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Potty training tips

We share our top potty training tips as heard on BBC radio with essential advice on how to potty train your little one without the stress.
Potty training can turn into an incredibly stressful experience for both you and your baby not least because of the pressure its so easy to feel if your friends children have already learnt to nip off to the loo on their own accord. With this in mind we share our top tips for making potty training as fuss free as possible.

Take your time

To adults, potty training seems like the simplest thing in the world, however for a young infant its a hugely complicated task made up of lots of different actions that need to be remembered in order. Because of this, the key to successful potty training is to wait until your child is ready to cope with this step both on a physical and developmental level; this applies regardless of their age.

Signs of potty training readiness include:
  • Your baby stays dry for several hours at a time and starts to have reasonably regular bowel movements. This is a sign that they are gaining control over their elimination muscles which is a necessity for successful potty training.

  • Your baby begins to notice when they are wet or when they have a dirty nappy. They may show this by pulling at their nappy, showing signs of discomfort or signalling to you that its time for a change. This shows that they are starting to recognise how it feels to be wet or dirty.

  • Your baby squats, hides or grunts when they have a bowel movement. This is a good sign that they're beginning to associate the sensation of needing to go to the toilet with the action of doing it.

  • Your baby can understand and remember basic instructions and sequences of behaviour and has an attention span long enough to make it to the potty and remember what they need to do there.

  • Your baby has a basic understanding of the words your family uses for both going to the toilet and the various body parts involved.

  • Your baby has the hand and finger coordination skills to dress and undress themselves when wearing loose elasticated clothing.

Start slowly

Introducing your baby to the concept of potty training slowly can actually help to make the transition a little smoother as it removes any pressure and helps your little one to understand and remember what they need to do and why.
  • Start by shopping for a potty or two (it helps to have one upstairs and one downstairs just in case) with your baby. They're likely to feel much more interested in the potty if they helped to pick it out themselves.

  • Get your child used to being on the potty by sitting them on it (with nappy still on) at roughly the same time each day, ideally around the time they usually have a bowel movement. This will get them used to being on the potty before any of the hard work starts.

  • Next try some nappy free time. Sit your baby on the potty without the nappy and explain this is where they should go if they feel like they need the toilet. Showing your baby what the potty is used for can help them to make the association - you can do this by emptying the contents of his or her nappy into the potty each time they go.

  • As young infants have very short attention spans, when your baby first starts to use the potty you'll need to remind them to go at regular intervals. Taking the potty to your baby and getting them to use it is the first step in getting them dry.

  • After a while your baby will start to remember about going to the potty him or herself. You'll notice this as they'll begin to tell you when they need to go or may even go looking for the potty on their own - keep it in roughly the same place so that its always accessible.

  • Once your baby has learnt to use the potty unaided you're ready to move the potty to the bathroom and introduce the next step of using the 'grown up' toilet.
Choose the right time

Each day your child is learning and experiencing more about the world and they have so much to think about and do other than remember to go to the toilet. For this reason potty training works best when its integrated as part of your child's regular routine. Times of change, whether this be the arrival of a new baby, a house move or even teething, are best avoided as your baby already has so much to adapt to it simply adds another upheaval for your little one to deal with in one go.

Make potty training fun

To start with getting your child to sit on the potty for more than 5 seconds may be a chore. However, you can help capture their attention by making potty time fun. Why not choose a potty that changes colour or displays colourful pictures when it gets wet, have a special potty song or even place boats or flowers in the potty as targets. Getting your little one to want to sit and stay on the potty is half the battle!

Model potty training behaviour

In general, infants with older brothers and sisters learn to stay dry much faster than those without in all likelihood because they have someone to watch, learn from and copy. Even if you only have one child you can still model potty training behaviour by letting your little one see you and your partner use the bathroom. This will also help them to understand that going to the potty isn't something 'dirty' but a normal behaviour that everyone does, even mummy and daddy.

Give rewards

The idea of being a grown up boy or girl can be very appealing to some children and reward charts can work wonders with potty training. Draw up a chart and mark on a star each time your child uses the potty or tells you they need to go to the bathroom. You can start small with this rewarding any potty related behaviour and then extend it to a star for every dry day when your little one starts to get the hang of things. Once your baby gets a certain number of stars on the chart reward them with whatever works best.

Stay calm

Like it or not your toddler is unlikely to grasp potty training straight away and there will be accidents especially if you go straight to cloth pants. However, hard as it may be try not to get stressed by this. All children develop at a different rate and your little one will get the hang of things eventually. In the meantime try not to feel too anxious and let your tot take potty training in their stride.

If you're in the middle of potty training and have any questions or useful tips visit the AskBaby forums and share with other parents going through the same thing.

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How can I get my 3 yr old son to sit on the toilet or potty for a poo. he hides when he is doing one and says he isn't if I ask him. he goes to the toilet for wee ok sometimes without prompting and i don't want to put him back in training pant as he wees in these and i see this as a step backwards.
by mariepickering 4th Nov 2010, 8:40am
hiya my daughter is 18 mths old and i want to start to potty train her but she cant really talk just yet altho when she does talk the words are clear,

(she can say big words like peppa pig, dirty, disgusting, apple, casey, jake, and she can also say the usual words mum, dad, nan, etc, but we havent quite mastered a sentance as she can be lazy at times but she knows exactly what we are saying and what to do for example - when we saying are you coming out she goes to get her shoes and coat, she also knows the difference between naughty and good)

she tells me when she has wet or has a dirty nappy by either takeing her nappy off and bringing it to me or she goes in her nappy bag and brings me or her father a clean nappy,

* do you think she is ready to be potty trained??
* do you know any tips that will help me?
* how long do you think it will take me?
by Amyoaten1984 4th Oct 2010, 11:14am
my son is 1 he dosents want to sit . He knows its time . I shop candy if he going to the potty . He realizes when he is dirty / nasty he has never used the potty . Please help me what is the problem he or me ? All hes friend are going to the potty. He want to have diaper and say no no listen to me Joshua you must and later he want he is dad and again i must say no .
by VanessaAngela 12th Aug 2010, 10:47am
My daughter is 2, she sits in the potty only if you offer her a chocolate or else she doesn't want to sit. She knows very well what the potty is for because I have pretended that her dollies do some wee in it. She is very stubborn, I have tried sticker charts with her but she is not interested. She realizes when she is dirty but she has never used the potty. Please tell me what I can do to make her go to the potty without offering anything. I feel embarrassed because almost all her friends are going to the potty with no fuss.
by maneco 18th May 2010, 5:16pm
My son is nearly 2 and half years old and I am due to have my third child next month, so I hoped I could get him dry whilst I can. The only thing is everytime I sit him on the potty he stands straight up again and says "wee wee" I say he is right, wee wee goes in potty but he then gets stubborn and doesn't sit on the potty again.

What do I do, ?
by bexwicca 18th May 2010, 5:15pm
my baby will be two in a week we are struggling with the potty chair.... she will use it once ar twice a day with a bribe ( if you go potty i ll giv you money ) she loves putting the change in the piggy bank it ssings when it goes ...
by mackenziemommie 28th Jan 2010, 9:19am
i am jst wunderin is it true that boys r more lazyer then girl r at potty trainin. as loads of people tell me
by CDI 6th Dec 2009, 6:12pm
Hi, i have a son who is nearly three and like others i have read he will use the toilet/potty with no pants on but otherwise will wet himself although when he is with the child minder two days a week he will remain dry asking her for the toilet but as soon as he gets home he wets himself which is quite frustrating
by penny321 13th Aug 2009, 11:30am
my baby is 2 years old, i use to train her at the age of 7 months , she was getting used to it , just then we had to move and leave the potty behind. then we got her a new potty , but she was very resistant to sit
in it. she would scream and cry ,so that i had to let go. then after she was one year old i tried to make her sit on the toilet so she was ok with that, but she can't go alone to it, so i tried potty again after she was 2.
she is now used to it, but she doesn't know when her pee goes...... what can i do. i am very upset, everyone and my husband too blames me, that i can't teach her how to use a toilet. and now i am so depressed that i can't be good mom
by sruthy 13th Jul 2009, 9:09am
My son is 31mnth he has jst recently started going on his potty, for a number 1 he wont tell me when he wants 2 go he just does im trying 2 get him to tell me bt nothing has came of it yet as he jst seems 2 ignore me, allso he has been on his potty for a poo once and called out in disgust since then he has done a poo once on the floor and same happened as potty, now he wont consider going to potty for a poo though he still has a pee on it has any1 got any advice on how to solve any of these hiccups?
by pauline0206 24th Nov 2008, 9:38am