10 signs your child is ready for potty training

It’s potty time! Or is it? Here’s how to know when your child is ready to ditch the diapers and some top tips for potty-training success.

how to potty train

Most parents of young children dream of the day they’ll finally be able to say sayonara to stinky diapers. But when the reality of potty training hits in all its messy glory, those same parents often end up wishing they could keep their little one in diapers until college. Here are some of the most common signs that your child is ready to go potty and some tips to make the process as smooth as possible.

10 signs your child is ready 

Some children show signs of being ready to use the potty around the age of two or even earlier, while others aren’t interested until two-and-a-half or three. Girls tend to be ready before boys and to get the hang of it quicker, but every child is different. The best way to know if your wee one is ready to pee-pee in the potty is to look for the following signs.

  1. Your child can stay dry for about two hours
  2. Your child sometimes wakes up dry from a nap
  3. Your child dislikes wet or dirty diapers and may pull at them
  4. Your child shows they’re aware of their bodily functions by announcing they’re going in their diaper or grunting
  5. Your child hides to pee or poop
  6. Your child shows an interest in using the potty or toilet, which may include watching or copying others who are using the toilet
  7. Your child is able to sit down on and get back up from a potty or toilet on their own
  8. Your child is able to pull their pants and pull-up or underwear down and up on their own
  9. Your child can understand and follow basic instructions
  10. Your child can communicate when they need to go to the toilet by using words like “pee”, “poop” or other words used in your family

Top tips for potty-training success

When both you and your child are ready to tackle the task, here’s what you should do.

  1. Get the equipment out: Place the potty in plain sight in the bathroom. We love the BABYBJÖRN Smart Pottyand the BABYBJÖRN Potty Chair. Or you might prefer an insert like the BABYBJÖRN Potty Training Seat that goes on your regular toilet seat paired with a step stool to help your toddler climb up. The BABYBJÖRN’s Safe Step is a great choice. Show your child their new potty and speak about it in a fun and positive way. Encourage them to sit on it and read them a book or tell them a story.
  2. Buy the appropriate clothes and underwear: For the first couple of weeks, it’s a good idea to use disposable pull-ups to reduce the risk of accidents. Once your child is successfully using the potty and their pull-ups are mostly dry, you can switch to underwear. You should also ensure that your child can easily pull their pants up and down, so choose elastic waistbands instead of buttons or snaps.
  3. Let them spend time naked: Diaper-free time will help your child recognize when they need to pee and give them the freedom to run to the potty when the urge strikes without having to worry about taking off their clothes.
  4. Watch for signs they need to go: If you notice your child squirming or fidgeting, gently ask them if they need to use the potty. If they don’t make it in time, have them sit down on the potty to “see if there’s any more pee left”, which will help to reinforce the pee-potty association.
  5. Reward successes: Praise your child whenever they tell you they need to go – even if they don’t make it. When they successfully use the potty, tell them how proud you are and offer a small reward such as a sticker on a reward chart or a small trinket. Once they become more comfortable with the potty, phase out rewards so they don’t become dependent on them.
  6. Avoid scolding, shaming, nagging or forcing: Reprimanding or shaming your child when they have accidents won’t help them learn any faster and may even cause them to avoid using the potty. And while it’s fine to encourage them to sit on the potty several times a day, keep it fun and don’t force them to sit there if they don’t want to.
  7. Don’t limit water: While it may seem logical to limit your child’s water intake so they don’t need to go as often, this option is neither healthy nor effective.
  8. Know when to take a break: If your child keeps resisting the potty, take a break for a couple of weeks before trying again. Your child may simply not be ready yet.
  9. Teach boys to sit before standing: Standing up to pee is a hard skill to master, so start by teaching your boy to sit down to pee and poop. When he’s ready, show him how to pee standing up by pointing his penis into the toilet and aiming for the water. You may also want to teach him about putting the seat down when he’s finished!
  10. Talk about hygiene: Girls should be taught to wipe gently from the front to the back to avoid spreading bacteria from the rectum to the vagina. Both boys and girls should wash their hands with soap and water every time they use the toilet.
  11. Be prepared when you leave the house: Try to limit outings in the first few days of toilet training, and then start with short trips to the store or park. Get your child to use the potty before you leave and watch them carefully for signs they need to go while you’re out. Bring plenty of baby wipes, spare clothes and pull-ups or underwear in case they have an accident. If they make it home dry, praise them or offer them a reward.
  12. Be patient: It can take several weeks or even months for some children to be fully toilet trained, especially when it comes to number two. At first, many children hold in their poop until they can do it in their diaper at naptime or bedtime, so try not to get discouraged if it feels like one step forward, two steps back in the first few weeks. You’ll get there!