Toilet training is something that every child must go through. Some children pick it up almost straight away and are toilet trained in a matter of days, others, and probably the majority of the population, need a bit more assistance in forming the habit. It is here that good and unfortunately sometimes bad habits can creep in based on what we do as parents. It is often the small details in what we say or do that makes the biggest difference between success and challenges.
From the beginning when you bring your precious bundle home from the hospital you should start communicating with them. Teaching them, talking about everything around them. The power of repetition will be absorbed and your child will start to take it all in. This is an equally important technique to use when toilet training your child. For example, explaining the difference between wet and dry is a useful tool when beginning to toilet train so they know and can feel the difference with a tangible action.
Every child is different, with different learning curves and individual personalities. You need to adapt your techniques and methods to suit your child to achieve the best results. You need to decide what age you want to start toilet training your child. With some children this is really obvious and they let you know they are ready, based on telling you their nappy is dirty, removing their soiled nappy, etc. In most situations though it is up to you to decide if you are ready as a parent to begin this task.
To get the best results with toilet training, introduce the toilet/potty as early as possible, preferably before the age of two so they can start becoming familiar with this new object. This will help minimize health problems associated with late training, and assist in speeding up the toilet training process.
Most importantly, have fun and keep it positive. Understand that accidents are a normal part of this process. Your child is not punishing you or doing it on purpose. Just like you wouldn’t expect your child to stand up and walk for the first time and not stumble, or jump on a bike and not fall. Toilet training is no different to any other new skill your child is learning. And of course, children learn so much better when they are enjoying themselves, so make it fun!
The Hints & Tips are broken down into the following four categories:
Day Time Training
- Say "Let's go to the toilet" rather than ask the question "Do you want to go?". This gives them the option to say "No", and the only way out is then force, which you don't want to do.
- Always stay positive when communicating... don't shout or get angry. Children respond much better in a happy and positive environment. Even showing your disappointment with accidents can affect a sensitive child.
- If removing the nappy, get your child to say good bye to their nappy and a big hello to their "new big girl/boy" underpants. This gives them a greater understanding of what is happening.
- Praise every attempt when your child uses a toilet/potty. Get really excited when they actually do a wee or a poo. Show them how proud you are of them. Don’t ever get upset or angry if they don’t go.
- Where possible show your child with actions as this helps with their understanding. Example, If there is a solid accident for instance, tell them this belongs in the toilet and go and place it there. Show them and get them to say it as well.
- Wash your child’s hands after every toilet/potty visit. Learning the rituals required for proper hygiene is an essential part of toileting.
- It might be easier for you and your child to try a pump liquid soap, as it is much easier to control and handle (rather than chasing a cake of soap around the basin). This is considered more hygienic as well, as solid soap can harbour bacteria being left wet, etc.
- Be familiar with your own child’s routine. Each child is different so this will help you understand the key times to be aware of.
- Take your child to regular toilet visits during the day, especially at key times, i.e. waking up & after feeds. Be diligent with this, even after they have started using the toilet successfully. Often accidents occur because we slacken off in this area.
- Set a timer to prompt you and your child to go to the toilet based on their routine. Make a game of it. Let them know, "when you here the bell we need to race to the toilet and see who gets their first to go."
- Be aware that TV and toys can cause mishaps because your child doesn’t want to leave what they are doing. Make sure you stop them to go.
- Lose the nappy during waking hours. This is the best and quickest way to get the job done. Try and have your child out of nappies as much as possible. This will help get an understanding of the sensation if an accident occurs.
- Dress your child in clothing easy to pull up and down. This will make it easier to use the toilet/potty during the day.
- Accidents do happen, so be prepared for this. Explain to your child where they are to go to the toilet and get them to explain it back to you and show you several times throughout the day.
- Take your child shopping to buy their "own special big boy/girl underpants". Get them excited about wearing the same clothes as Mummy and Daddy.
- Make everything as fun as possible…. In your actions, your words and especially your tone of voice… kids know!
- If it can be made into a game, then make it one. Kids respond so much better to something that’s fun.
- Provide a healthy, well-balanced diet for your child with lots of fruit and vegetables. Toileting problems such as constipation can result in other challenges when it comes to toilet training. If your child sees you eating well, then this can also help them.
- Let them watch an older sibling use the toilet, or mum and dad. "Monkey see, monkey do" is a very successful training method. A hands on approach is the best way to teach your child "how to go to the toilet" even from the beginning as to "what a toilet is used for".
Leaving the House
- Explain – "We are going for a car ride/bus/train, where there are no toilets so let’s go to our toilet/potty before we leave home". (Make it fun; ask your child if mummy or daddy has toilets in their car? Get them to think about it themselves.)
- Offer regular toilet/potty stops while out so you’re not stuck needing to go in a hurry in a situation where you are then too far away from an accessible toilet.
- Make going to the toilet before you leave the house a set rule for your child, and explain this to them. Children respond to boundaries really well and by making this a rule, it removes any need for discussion when each time comes, saving time. They just know that this is what you do.
- Take anti bacterial wipes with you in case the public toilet does not supply soap.
- When using public toilets, be aware of what your child touches. (Play a game of "keep your hands in the air") Many germs can be collected at a mandatory toilet stop.
- If your child does not like washing their hands with soap after using the toilet, play a game with it like, "Guess what colour the soap is at this toilet?"
- Take your child to the toilet/potty just before you travel and as soon as you arrive at your destination.
- Be prepared. Take spare clothes, wipes, and plastic bags with you if you’re leaving home without a nappy.
- Have a spare potty in the car for emergencies.
Early Potty Training
- Be consistent with your communication. Keep the words you use the same throughout when speaking to your child. For Example, If you use "wee" or "poo" don't keep swapping the terminology to "number ones" and "number twos". This will cause confusion.
- Use sign language from the beginning with your baby to give them the ability to communicate to you even before they can talk.
- Continually talk your baby through the actions you are doing with them. Tell them it is time to sit on a potty. Explain wet and dry. Tell them they have done a wee, while praising them.
- As your baby gets older, place the potty to the side in your child's view so they can learn to indicate to you they need to use it. Tap the potty and place their hand on it in the beginning, and say "potty", to teach them.
- If using a potty or similar container, place a piece of toilet paper in the bottom. This soaks up wee and makes it very simple to remove poo into the toilet afterwards.
- Spray the potty with some form of antiseptic or disinfectant after use.
- Always wash your hands.
- Wash your baby's hands after they use the potty to teach them hygiene early. Explain to them what you are doing and why.
- Record your baby's toilet routine to effect more accurate timing with placing your baby on the potty.
- Download FREE Toilet Routine Chart
- Routinely place your baby on the potty at key times during the day eg. After a feed, when they first wake up, Before a Bath, etc.
- Watch for your baby's signals and place your baby on the potty when they indicate to you they need to go. This can be very subtle; you need to study your baby to know their method of communication.
- Have a your child's favourite toy or book ready to keep their interest when placed on the potty.
- Show lots of excitement when your child is using the potty. Clap hands, squeal, laugh, jump up and down, make the excitement contagious so they know the potty is a fun place to be.
- Sit behind the potty and place your baby on from behind with their back leaning against your chest, holding onto their legs. It is easier to control placement this way versus placing from the front with your baby facing you.
- For a baby without head control, while sitting, place a pot or bowl between your legs, with your baby's back against your chest, holding onto their legs and supporting their head.
- If you can fit, sit behind your baby on the toilet seat with your baby's back against your stomach, supporting their head if required.