Ready, Set, Potty Train: When Should You Potty Train Your Child?

By Tracy Wright
Child getting potty trained

So — you’ve made it through the newborn phase sleep struggles and may feel like you’re finally in a settled place as a parent. But now it’s time to potty train your child, which can be a very grueling time for parents. The fact is, every kid is so different when it comes to potty training. And there are methods that have been proven to work better than others.

Is Your Child Ready?

First off, you need to figure out if your child is actually ready to potty train. Every kid is ready at their own time, and you can’t expect your kid to be on your, or another child’s, schedule. My daughter was ready at 2.5 years old, but my son wasn’t ready until he was closer to 3. And I know that they say gender is a factor, but anecdotally I have seen it vary wildly.

Mayo Clinic suggests assessing your child on these factors

  • Can your child walk to and sit on a toilet?
  • Can your child pull down his or her pants and pull them up again?
  • Can your child stay dry for up to two hours?
  • Can your child understand and follow basic directions?
  • Can your child communicate when they need to go?
  • Does your child seem interested in using the toilet or wearing “big-kid” underwear?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, your child may be ready. There are certain methods that will help you with potty training, according to Mayo Clinic. First off, be positive about potty use with your child and be consistent with your language. What language are you going to use — potty, toilet, bathroom? Whatever you say, stay on the same note.

Ways to Train

Once you decide to train, you need to be consistent. “Establish a routine. For example, you may want to begin by having your child sit on the potty after waking with a dry diaper, or 45 minutes to an hour after drinking lots of liquids. Only put your child on the potty for a few minutes a couple of times a day, and let your child get up if [they want] to,” according to Nemours KidsHealth.

If you notice normal cues of potty breaks, like squirming or crossing legs, immediately bring them to the bathroom or potty chair, according to Nemours.

“Have your child sit on the potty chair or toilet without a diaper for a few minutes at two-hour intervals, as well as first thing in the morning and right after naps. Stay with your child and read a book together or play with a toy while [they sit]. Allow your child to get up if [they want]. Even if your child simply sits there, offer praise for trying — and remind your child that [they] can try again later,” according to Mayo Clinic.

Potty Training Tips

Have your child sit on the potty within 15 to 30 minutes after meals to take advantage of the body’s natural tendency to have a bowel movement after eating, the gastro-colic reflex, according to Nemours KidsHealth.

Even if kids don’t always go, it’s important to reward your child’s accomplishments, big or small. Having a reward system can help with little and big wins. And remember that accidents always happen! A nice book or video with encouragement may be good too for kids. (I know Elmo’s potty video helped my kids and certainly entertained us!)

You can opt to use one of two ways to potty train as far as the logistics — either a stand-alone potty chair or a potty ring that can be placed on the toilet with a step up to allow your child to sit on the toilet. Usually when your child has to go “#2” or poop, having a stool where your child can put their feet down is ideal, according to Nemours.

Nemours also advises that boys begin to potty train sitting down as that may be easier, even if they will end up using the toilet standing up.

Potty Training Boot Camp

When my kids were ready, we did a potty training boot camp over a long weekend.

Usually over the course of three days, the boot camp is designed to be a time where you stay home almost the whole time and allow your child to sit on the potty (toilet or potty seat) consistently, generally at least once an hour. It’s typical for them to wear actual underwear so that they don’t feel like they can go in a diaper or pull-up. If your child indicates they need to go more often that, you should follow their lead.

This has proven to work well for many families, and if you are interested, visit

Potty Training Babies

Due to the quality of our disposable diapers and babies feeling drier and more comfortable, toddlers have begun potty training toddler much later. In 1947, 60% of children were trained at 18 months, said BabyCenter.

While potty training typically begins in the toddler stage, a new form of potty training — elimination communication — has begun for infants. According to BabyCenter, “elimination communication, also known as infant potty training, is the practice of introducing your baby to the toilet or potty at a very early age – usually between birth and four months old.”

Elimination communication entails parents closely evaluating your babies’ signs of needing to go to the bathroom — time, diet, fussiness — and then taking them to the toilet. Experts also advise making a consistent noise while their children are relieving themselves to make it a pattern for babies, according to BabyCenter.

While elimination communication may be advantageous in later years, experts warn it’s very time intensive and not always successful.

Of course, all parents wanting to potty train their child and needing assistance should consult with their pediatrician.

But those interested in the method can check out this resource:

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