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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?

Is potty training different for boys and girls?

Health visitor Kate Daymond thinks there might be a gender divide. “In my experience boys tend to be ready for potty training at two-and-a-half to three years old, while girls are ready around age two,” says Kate. There are many reasons why this might the case, but some people have suggested:

  • Supposed differences in the development of nerve connectors in boys and girls, which may affect whether they notice the ‘signals’ that it’s time to go
  • Differences in behaviour – some people say that boys are more likely to switch between activities, whereas girls may be more inclined to focus on one thing at a time (definitely not true for every child!)
  • Boys may see men standing up as well as sitting down to wee, which might make it look more complicated. The good news for them is that using a potty only involves sitting down.

Remember though, everybody is different, and while gender may play a part in potty training, it will always vary from child to child. There are lots of factors that can play a part in how quickly they’re ready and how long it takes for them to pick it up, too.

Is my toddler ready?

Regardless of gender, the most important thing is to wait until your toddler is really ready. The key signs to look out for 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 upstairs and one for downstairs – a potty needs to be within easy reach! Good spots are the living room, child’s bedroom or bathroom.
  • 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: Once your toddler is using the toilet adaptor, having somewhere to rest their feet is a real confidence booster.
  • 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?

Whether boys or girls, staying still can be a challenge. So to get your toddler onside and sitting comfortably…

  • 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’
  • invite them to choose their own potty or customise it with stickers
  • 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 they’ve done a wee, and others have images that fade when wet, helping them learn to stay dry.

Real Parents’ stories

Katie, mum to Isaac, 7 and Evie, 4

“My son Isaac was two and a half when we started potty training him. I was dreading it as I had heard that boys were hard to train so I went into it expecting the worst. We’d bought a couple of potties in preparation, a toilet seat and also a fun book called Pirate Pete’s Potty which had a push button that cheered each time ‘Pete’ did a wee or poo on the potty. We decided to start the potty training because we felt he was ready – he seemed to know when he was doing a wee or poo in his nappy and was receptive to the idea of using a big boy potty.

I expected it to take a long time, but I can hand on heart say that as soon as we took his nappy off, he got it straight away. Within three days he was done – with only one accident! Within a few weeks he was using the toilet seat and the potty was consigned to the loft. His sister however, was a different story all together – it took much longer and there was a lot more mopping up to do!”

Sarah, mum to Noah 9, and Harry 7

“With Noah, my first little boy, I decided to start potty training quite early as he was showing signs of being ready. He turned 2 at the end of November, but with my second baby due at the beginning of March I was not looking forward to having two kids in nappies. A lot of people said he was far too young at 2 – and they also told me boys are harder to potty train – so I was prepared for failure, but I was pretty motivated by the deadline I’d set.

It actually went really well. We planned to stay in a lot during the first couple of weeks, with him in loose, easy clothing and the potty always close at hand. He just got it really quickly, which I wasn’t expecting, and within a couple of weeks he had pretty much cracked it. Obviously we still had plenty of accidents, particularly when out and about, but all in all it was quick and relatively painless.

With Harry, my second boy, it was a completely different story. I never got the feeling he was ready, even at 2 and a half, and we waited until he was nearly 3 before starting. By contrast it was slow and very time-consuming, with every anxious outing ending with a plastic bag of soggy, pooey pants ready for a bucket full of Napisan. We got there in the end, but I can certainly say I had two very different experiences.”

Little one already potty trained? It can take a while for them to stay dry all through the night too. Read our ‘When will my potty-trained toddler be dry at night?’ feature to find out more.

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