A young child sitting on the toilet learning to potty train, looking at a book


Toilet training triumphs and troubles

  • Potty training can happen between 18 months and four years old.
  • Each child is different, and progress will vary. There is no “right” timeline.
  • Remember, accidents are normal.

While toilet training is an exciting and important developmental stage, it often comes with unique challenges.

Most developing children toilet train between the ages of 18 months to 4 years, but every child is different. Parents may feel pressure to start the toilet training process from daycare or schools. However, it’s important to begin when your child shows signs they’re ready.

Signs your child is ready

  • Stays dry for longer periods. At least two hours during the day or dry following naps or overnights.
  • Shows discomfort when the diaper is dirty. May ask to have it changed.
  • Can communicate about going to the bathroom and is able to follow simple instructions.
  • Has well established gross motor skills such as sitting, standing and walking.
  • Shows interest in the toilet, wants to become more independent and enjoys copying parents or older children.
  • Hides to poop (showing they’re aware of the need to go).

If your child seems ready, there are ways to make the process easier and more appealing. Remember, accidents are normal, and adults should express patience and reassurance.

Setting up for success

  • Offer a child-friendly potty or a toilet seat adaptor and training pants.
  • Your child’s feet should touch the floor or a footstool.
  • Schedule toilet time upon waking, 30 minutes after meals and before going to bed.
  • Don’t start the process during major changes, such as the birth of a sibling, a move or starting a new daycare.
  • Praise them or offer small rewards but don’t show too much excitement. Excessive celebrating can lead to stress and performance anxiety.

Just as there are signs that your child is ready, there are indicators that they aren’t quite ready to start toilet training.

Signs of potty training too early

Your child may have started potty training too early if he or she:

  • isn’t aware of their soiled diaper or does not keep their diaper dry for at least two hours
  • avoids peeing or pooping when not in diapers
  • is afraid or resistant to sit on the potty chair or toilet
  • has attempted training for five days without progress

When to see your pediatrician

Consider seeing a pediatrician if your child shows signs of discomfort, regression or reluctance, including:

  • lack of bowel movements for three days
  • pain or discomfort with bowel movements
  • urinating infrequently or too frequently with sudden urges
  • blood in urine or diaper
  • child has not been trained by age 4 or still wetting the bed at age five.

Some toilet training issues may be caused by underlying incontinence, constipation or other physical factors. Your pediatrician can refer you to a pediatric pelvic health specialist for testing and guidance.  


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