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Baby & child.

4 August 2021

Potty training guide

If you're thinking about tackling the messy milestone of potty training, arm yourself with the information you need to help your little one ditch nappies.
Rebecca Marcus
Child sitting on potty and playing with toys

Teaching your child how to use a potty is a process that requires time and patience. It's a new skill for your child to learn, so it may take a while for them to get the hang of it.

Find out how you can best support them and what you can do to help make potty training a fun, exciting stage for your child.

Go to our reviews to compare the best disposable nappies.

When to start potty training

Toddler wearing nappy

Most children show signs of readiness between the ages of 18 months and three years old, depending on their individual needs and development patterns. 

There can be a lot of peer pressure surrounding when to start potty training but it’s important not to force your child to start using a potty until they’re ready.  If you try to start potty training too early, the process can be drawn out and difficult for both you and your child.

Look out for the following signs to help you to decide whether your child is ready to begin potty training:

  • Can recognise when they've got a wet or dirty nappy
  • Can stay dry for at least an hour
  • Can verbalise or otherwise signal that they need to go to the toilet

Potty training tips

Woman smiling at child

Following the tips below will help to make the potty-training process as smooth as possible for you and your child.

  • Give gentle positive reinforcement when they use the potty. You may want to consider using a sticker chart
  • Deal with accidents calmly and offer reassurance to reduce any feelings of anxiety around using the potty
  • Make it a fun experience by using potty training activity books, or letting them personalise their potty with stickers
  • Avoid potty training during times of significant change or stress (such as moving house or introducing a new baby sibling)

Common potty-training issues

Child sitting on potty

Some children may take a little time to get used to a potty. It can sometimes be worth having a break from potty training and trying again a few weeks later, though you should avoid stopping and starting potty training too often as this can cause confusion.  

My child has accidents

There are bound to be a few accidents here and there while your child adjusts to using the potty. It's important not to respond negatively, as this may discourage and distress your child.

You could try using potty training pants which are less absorbent than nappies, making it easier for your child to tell when they’re wet.  

My child doesn’t want to use the potty

Toddlers can be wary of leaving the comfort zone of nappies and moving to a potty.

You can help them overcome this by encouraging them to see it as a fun experience. For example, allowing them to pick out a potty of their choosing can create positive connotations and give them a sense of ownership over the process. You can also make up games, songs, and rewards to help them develop confidence using their potty.    

My child was potty trained but is now having accidents again

It's not completely uncommon for seemingly fully potty-trained children to regress a bit and start having accidents. As with the initial stage of potty training, it’s important to remain positive and supportive to help build their confidence up again.

There may be emotional reasons, such as disruptions in routine. It could also indicate a medical issue such as a bladder infection or diabetes. Ask your GP for advice if the problem persists.  

My child doesn’t want to use public toilets

Using the toilet is already a new concept to your child, so applying this outside of the home can be a daunting prospect.

You can try and get your child used to the idea by taking them to visit new toilets without using them. It can also be helpful to let them bring their own travel potty for some familiarity.  

Potty training products

Potties

Blue potty

Allowing your child to choose which potty they want can be a good way to motivate them.

You can buy a basic potty for around £5, with prices going up to around £40 for potties that look more like mini-toilets, with extra features such as sound effects and toilet roll holders.

When choosing a potty, consider the size, how easy it is to clean, and whether it’s comfortable for your child.

Travel potties

JoJo Maman Bebe My carry potty

Travel potties, which usually cost £20-£30, are handy for when you’re out and about with your child. 

Most have a foldable design with a leak-proof seal that you empty down the toilet when full. Look for something that’s light, easy to carry and small enough to fit in the boot of your car.

Toilet training seats

Toilet training seat

A training seat is a toddler-size toilet seat that sits on top of your toilet. They usually cost between £5 and £15.

Using a training seat allows you to skip the potty stage altogether and take your child straight to the toilet. It’s important to make sure the seat is stable on the toilet and comfortable for your child. It’s also helpful to have a bathroom footstool to help them reach the big toilet. 

Some training seats have legs that flip down, allowing them to be converted to standalone travel potties. You can attach a disposable bag ready to use on the go.

Pull-up pants and training pants

Pull-up pants are disposable nappy pants designed to look like normal underwear. They’re more absorbent than normal pants, but less absorbent than nappies.

Pull-up pants can be handy when your child is transitioning away from nappies, especially during night-time potty training, which typically takes longer. However, there’s a risk that your child will regard them as nappies, making the potty-training process more drawn out.

Training pants are reusable cotton pants with a waterproof outer layer. They’re less absorbent than pull ups, but still offer some protection from accidents. They're also more economical than pull ups as you can wash and reuse them.

Potty training reward charts and activity books

Sticker chart

Potty training reward charts and activity books can help your child to feel excited about learning to use the potty.

You can buy potty training reward charts for just a few pounds, or you could try making one at home. There are also lots of free, printable charts available online. 

Potty training activity books typically cost around £5. They can help demystify the process and encourage children to see it as an enjoyable activity rather than a chore.