressure in starting to use the potty and that they should do it when ready.

Using Training Pants:

You can also begin buying underwear and pull-ups for your child instead of the usual nappies. This is a big change that will constantly remind them that it is time to change old routines and to make new ones.

Also changing into pull-ups can signify to your child that they are getting older.  This can be a particularly encouraging way to get them to respond to an activity especially if they have an older sibling that they might try to copy.

Remember though that pull-ups are not that different from nappies and your child could possibly have the tendency to use it just like one. But using them at the right time, such as during naps and when your child has started to learn to run to the bathroom, can have really positive results. Research shows that making your child experience “successes” first while using pull-ups instead of “fails” or “accidents” when you switch to underwear or training pants right away will help to encourage them in the long run.

Using the toilet regularly after you start training helps to eventually control their bowel movements. Your child will be able to identify the signs that their body gives them when it is ready.  Your expectations also have to be made clear to your child. Let them know from the beginning that you expect them to pee or poop in the toilet and that the nappy is just a temporary thing.

You can also make use of the concept of rewards when potty training your child to help encourage them every time they keep their nappy dry. There are some really good resources created by Huggies where you can create your own custom progress chart, download printable reward stickers and create your own personalised story book.

All these are a great way to try and make toilet training more fun for your child.

For more fun and games to help with toilet training you can check out Huggies toilet training games section.

Using baby sign language while toilet training:

Incorporating baby sign language will make toilet training easier for you and your child. For instance, you will be able to determine right away that your child is trying to tell you that they need to go potty if they can sign to you that they are ready to go it instead of you figuring out what the cries or facial expressions mean.

You can use the generic sign for toilet to represent both wee and poo if you wish.  This makes it easier for both you and your child to remember to use the same sign and adds to the consistency of training.

To help introduce the sign for toilet simply do the sign while saying the word and using the toilet.  After a while your child will connect the sign with the toilet.  Once this happens you can begin to sign toilet and your child will understand that you are asking them if they want to use the toilet.  Eventually they will begin to use the sign themselves to indicate to you that they are ready to use the toilet themselves.

You can follow the signing steps to success or read more information about introducing baby sign in the baby sign language articles section.


Unfortunately accidents are inevitable in the beginning stages of toilet training. It helps if you are prepared and there are also some things that you can do to try and minimize accidents.

  1. If you’re heading out somewhere try to get your child to use the toilet before leaving the house.  Likewise if you are leaving a place that has a toilet such as a friends or a shopping centre and your facing a bit of a drive home try to use the toilet before getting in the car
  2. If your child tells you they need to go to the toilet right now listen to them, they may be right as their bladder control is still developing.  If they tell you and then you don’t listen and they have an accident they may be discouraged from telling you next time – if this event does occur and they have told you and then had an accident do not scold them in anyway
  3. Encourage them to go to the toilet before they go to bed at night and make sure that the toilet is easy for them to find with a nightlight for those middle of the night toilet runs
  4. If they tell you that they need to go right away but there is no toilet nearby try distracting them with something that they like.  If they have recently learnt to count or have a favourite character that they like to talk about encourage that while trying to find a suitable place for them to go
  5. If possible carry a potty with you. In the great outdoors it’s easy for parents to just let children wee outside but if you can keep to the routine of getting them on the potty it will help to establish that routine
  6. Be prepared as best as you can, some accidents will happen.  Carry some spare clothes and handy wipes for these occasions.  Keeping some plastic bags to hand to put damp clothes in rather than having them sit directly in your bag is also a good idea

The most important thing to remember when training your child to do something is that practice really does make perfect. Being consistent helps your child to establish a routine. Make them feel like it is an activity that you are both working on together and give them plenty of praise for keeping their nappy dry or getting to the toilet on time and they will start to be more receptive towards it.

If you feel that for any reason your child has a problem with their bowel movements which is affecting your attempts at toilet training them then you should always consult with your doctor or family practitioner.

For more information and help you might like to download this free toilet training guide that has been created by Huggies Pull-Ups® Training Pants.

The guide provides information on:

  • Signs of Readiness
  • Tools you’ll need
  • The stages you and your child will work through together during toilet training

The Toilet Training Guide includes great toilet training tools such as:

  • A Big Kid certificate
  • Progress Chart featuring your child’s favourite Disney characters
  • Full-page of stars stickers all designed to help motivate and reward success along the way.

If you have any tips that you found beneficial while toilet training you child please feel free to leave them in the comments below