When to start toilet training

Children are usually ready to start learning to use the toilet between about 20 months and three years old, but not all kids are ready at the same age. It’s different for each child depending on their individual development and whānau.

Signs your child is ready

  • Your child can feel when they are wet or dry, and will sometimes tell you.
  • Your child is starting to do things on their own without your help.
  • They feel like they want to wee and can hold on long enough to make it to the toilet.
Toilet training: a practical guide

Raising Children Network

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The Australian parenting website

Toilet training tips

Encourage your child and try to be positive, calm and patient during toilet training – it may take a while for your toddler to get it right.

Here are some tips to help you and your child with the process:

  • start with a calm, relaxed approach
  • try toilet training during summer because there are fewer clothes to remove (and it’s easier to dry the extra washing) 
  • introduce trainer pants or underpants when your child seems ready and help them become familiar with the potty or toilet
  • kids learn by copying others so if you’re comfortable, let your child watch whānau use the toilet
  • use a small box or stool so your child can reach the toilet, or use a smaller child toilet seat
  • take your child to the toilet at regular times. Give them enough time to try to go, but don’t leave them there for too long
  • praise your child for trying and again when they succeed. Reward them with hugs, claps, stories or a star chart
  • be prepared for when your little one doesn’t make it to the toilet in time, and don’t scold or punish them
  • teach your child to wash their hands properly after going to the toilet, wash for at least 20 seconds and then dry thoroughly.

Bed wetting

Often your toddler will be dry during the day but still need a nappy at night. It’s normal for your child to wet the bed until they are up to five years old – one in ten kids still wet the bed at this age. Being dry at night happens at different ages, and often bed-wetting at older ages runs in the family.

Toilet accidents

What to do if your child starts wetting or pooing their pants again

Your child may start to wee or poo their pants again – this is quite common, especially if there’s something new like a new baby in the house. If this happens it’s okay, here are some tips to help:

  • try to understand what caused it
  • change your child in a calm manner. This can be difficult, as it can be a stressful and frustrating time (see tips below to help you when your child is having trouble with toilet training)
  • remind your child to go to the toilet, as busy kids can forget
  • praise them when they go to the toilet
  • introduce fun things for when they use the toilet, like being allowed to choose the toilet paper at the shops or a star or sticker chart.

Help and support

Caring for yourself

It’s important for parents to practice self-care during this time. You may find it frustrating and stressful for you and your child during toilet training.

Your child may need to go back into nappies for a while, and that’s okay. They will learn to use the toilet when they are ready.

Here are some tips to help you when you find yourself getting frustrated with toilet training:

  • find support from others and talk to friends and whānau who have gone through the same experience with their child
  • plan what to do if your child has an accident and try to stay calm.

Support with toilet training

You may want to reach out to PlunketLine, your Plunket nurse or other Well Child provider, or your doctor if:

  • your child is struggling with toilet training
  • your child is very stressed about toilet training
  • toilet training doesn’t appear to be working despite multiple calm attempts.
Continence information - children

Continence NZ

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Continence NZ was established to provide a service to people with continence problems and provides information and education on continence topics.