Do's and dont's of toilet training

Ditching the nappies and learning about the loo is a significant stage for any child, and a daunting time for parents! Take comfort from these simple do’s and don’ts of toilet training.


  • Look for signs of readiness in your child and start the toilet-training process at a time that is right for your family, not anyone else’s!
  • Start as you mean to continue: calm and relaxed.
  • Let your child observe you going to the bathroom and talk them through the process – wiping, flushing, washing hands etc. Children learn by copying others, so it’s handy we surrendered our rights to privacy back in the delivery suite.
  • Aim to start toilet training in the warmer months if you can, as this means less clothing to remove and more time outside (where accidents aren’t such an issue!)
  • Praise, praise and more praise. Praise your child when she tries (without success) and, of course, pile on the praise when she succeeds.
  • Use a motivational tool that suits your family – sticker charts, treat jars, the responsibility of toilet paper or hand soap selection at the supermarket … whatever appeals to your child. If it sounds a bit like bribery, think of it as positive reinforcement – a tool proven to encourage the use of the toilet.
  • Use training pants initially, and then underpants when your child seems ready.
  • Get excited about flushing the toilet. Make this your child’s special job – with the proviso that she can only flush if she has produced something to flush –if you get our drift.
  • Teach your child to wash her hands after going to the toilet. Explain that germs love to travel and empower your child to stop them in their tracks.
  • Keep a potty in the car for emergencies. Towels, spare clothing and plastic bags will no doubt come in handy too.
  • Keep a keen eye on your child’s diet, ensuring she is drinking plenty of water and eating high-fibre foods to keep things moving.



  • Don't scold or punish your child for having accidents. Stay positive –reassure your child that accidents happen, and be encouraging that next time she will be sure to make it to the toilet in time.
  • Don't force your child to sit on the toilet for long periods of time waiting for something to happen. Two to four minutes is plenty of time to wait for ‘action’, after that it is better to let your child go and play and then come back when they feel the urge later on.
  • Don't leave your child’s feet dangling when they sit on the toilet as this can sometimes hinder bowel movements. Instead, put a stool or wooden box in front of the toilet for your child to rest her feet on.
  • A stool can also be handy for reaching the basin to wash hands.
  • Don't get upset or panic if your child experiences regression after seemingly mastering the toilet. Regression is common if something new is happening, like starting kindy, moving house, or a new baby arriving. Stay calm and encourage your child that they will make it to the toilet next time.
  • Don't expect your child to stay dry through the night at the same time as they have mastered daytime dryness. Daytime control happens before nighttime control, with one in ten children still wetting their bed at age five.
  • Don't expect your child to graduate toilet training overnight. While some children get it all figured out in a week, others take longer. Be patient and stay consistent to your toilet-training programme. Don’t lose heart if the ‘misses’ outnumber the ‘hits’ for the first few days (or weeks!). All of a sudden, the stats will reverse and your child will have mastered the basics. 

Your child may be ready to start the toilet-training process when she:

  • Has words for urine and stool.
  • Knows when she has passed urine or a bowel motion and can articulate this. The second step, and the more useful one – she can tell you that she needs to do a wee or a poo, and can hold on long enough to make it to the toilet or potty.
  • Can follow simple instructions.
  • Can dress and undress herself, especially underwear and pants.
  • Has dry periods of at least two hours or is dry during naps. This shows that bladder muscles are developed enough to hold and control urine.
  • Dislikes having wet or dirty nappies.
  • Shows an interest in other people’s toileting habits.
  • Shows an interest in using the potty or toilet herself.


Under 5

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