There is a lot of age variation in toddler readiness for toilet training, as every child is different and will learn at his/her own pace. Toilet training methods and techniques also vary between households and there is no perfect method, other than the one that best suits you and your child. Kiddies often love moving on from nappies and for some little ones, it heralds joining the ranks of the ‘big kids’. So, have some fun with your little one during this time of change and development.
There is no set age for when toilet training should start; the best time to begin training is when your child is showing readiness signs. Many children start to show signs of readiness between 18 to 24 months of age, but some may not be ready until 30 months or even later and this is not cause for concern.
Starting before 18 months of age is not advised generally, as children before this time have limited control over their bladder or bowel and so cannot recognise the urge to go to the toilet. Premature toilet training may even lead to more accidents and this could make the training a negative experience.
Readiness for toilet training means physical, mental and emotional readiness. When your toddler is showing some of the signs listed below, take heed as it’s probably time to start thinking about training. A child who is ready for toilet training is more likely to get through the process smoothly and faster compared with a child who is not ready.
Some physical signs of readiness include that your child
Some mental signs of readiness include that your child
Some emotional signs of readiness include that your child
If you have any concerns that your child is not developing ‘age-appropriate‘ self-toileting skills during his/her toilet training time, be sure to discuss this with your child’s maternal and child health nurse or GP.
The time it takes to toilet train a child varies. Some children may get the hang of it quickly, but others may need your patience and support. The average time taken for achievement of daytime toilet training falls between three to six months but for a child who is really ready, training may only take a few days.
Most children achieve control of their bowels and bladder by three to four years of age. However, even after your child achieves daytime dryness, it may take months or years before they can achieve the same success during the night. Most children are able to stay dry at night after five years.
Added to this, your child might have not have mastered the art of wiping their bottom and getting themselves properly cleaned until after the age of five years.
When it comes to using either a toilet or a potty, the choice is up to you (and perhaps your toddler) and some parents decide to use both. Involving your child in as many decisions as possible will help them participate.
Using a toilet during the training can be useful because it means that your child will not have to do anymore transitioning (as they learn right from the beginning) and there’s minimal cleaning required.
If your toddler is going to use the toilet, you’ll need a smaller seat (training seat) that can be attached to the existing toilet seat and sits firmly, so your little one will feel secure and not be afraid of falling into the toilet. As it may initially be hard for your child to reach the toilet seat, you will also need a sturdy platform at the toilet base (e.g. footstool) so they can climb up and down easily. Training seats attached to little ‘ladders’ could also be purchased at baby supply stores and can be useful as both the steps and seat are attached.
Some children find potties less daunting than a toilet. They are also transportable and convenient as you can put them somewhere they can be seen clearly and accessed easily. However, a child who uses a potty exclusively may become afraid to use a toilet, which can make going out difficult. So you may need to take it out with you if your child is not used to using a toilet. This is why some parents encourage their child to use a combination of both.
If you decide to buy a potty make sure it is sturdy, easy to clean and above all comfortable for your little one. It’s also a good idea to put a towel underneath the potty to minimise the mess. It will help if the potty is in a place chosen by your child and is then kept in a consistent spot so your little one can find it easily.
Take your child to the toilet or potty until they can use it themselves, or at least be on hand and check them regularly, rather than letting them go alone. Some boys may not yet have balance and may fall forward when standing to go to the toilet. If this is an issue with your son, place some padding (e.g. cot mattress) in front of the toilet so if he does fall, he will not be hurt.
Keep household cleaners, deodorants, toiletries and medications out of reach.
Most toddlers do not have the skills to wipe their bottom properly, so you will need to do this with them until they can get it right. Be sure you teach your child how to wipe correctly including how much toilet paper is enough (approximately four-five pieces). Girls should wipe thoroughly from front to back to prevent bringing germs from the rectum to the vagina. Boys should shake their penis after urinating to get rid of any drops.
Teach your child from the very beginning how to wash their hands thoroughly with warm water and soap, even if they haven’t done anything. It’s an important habit because any contact with the toilet or potty can spread germs.
Your little one may have mastered toileting and then appear to go backwards. Don’t get discouraged – this is perfectly normal. Setbacks and accidents might be trigged by life events or changes in routine, such as a new baby brother or sister, moving houses or an illness. Setbacks can also occur if toilet training starts too soon or your child feels overwhelmed by pressure from you.
If your little one gets upset because of an accident, reassure them that it doesn’t matter and there is no need to worry. Asking them gentle questions about what has happened is enough acknowledgement to restore their feeling of security.
If your child is resisting toileting or isn’t getting the hang of within a few weeks, take a break and try again in a few months.
Tips to help avoid accidents
When your child has mastered toilet training during the day, work towards being dry at night. There is a difference between staying dry during the day and night time dryness. During the day, your child will have control of their bladder, but at night the bladder is out of their conscious control. Children will become dry at night when their body develops and matures and becomes better at storing urine overnight or they learn to wake up on their own and go to the toilet. For this reason, night time dryness is difficult to achieve through the same process as daytime training.
When will night dryness be achieved?
Night time dryness can vary from child to child. Some children can become dry at night within a few weeks or months of being trained during the day but it can take longer for others. It’s not usual for children to be between three and five years old before they achieve night time dryness. Some may continue to have accidents between six and nine. A good indicator of achieving night time dryness is an increase in the number of mornings your little one wakes up dry.
What are the signs of readiness for night time training?
If your child wakes up continually with a wet nappy in the morning, then they’re not ready to stop wearing nappies during the night. Your child will just wet the bed if you remove the nappies when they’re not ready.
How do we begin night time training?
Things to avoid with night time toilet training
Problems staying dry at night
Sometimes children continue to wet the bed for other reasons. If problems with bedwetting continue, you and your child may need some help. Discuss these issues with your maternal and child health nurse, GP or paediatrician
Most childcare centres or care providers will follow the routine you prefer for toilet training.Some childcare centres may require your child to be toilet trained for enrolment due to the staff and facilities available. Don’t see this as a threat but perhaps think of it as an incentive for your little one to cooperate in the toilet training process.
When your little one is being toilet trained, there is no reason to restrict the amount of fluid he/she drinks throughout the day or in the evening. Good fluid intake (e.g. water and milk) will keep your little one hydrated and prevent constipation.
By the time your toddler starts toilet training, you will be well aware of his/her bowel motions and urine output (i.e. their stool appearance and frequency). However, keep an eye out for possible problems, including:
If you feel there might be a problem, it is best to discuss these concerns with your child’s maternal and child health nurse, GP or paediatrician.
For more advice and information:
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