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Many mums and dads are keen to know when they can ditch the nappies and start potty training, not to mention how long it will take, but there aren’t any clear-cut answers. Clinical child psychologist Penney Hames says: “The longer you leave potty training, the easier it is. Eighteen months old is fine but two years is better still.” And it will be later than this for some toddlers, but that’s OK, too.

While parenting expert Gina Ford believes it can take as little as a week to potty train your child, others disagree. “It may take weeks, even months, for your child to master, but these early days lay the foundation for eventual success,” advises Alison Mackonochie, author of Pee, Poop and Potty Training. Even experts disagree and it does vary from child to child, but here are the signs to look out for that show your toddler may be ready for potty training, plus a few tips to get you started.

Your child’s ready to be potty trained if…

  • they’re able to tell you they’re wet
  • their nappy is dry after a nap, or between nappy changes
  • they knows when they’ve done a poo, go quiet or point and say “poo”
  • they can understand simple requests such as “get your shoes”
  • they’re eager to undress themself
  • they can sit still and occupy themself for five to 10 minutes.

Wait a bit longer if…

  • you’re having or have just had another baby
  • there are lots of changes happening i.e. you’re moving house, going on holiday, they’re starting a new nursery/have a new childminder
  • they’re having a wee every hour
  • they’ve just moved to a ‘big bed’.

First steps of potty training

  • Talk to them about what you’ve found when you change their nappy
  • Take them potty shopping, and get them to sit on it to make sure it ‘fits’
  • They need to understand that the potty is theirs, so let them draw or put stickers on it (as we have, above)
  • Buy a potty for each floor of the house, plus a travel potty
  • Keep one in the bathroom and get them to sit on it occasionally
  • Take your child with you when you go to the loo, and tell them what you’re doing.

What you need for potty training

  • Potties
  • Child’s toilet seat (some kids want to copy mum and sit on the loo)
  • Pants (in a larger size so they’re easy to pull up)
  • Step stool so they can reach the basin to wash their hands
  • Clothes that are easy to pull up; avoid buttons and belts
  • Training pants
  • Star chart to show progress (when your child is old enough to understand the concept).

Good luck!