Potty Training Guide


Toilet training (also known as "potty training") is an exciting time for parents and children, as the child takes the next step to becoming a "big" girl or boy.  While parents usually start this adventure filled with the anticipation of being able to cross "diapers" off the shopping list, their toddlers can make them wonder if this will ever happen.


Successful potty training requires a positive attitude and tons of patience.  More importantly, it requires cooperation and readiness on the part of the trainee.  Attempting to train a child who is not physically or emotionally mature will not only be unproductive, it will cause unnecessary stress.

Potty training a child who attends day care requires a team effort.  Parents and Providers should discuss and agree on the planned potty training process.  A consistent approach and common encouragement techniques can minimize confusion of a child during this time, and help to set the environment for a successful transition.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that between 18 and 24 months, children often begin to show signs of being ready to begin training.  Some children may not be ready until 30 months or older.  Since children under the age of 18 months have little to no control over their bladder or bowel movements, beginning before this time is not useful.


The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that between 18 and 24 months, children often begin to show signs of being ready to begin training.  Some children may not be ready until 30 months or older.  Since children under the age of 18 months have little to no control over their bladder or bowel movements, beginning before this time is not useful.


Some of the signs that indicate a child is ready to be trained are:

  • the child shows interest in using the toilet;
  • the child makes a face, changes her posture or tells you when she is about to urinate or have a bowel movement;
  • the child, typically, no longer has a bowel movement at night and/or wakes up with a dry diaper;
  • the child wants to be changed soon after soiling his diaper;
  • the child can speak well enough to communicate when she needs to use the potty;
  • the child can pull his pants down;
  • the child is able to imitate and model behaviour.


Steps to Potty Training


Step 1

Get Rid of the Diapers

Put on the underwear and be prepared for accidents!


Step 2

Drink Lots of Fluids

Give the child plenty of fluids to drink. The sooner she has to go potty, the sooner you can begin potty training.


Step 3

Go to the Potty

Ask the child if he needs to go potty. He might say no and that's OK.  Because you've given the child plenty of fluids, he will soon need to go.


If the child has an accident in his underwear, don't scold him.  You want this to be a positive experience.  Instead, take the child to the potty, pull his underwear down, and have the child sit down.  Do this ten times.  This builds muscle memory and your child will eventually go.  And don’t forget to keep up the positive reinforcement!


You can also have the child sit on the potty during times she is most likely to urinate or have a bowel movement, such as in the morning, before and after naps or after mealtimes.


Reading a book, talking, or singing songs will encourage the child to sit on the chair, longer.  Avoid trying to force the child to sit for long periods of time or against her will.


Don't be surprised if, after sitting on the potty without result, the child stands up and begins to urinate.  This is often perceived as stubbornness.  The fact is, the child may not have mastered the skill of relaxing his bladder muscles.  If this happens frequently, it may be a sign that he is not, yet, ready.


Step 4

Let the Celebration Begin!

When the child, successfully, goes potty, throw him a potty party, cheer, jump up and down – make a big deal of the success!


What should Parents and Providers discuss to help ensure a successful toilet training experience?


  • Potty chair or no potty chair.  Some children potty train using a kid-sized toilet.  Others prefer to sit on the regular toilet with a potty seat on top.  Parents should be sensitive to the needs of a child care Provider, who is most likely watching other kids as well and who must keep hygiene, cleanliness and practicality as considerations to the training process, as well.  While it is not insurmountable to have different systems, having the same rules and same equipment certainly can be helpful for a child’s mastery of this process. Parents may even consider purchasing a potty chair (if the provider agrees this is a good idea) for their child’s use while in care, that is identical to the one being used at home.

  • *Note: Parents are responsible to supply the Providers with potty training equipment i.e. seats, potty chairs, Pull-Ups, etc.

  • Diapers vs. Pull-Ups vs. underwear.  Opinions are varied about when and how long to use each of the above.  Some parents swear by Pull-Ups, especially the ones that can be opened on the sides.  Others prefer to bypass Pull-Ups altogether, and make the sole incentive as graduating from diapers into underwear.  The argument is not which way is better; it is getting agreement between parents and Providers on which route to take.

  • What should a potty training child wear at nap time?  Even a mostly-trained child may have accidents at nap time.  Opinions vary as to whether a child should wear a diaper or Pull-Up at naptime, or whether accidents should be allowed to happen to encourage a child to “feel” the outcome.  Parents should be understanding of their child’s nap time at a Provider’s home, as it is often difficult for Providers to deal with soiled sheets during a busy work day.  Parents and providers should agree on which route to take during nap time.

  • Dressing in practical clothing is a must.  Practical clothing is clothing that can be QUICKLY and easily pulled down by a child, independently, in time to avoid an accident.  Having hassle-free clothing is a key to a child’s self-confidence and independence during this process.  And, parents, don’t forget-- during this training time, please provide the caregiver with at least three sets of extra clothing and preferably, lots of underwear! Initially, a child may start to wet underwear on many occasions, and need to be changed.

  • Rewards and consequences.  This is a conversation that, absolutely, should occur so as to not confuse a child and cause regression in the toilet-training process.  How is a child rewarded for going potty?  Is a reward applied if a child tries?  Is a diaper put back on if a child refuses?  How are accidents handled?  One Provider praised a considerate mom for buying a huge supply of stickers, and for rewarding all the kids with one every time her child used the potty.  Talk about positive peer reinforcement!  The provider was more than happy to dole out the stickers, and was thankful that the parent understood that was an expense a Provider could not arrange to provide for every child.

  • Do not expect a Provider to add housekeeping chores to the schedule.  Providers lament that parents sometimes believe that a caregiver should launder a child’s clothing when accidents occur or other not-so-desirable tasks, during a child's potty-training transition.  Providers have a full day planned, and while they are more than happy to assist with potty training, reasonable expectations about extra effort should be made and should be clear on both sides.

  • Consider the timing.  In general, don't begin toilet training a child right after a big change such moving, divorce or remarriage, birth of a new sibling, a change in day care arrangements, or before a big holiday or event.  Also, be sure you're comfortable with sticking with a schedule and routine, once training begins.  Ideally, parents should start toilet training, when they have a few days in a row, where schedules are clear and time can be spent, at home, focusing on learning this new skill.

Other Tips for Parents


Training Pants

You may want to consider purchasing cotton training pants use (thick cotton underwear) for day time. Disposable training pants are convenient for outings, but cotton training pants will allow the child to be more aware of when they are urinating, encouraging them to use the potty instead. Plastic diaper covers will help protect your home from accidents.


Night time

Some children, simultaneously, learn to stay dry during the day and at night. For others, it can take several months, even a few years. Allowing your child to wear a diaper at night and at nap time until she begins to, consistently, wake up dry, will prevent feelings of shame and failure.



A new baby, changes in routine, family crisis or putting too much pressure on your child, can cause him to regress in the toilet-training department. Avoid making your child feel bad during this time and encourage him to keep trying.



Keep in mind that your child’s dynamic might change, depending on who she is with, or where she is at, particularly in a day care setting with a different adult and with other children in care.  Children may not want to leave what they are doing because they are enjoying themselves or they may have concerns about someone else "taking over" what they were playing.  Potty training may be super-smooth at home, but simultaneously, less successful at day care, due to the change in dynamics. This is no one's fault, but rather a fact to keep in mind.



Every child's body is different.  Some catch on quickly, while others take much longer to recognize the signals their body is sending them.  Lavish praise on your child when she is successful, and reassurance when she has an accident.


Avoid comparing your child's potty-training progress to that of another child's. Mastering the use of the toilet is not an indication of a child's intelligence.  It is dependent on their physical, physiological, and emotional maturity.  Have patience and eventually, your child will be a "big" boy or girl!



Compiled from the following sources:

Karen Bianchi at AwesomeMomsNetwork.com.

Robin McClure at childcare.about.com