Toilet training: boys & girls

  • Pick a day to start and commit to it. You may choose to begin toilet-training in the warmer months when your toddler will be lightly dressed. Try to choose a time when you can spend a couple of days at home.
  • Begin by withdrawing nappies while he’s awake and while you’re at home – it’s fairly unrealistic in the early days to take him out in the car, shopping or visiting friends without a nappy on. Once you’re both more confident, start taking him on short trips away from home without his nappy, but take spare clothes for the inevitable accident.
  • Make sure that she can quickly and easily get her clothes on and off. Avoid overalls as they will slow her down – and when she needs to go to the toilet, she’ll need to get there quickly! You may prefer to let her run around in her underpants only
  • Encourage him to sit on the toilet regularly. By this age, many children are doing regular poos so you may like to take advantage of this and sit him on the potty then. If, however, he resists and insists that he doesn’t need to go to the toilet, don’t force him.
  • The old trick of running water really does work, so if she’s hopping on and off the toilet unsure whether she wants to go, try slightly turning on a tap so you can hear a gentle trickling and encourage her to sit for a couple more minutes.
  • Make sure he’s drinking plenty of water and eating fibre-rich food, both of which will make the ‘going’ easy and regular
  • Be attentive – once you’ve tuned into her, you may start to see the signs that your child needs to go to the toilet before she does.
  • Be lavish in your praise when he gets it right – he’ll be excited and you should be too!
  • Never get cross. If she’s wetting his pants more often than she’s getting to the toilet, don’t be negative. Instead she needs encouragement and you may have to re-think your toilet-training strategies.
  • Ask him if he needs to go to the toilet throughout the day – but don’t bug him with it as he may just start tuning you out. Suggesting that he go to the toilet before you leave the house, before and straight after his nap are logical times to ask, too.
  • If she’s still sitting on the toilet after five minutes, chances are that there’s nothing’s happening so get her off!
  • You may find that if he’s frightened of doing a poo in the potty or toilet (and many children are), he may wait until you’ve put a nappy on him at bedtime to do his poo. While this is OK in the short-term, once he’s really bladder toilet-trained you may like to try having story-time in the bathroom while he sits on the toilet before bed.
  • Leave teaching her how to wipe her bottom until she’s fully toilet-trained – under the age of 3 years, she’ll only do a bad job (if he does it at all!)
  • Show him how to wash his hands properly.
  • The bathroom can get pretty stinky with all the little misses, so keep a bottle of disinfectant handy and give the toilet and the surrounding floor a quick clean each day.


The key is to not push your child. Relax and let nature take its course – for some, toilet-training can take weeks or even months. Always be encouraging and just quietly persist.

This article was written by Ella Walsh for Kidspot. Sources include SA Government’s Parenting and Child Health, Raising Children Network

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