How to start potty training

Your guide to successful potty training

With this guide on how to start potty training, the process can be easier, less messy and less stressful for you and your child in our 5 easy steps.

Work through these 5 easy steps to build confidence and establish good potty training habits.


You can start preparing to potty train from around 18 months, when your child is ready to take some simple direction and instructions. Your child may be reaching key milestones such as learning to walk, and learning to communicate, and may be showing an interest in being independent.

StartingPottyTrainingAt this first stage of potty training, a child is learning to understand when they have done a wee, and how they recognise the difference between wet and dry. You will need to help them with this, as nappies make it very hard for them to feel the difference.

Potty training is also a learned experience (like learning to brush your teeth). So the very first stage is to teach your child a good routine, and set in place the habits and expectations that will help you successfully
potty train.

A good routine is very important. Talk your child through the routine. Take them to the loo with you.  Get them practising sitting on the potty (even if it’s wearing a nappy). Read an example of a good potty training routine.



It is important to try and recognise when your child is showing the signs of readiness for potty training. Catching them at the right time can make it easier for you and your child.

There is good reason to suggest that the optimum time is around the age of two and that training later or earlier can significantly extend the time it takes. In addition a child’s bladder is also starting to mature at around this age and toilet training itself helps to teach the bladder to develop and hold on.

As children get older, they can become dependent on nappies because they find it more convenient to let a parent clear up the mess than have their play disrupted to go to the toilet. Wearing a nappy becomes a portable potty!
The question we are asked most by parents is “How do I know if my child is ready?” you don’t need to tick all the boxes, so look for the general signs, and good engagement in the routine.

It might be as good to ask if you are ready too as potty training does require you to teach your child how to do it. That takes effort, but you will reap the benefits of investing time in the early stages. There is no magic cure that requires no intervention from Mum and Dad!

Don’t be tempted to put it off, delaying when your child is showing some interest can make it much harder later on, as they will have learned to keep on using the nappy, or just lost interest.



nappyWhen you decide to GO FOR IT! Take the nappy off and do not be tempted to put it back on. It can confuse your child when they are just starting out, and it can also make them believe that they have a choice.

At this stage you are only taking the nappy off in the day. Night time potty training comes later.

If the leap is too great, use Dry Like Me pads to help to capture the mess and remove the temptation to put the nappy back on. Remember you can’t potty train in a nappy, therefore you must make the leap into their own pants.
Toilet training is all about learning to hold on, and to listen to your body’s signals, it’s not an easy skill to master, and can be stressful for children too.

Accidents are a key part of learning, your child may not have felt the difference between wet and dry in their nappy. The only way they can learn is through trial and error, which will mean lots of accidents in the early days.
Young children can only feel that they need the toilet when their bladder is about 3⁄4 full, and therefore accidents are large and there is less time to react. They will get better at predicting and holding on as their bladder and their brains connect and mature.

Lots of praise and rewards in the early stages are essential, and will help teach your child to learn the right toilet training behaviours. We recommend instant rewards that are small and inexpensive for maximum impact.

Try not to get frustrated, if they don’t appear to be succeeding, focus praise on effort in trying and the parts of potty training that are going well, such as washing hands. Aim your frustration at the naughty wee or poo, and get your child to join in. It will help re assert what is expected next time, and that they are not to blame.



This stage is all about potty training in the real world, when the spotlight has come off the first couple of weeks of intensive training, and the distractions of every day life are all around.

This is the time when you are most likely to think things are not working, and be tempted to put a nappy back on.

At this stage your child is:

  • Learning to hold on for longer, and telling you when they need to go in advance.
  • Being motivated to go without the need for constant rewards and without being reminded.
  • Learning to listen to their bodies when distracted by play.
  • Having the confidence to ask to go to the toilet when they are away from their own home, or at school or nursery.

Look out for signs that your child is tired, as this is a common time for accidents, and give them gentle reminders and extra encouragement. Remember they will forget to listen to their body when they are tired, they are unlikely to be doing it on purpose.

At the end of this stage you are looking for your child to be able to recognise they need the toilet, and if it is urgent or not. They will be saying… “I need a wee” and to be able to identify if they can hold on or not.



Once you have mastered day time potty training, you are ready to tackle night time potty training.

night time potty trainingLook out for plenty of dry nappies in the morning as a sign that they are learning to hold on through the night.

Buy the right kit, accidents at night are exhausting for everyone, so make sure you are prepared. Protect the bed with a waterproof bed mat. Make sure there are fresh pyjamas nearby.

Keep your child in clothing that will be easy to pull down or up to do a wee.

Make sure the potty is by the bed or easily accessible and well lit. Some children are frightened to get up and go to the toilet at night.

Night time potty training is about listening to your body when you are very tired and sleepy, learning to hold on for even longer stretches (maybe up to 12 hours).

Bedwetting is a common problem, and may not resolve until your child is around seven. This is because the bladder is still maturing. If you suspect this is the case talk to your health professional.

For more information read our night time potty training guide here.