Toilet Learning


Toilet training or learning, a topic that often provokes intense discussion among parents, is typically initiated when your child is between 2 years of age and completed by age four.  This will differ from child to child, and girls tend to train at a slightly younger age than boys.


Reaching this important milestone – the transition from diapers to using the bathroom – signals a new physical, intellectual and emotional maturity in your child.   The following are some tips to assist you and your child during the process.


Children Are Emotionally Prepared For Toilet Use When:

  • They tell you about the urge to urinate or have a bowel movement;
  • They are willing to urinate or have a bowel movement in the toilet, instead of in a diaper.


Children Are Physically Prepared To Use The Toilet When:

  • They can control their bladder (when they can hold enough fluid in)
  • They can control the sphincter (anal) muscles that hold in stool.


Signs Of Readiness For Toilet Learning

When the child:

  • stays dry for longer periods
  • recognizes and mentions wet or soiled diapers
  • uses words or gestures to communicate need to urinate or defecate 
  • demonstrates interest in the toilet
  • goes to the potty and sits on it
  • can pull own pants down.


Tips For Toilet Learning

  • Use the same words and routines for toilet training at home and in childcare.
  • Use potty chairs – they are less intimidating than toilets.
  • Make toilets feel safer with a special seat and/or secure stool or box under the feet for children sitting on the toilet.
  • Never force a child to use a potty; it only sets up a power struggle and negative feelings towards it. 
  • Encourage a child to sit for short periods and be sure to try at key times – ie., soon after meals, before naps and after waking up dry (once the child is comfortably awake). 
  • With growing success, start leaving off diapers for short periods. Allow the child to do this by himself or herself. Leave the potty in the same area for periodic use.
  • Don’t reward children with food or candy (it wrongly equates food with approval). 
  • Try removing diapers all day once the child gets the hang of things. Most children will stay dry during the day well before they can be out of diapers at night. 
  • Watching older siblings or parents use the toilet provides positive role modeling.
  • Praise the child for reaching the toilet on time, but don’t get angry if there’s an accident. Instead, reassure the child that "accidents do happen, and that they’re no big deal." 
  • In order to teach personal hygiene, always wash the child’s and your own hands after changing diapers or after toilet use.


 More information on toilet learning can be found on the Canadian Pediatric Society Web Site.



Canadian Pediatric Society  (




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