When To Start Potty Training: 7 Signs To Look For
By this stage of parenting, you're a pro at diaper changes. You're quick enough to catch your toddler on the run and get them nice and clean again before they get back to playing. But now that your baby isn't little anymore, you might be wondering when to start potty training.
It can be tough to know when the time is right, but there are definite signs that your toddler is ready to learn how to use the potty. So keep an eye out for these seven things, and you'll be on your way to ditching the diapers in no time.
Table Of Contents
- When To Start Potty Training: 7 Signs To Look For
- When To Start Potty Training: Three Reasons To Wait
- Patience Helps With Potty Training Success
When To Start Potty Training: 7 Signs To Look For
While many kids are ready to start potty training between 18 and 24 months, every child is different. Some will be interested in using the potty earlier, while others may not be ready until they're closer to three years old.
The best way to know if your toddler is ready to start potty training is to look for signs that they're developmentally prepared, no matter their age.
Here are seven things to watch for:
1) Can Walk To The Potty
You don't want to carry your little one over to the potty every time they have to go. To help potty training go more smoothly, ensure your child can independently walk to the bathroom and get onto their potty.
This way, they can go by themselves when they feel the urge and don't have to depend on you to help them every time. If your child isn’t yet mobile, you should probably hold off for a bit.
2) Shows An Interest In Wearing Underwear Or Toileting
Does your child express interest in using the bathroom? Have they asked about underwear? If so, it's a good sign that they're ready to start potty training.
Along these same lines, your little one might ask you about using the potty or want to watch what you do when you go to the bathroom. Again, these actions indicate that they’re learning what a toilet is and are starting to understand what you do on one.
You might also notice them pointing out their favorite characters on the underwear at the store or mentioning underwear while you’re folding laundry. A creative child in this stage of readiness might even try using a marker to make their diaper fancier, like underwear.
3) Is Able To Communicate Needs
To potty train successfully, your child needs to be able to communicate their needs to you. Do they let you know about their other desires? For example, when they're feeling hungry or thirsty, how do they tell you?
Your child doesn't have to speak to communicate, so don't worry if your child isn't yet verbal. There are other ways they might let you know they need to use the potty, such as making a grunting sound or squatting. You might also notice them pointing to their diaper or pulling it.
If you’ve taught your child some sign language, start using the sign for “potty” when you’re changing their diaper or when you need to use the bathroom. It’s a simple way for children to indicate they have to go, even if they can’t speak.
4) Stays Dry For Longer Stretches Of Time
Babies pee a lot. Their bladder is small, and they haven't yet learned to control when they go. As your child gets older, their bladder grows and so does their control over their bladder. Toddlers eventually learn to hold their urine for extended periods.
If you're noticing that your child can stay dry for two hours or more or is waking up from naps with a dry diaper, they might be ready to try going on the potty.
5) Hides While Pooping
When your child starts to notice the sensation of pooping, they might try to hide it from you. For example, they might go into another room or crouch behind the couch. This behavior is a sign that they're becoming aware of their bodily functions and are trying to keep them private.
Some kids also try to hide while they're peeing. So if you notice your child disappearing for a bit before they come to you with a wet or dirty diaper, start talking to them about how they can learn to pee and poop in the toilet.
6) Desires Independence
Kids with an "I can do it myself" attitude are usually the most successful at potty training. If your child is constantly saying "no" to your help or is trying to do everything themselves, they might be ready for this next stage of independence.
Here are some signs that they're becoming more independent:
- Able to get themselves dressed and undressed (or tries to do so)
- Likes to put on their shoes
- Helps pick up their toys
- Engages in an activity for more extended periods
- Wants to help you with household chores
While your child's independence can be bittersweet, you don’t want them to be dependent on you forever. Allowing them to do things for themselves will give them a sense of accomplishment and make them more likely to succeed at this new skill.
7) Follows Basic Directions
Your toddler needs to be able to follow simple directions to transition from diapers to the toilet successfully. For example, can they understand and follow simple commands like "sit down" or "stand up?"
If so, they might be ready to start understanding and following instructions about going to the potty.
Try giving them simple commands, like, "Go sit on the potty" or, "Try to wipe yourself." They’re probably ready if they attempt what you've asked.
Be sure to set them up for success by having your bathroom ready. Since little ones often have difficulty using toilet paper, keep a pack of gentle wipes, like Mustela’s Certified Organic Water Wipes with Cotton and Aloe or our Cleansing Wipes with Avocado, nearby. These cleansing wipes help keep your toddler's skin clean and moisturized.
You'll also want a step stool so they can easily reach the sink. That way, when you ask them to turn on the water and wash their hands, they'll be able to do the task independently.
When To Start Potty Training: 3 Reasons To Wait
Even if your child shows many readiness signs, now might not be when to potty train. Sometimes, life circumstances mean that waiting is the best choice.
That way, your child doesn't start to get the hang of potty training and suddenly has to go back to diapers. To prevent that scenario, here are three reasons to wait.
1) Imminent Life Changes
If any big changes are happening in your child's life, it might be best to wait on potty training. You don’t want them to have to deal with too many new things at once.
Some examples of upcoming life changes that could interfere with potty training include:
Any of these changes introduce stress that could throw off your child's potty training progress.
2) Your Availability
It takes time, attention, and patience to successfully potty train a toddler. So, if you're in a busy season of life, or you'll be away from home for an extended period, it might be best to wait a bit.
However, don't think you have to be around all day for months to successfully potty train your child. You can get them started by dedicating a weekend to the process and then using gentle reminders going forward.
3) Resistance To Using The Toilet
If your toddler resists using the toilet, it might be best to wait a while. They must be ready and willing to start potty training before beginning the process.
If they're not interested in using the toilet, try talking to them about it. Is there something about the potty that isn’t comfortable or makes them feel scared? Once you know their feelings, you can help them work through them.
But if your child still seems unwilling to go to the bathroom, it's best to hit the pause button. Try again in a few months and see if their attitude has improved. It’s much quicker to train a willing toddler.
Patience = Potty Training Success!
Remember every child is different. Just because your neighbor's toddler was fully potty trained by 18 months doesn't mean your child will be, too. Instead of trying at a certain age, pick when to start potty training based on your toddler’s developmental readiness.
You might have to be patient and change a few more diapers, but when you start potty training when your child is ready, it’ll go much more smoothly. Help prepare them for success by stocking your bathroom with child-friendly supplies they can use themselves.
Put easy-to-use cleansing wipes near the toilet to help them wipe, and keep some gentle soap, like Mustela Gentle Soap with Cold Cream Nutri-Protective, at the sink to promote independence in the bathroom.
Happy potty training!