Potty training is an important milestone in a child’s life. But when exactly is a child ready to swap diapers for a (mini) toilet seat? The answer is both reassuring and confusing: whenever the child is ready and at his own pace.
Some children are potty-trained from 18 months; others may be closer to four years before they exhibit readiness. The key is not to attach a magic age for this milestone to occur. Instead, parents should look for signs that indicate a child is ready to be diaper free.
SIGNS OF POTTY READINESS
If you answer yes to all or some of these questions, your child may be ready to be toilet trained.
- Can your child control his bowels or bladder for a short period of time? Little ones usually reach this stage between two to three years old. Boys may sometimes take longer than girls to become potty ready.
- Is he able to verbalize or indicate his need for a bowel movement (poo) or the urge to urinate (pee)? Alternatively, can he tell you when his diapers are wet or soiled?
- Can he follow simple instructions?
- Does he show interest in using the toilet, just like mummy and daddy? Is he curious when you use the flush?
- Can your toddler pull his underpants up and down? He should also recognise the importance of hand-washing as he will have to complete this action following a trip to the toilet.
POTTY TRAINING TIPS
Choose the right time to potty train your child. For instance, don’t embark on it when there is a change in routine, for example, when you’re renovating your home, stressed out by a major project at work, or holidaying as a family abroad. These distractions may hinder a child’s potty training attempts.
Talk It Out
Explain what potty training is about. Show your child a pack of diapers and tell him that once the last diaper has been used, he can try and go without a diaper. By mentally preparing him, he will be better equipped to handle the situation when the time comes.
Say It With Books
There are many children’s books that introduce this topic through fun characters and entertaining stories. Check out libraries and bookshops for those that work for you. Pick books that are gender specific and ones featuring characters your child can identify with. In the lead-up to potty training, read aloud from these books and let your child observe the illustrations. You can even discuss the actions with your child to familiarize him with the proceedings of using the toilet.
Buy a potty chair or special adapter seat (also known as toilet trainer) that fits on top of your regular toilet seat. Many children prefer the potty chair as they can plant their legs on the floor, making them feel more secure. There are many models to choose from; features like ergonomic design and high backrest aim for maximum comfort. In the early stages of potty training, place the potty chair within your child’s sight, to ensure he becomes familiar with it and, more importantly, has easy access to it. Let him personalise the potty chair by putting his favourite stickers on it.
Let your child sit, fully clothed, on the potty chair. You can also encourage him to sit on it with his clothes off so he knows what the potty chair feels like against his skin.
Use the Potty
If your child has a bowel movement at a regular time every day (like after a meal, for example), watch for signs that he’s ready to have a poo. Encourage him to tell you if he needs to have a bowel movement, or else watch for familiar behavioural patterns. Some children like to go to a favourite corner of the room to poo in their diaper, others may scrunch up their face. When you think the time is right, lead your child to sit on the potty chair and explain what should be done.
Eat and Drink Right
To ensure minimal strain while he is on the potty, try and give your child a healthy amount of fibre in his diet. This can be in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables. Make sure he drinks water regularly too, so that he will feel the urge to urinate. Bring him to the potty every hour or so and encourage him to pee in it. After a few successful tries, he should be able to get the hang of it.
When your child manages to use the potty successfully, praise him for his effort. However, if nothing happens after five minutes of him sitting on the potty, don’t be impatient. Try again later. Don’t exert too much pressure on a child to use the potty if he resists. Perhaps he is not quite ready yet, in which case you can try again in a couple of days later or even weeks.
The Right Clothes
To ensure the potty-training experience goes as smoothly as possible, dress your child in clothes that are easy to put on and off. Buttons and zips aren’t the easiest for tiny hands to manage, so for boys, try shorts or trousers with an elasticized waist.
Potty training is a natural process. Be patient - so don’t try and rush it. Some children get the hang of it in a couple of days, others might take a month or more. If your child finds it easier to control his bowels than his bladder or vice versa, let him learn one process at a time.
In other cases, some children can go without diapers in the day, but need diapers when they go to sleep at night. Strategies for a diaper-free night include emptying his bladder before bedtime. In addition, parents may have to wake the child up once in the middle of the night to use the toilet. With repeated practice, your child should be able to lose those diapers — for good!