Potty training: frequently asked questions

Potty training is a major milestone but it can be a challenge. Here we’ve gathered information and tips to help you through to potty training success.

If you are thinking about potty training your child or have started to potty train them, you will no doubt have plenty of questions. From how to start potty training, what to do if there is a setback, to the most frequently asked question – when to start potty training?

When to start potty training?

Knowing when to start potty training can be tricky. Yet there is no set time to start.

Follow your baby’s lead and start potty training when they are showing signs they are ready (NHS Choices, 2017). Try not to compare them to others of a similar age as each child develops differently (Brazleton, 1999).

Your child will need to be physically ready to control their bladder and bowels for potty training. Them wanting to be clean and dry is a must for achieving potty training success.

Major physical or emotional upheavals can affect the success of potty training (Institute of Health Visiting, 2014). So try to time potty training for when things are calm and stable.

What age should I start potty training my little one?

Many parents start to consider potty training when their child is around two or two and a half years old (ERIC, 2010). Yet because there is no set age, it all comes down to whether you think your little one is showing signs they are ready to potty train (NHS Choices, 2017).

What are the signs my child is ready for potty training?

It can be hard to know if your child is ready to start potty training but they’ll probably start showing you signs of their readiness. Signs might include staying dry for longer, taking their nappy off if it’s wet or even telling you they need a wee (NHS Choices, 2017). Read our article five signs your child is ready for potty training.

How to start potty training?

If you think your child is showing signs of readiness, it’s time to get equipped and be prepared for potty training. Get started by putting out the potty or toilet training seat and explaining what happens next.

You can also start using toilet-related words around your toddler, such as pee or wee, poo or poop – whatever you say in your home. Whenever they do a pee or poo in their nappy, try to encourage their understanding of what happened and why (NHS Choices, 2017).

When to start potty training out and about?

There is no reason why you can’t potty train out and about from the start. You will just need to prepare a few things for potty training on the go. For how to do this, see our article about potty training out and about.

When to take a break from potty training?

If your child completely refuses to potty train, isn’t able to grasp the concept, or if potty training is a constant battle, you might need to put it on hold. Take a breather for a few weeks and then try again when they’re ready.

When should I start potty training at night?

It’s a good idea to wait until your child is reliably potty trained during the day before trying potty training at night (NHS Choices, 2017). It can take longer to potty train at night, with some children taking months or even years to be reliably dry at night.

What’s the difference between potty training a boy and a girl?

Potty training is essentially the same for boys and girls, with a few minor physical differences. In the beginning it’s usually easier to teach your boy to sit down to wee, while he masters the basics (ERIC, 2010).

After that, you can help him learn how to stand up and wee (ERIC, 2010). Read more top tips in our potty training tips for girls and potty training tips for boys articles.

This page was last reviewed in June 2018

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

You might find attending one of our Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

Brazelton TB, Christophersen ER, Frauman AC, Gorski PA, Poole JM, Stadtler AC, Wright CL.(1999) Instruction, timeliness and medical influences affecting toilet training. Paediatrics. 103:1353-1358. Available from: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/103/Supplement_3/1353 [Accessed 1st June 2018]

ERIC. (2010) Potty training. Education and resources for improving childhood continence. Available from: www.eric.org.uk [Accessed 1st June 2018]

Institute of Health Visiting. (2014) IHV Parent Tips. Available from: https://ihv.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/PT_Toilet-Training_V5-updated-link.pdf [Accessed 1st June 2018]

NHS Choices. (2017) How to potty train. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/potty-training-tips/  [Accessed 1st June 2018]

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