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Top tips for toilet training

You’ll know better than anyone else when your child’s ready for toilet training. Here are our top ten tips for making the process as easy as possible for everyone:

  1. As often as possible, change nappies in the toilet or bathroom area and keep the potty (if you’re using one) next to the toilet so children make the association
  2. Make sure your child is wearing clothes they can pull up and down easily so they become more independent
  3. If your child is dry for an hour and a half, it’s a good sign that they’re ready for toilet training. You can check this by putting your child in a nappy as usual, but without any other bottoms over the top. Tuck a rolled up piece of kitchen towel into the nappy with the end sticking out and notice when it becomes wet. Make a note of the time,so that you get an idea of their routine, replace with a dry piece of kitchen towel and repeat over a few hours.
  4. Put your child in underwear so that they get to recognise what being wet feels like
  5. When your child is sitting on the toilet, check if they feel comfortable and safe. You may need a step or child’s toilet seat for them, as this will also help them when going for a poo
  6. Give your child time without wearing their nappy – it’s much easier for a child to wee or poo in a nappy than it is for them to use the potty or toilet, so if they’re wearing a nappy all the time they’ll want to use it
  7. When changing a soiled nappy, put formed poos down the toilet, showing your child that the toilet is where they go. Then let them flush
  8. Let your child see close family members using the toilet so they know what it’s for
  9. Encourage handwashing after nappy changes to develop a toileting routine
  10. Use a ‘toilet toy’ – something your child can play with, but only when sitting on the potty or toilet (make sure it can be easily cleaned!) A song or story book can have the same effect, helping children to associate the potty or toilet with feeling happy and relaxed
  11. Following some situations, such as the birth of a sibling or a house move, your child may go back a few steps in their toilet training journey. This is very common, so remain calm and support them in using the potty or toilet again.

Rewards you can try to encourage your child to use the toilet

There are all sorts of ingenious ideas you can try to make children want to use the toilet instead of wearing nappies. Here’s a selection:

Toddler sitting on potty

  • Put a few drops of food colouring in the cistern of the toilet. It will definitely make flushing more exciting
  • Placing ping pong balls in the toilet or Cheerios in the toilet bowl will help little boys to stand to wee (and improve their aim!)
  • A sticker chart and lots of verbal praise
  • Reward jar: pop in a marble, coin or piece of pasta every time your child remembers to use the toilet, with the promise of a reward when it’s full. Do ask your child what they would like as their reward but huge expensive presents are not necessary, just a story or time with you is special.
  • Story CDs children can listen to while sitting on the potty or toilet. You can even buy singing potties!

A few more things you might want to try…

Encourage your child to blow bubbles or try to inflate a balloon while they’re sitting on the toilet – it uses the same muscles you need when weeing and pooing, so will help them get used to the sensation. If they’re constipated, you may want to encourage rocking on the floor before sitting on the toilet (you could sing ‘Row, row, row your boat…’). This will help to get things moving. If you find your child is too impatient to sit on the toilet or potty for long, try reading them a short story or playing for a few minutes. Don’t make them sit for too long, as this may make them uncomfortable and they will be less likely to want to try again.

Remember, your health visiting team will be happy to support you if your child is finding toilet training a challenge.

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Page last reviewed: 28-06-2023

Next review due: 28-06-2026