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Girl sitting on potty

When it comes to potty training your toddler, does having a boy or a girl affect your approach? Health visitor Kate Daymond thinks there really is a gender divide…

Is potty training different for boys and girls?

Yes, boys tend to be ready for potty training at two-and-a-half to three years old, while girls are ready around age two. This is because:

  • The development of the nerves that control the muscles needed to hold on to a wee, or know when to do a poo, is directly related to a toddler’s readiness for potty training. Boys’ nerve connections appear to occur later than girls’ do.
  • Boys have to get used to two methods of going to the loo: sitting and standing. Whereas girls just have to learn to sit.
  • If the main carer of a small child is female, this might make girls more open to the idea of potty training and using the loo. After all, they’ve got a role model right there!

Is my toddler ready?

The most important thing is to wait until your toddler is really ready. The key signs to look out are:

  • showing an interest in the loo or potty
  • noticing when you’re going to the loo
  • knowing when a wee or poo is on its way
  • having the words for wee and poo
  • having long periods with a dry nappy.

What equipment do I need?

Potties: Two if possible, one for the sitting room and one for the bathroom, because a potty needs to be within easy reach!
Toddler-sized toilet seat adaptor: Very handy once your little one is ready for the loo, especially for those who fear falling in (a common worry!).
Step stool: Having somewhere secure to rest the feet is a confidence booster for toddlers.
Portable toddler loo seat (or portable potty): Useful away from home, but not essential.
Toddler toilet wipes: Preferably flushable ones, as this can be a messy old business…

How can I motivate my toddler?

Girls may be happy to sit on the potty, but some boys find it hard to stay still. So to get your little one onside…

  • give loads of praise and attention, and don’t get stressed or cross when the inevitable accidents happen
  • share stories or sing songs while your toddler ‘sits’
  • pop a sticker chart next to the loo to motivate them. When the chart’s full, give a little treat such as a trip to the swimming pool.

Training pants

Pull-up nappies or training pants can be useful as a halfway house between nappies and knickers, and are very handy when travelling or at night-time. Some provide a wet sensation so your toddler can tell when she’s done a wee, and others have images that fade when wet, helping her learn to stay dry.