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Potty Training Tips

toddler girl tossing cup

Many families have said, “I hope he’ll be potty trained by the time he goes to college!”

All kidding aside, potty training can be a stressful time for families and children—even though it doesn’t have to be!

  • What age to begin? There really isn’t a magical age when potty training can begin. A child who is “ready” to begin potty training depends on a variety of factors, least of which is age. Less than 25% of children are potty trained by 2 ½ years old, while more than 75% are potty trained by age 3 ½ years old. More important than age are developmental milestones, so look for the signs your child is ready.
  • Look for the signs. Signs for readiness include staying dry for at least two hours, recognizing that he is urinating or having a bowel movement, has developed the physical skills needed (like being able to pull up/down his pants), or has the ability with adaptations, if you child has a developmental delay, and can follow simple instructions. Most importantly, make sure he has an interest in and wants to use the potty.
  • Develop a language. What names will you use for going potty, urinating and bowel movements? If your child is in child care, are these the same names used by the provider? Keep the names for these simple, and be sure your child is able to tell you that he is ready. For children with developmental delays communication can occur in ways other than verbally, such as sign language, using picture cards, or a communication device. Visit your library to explore books for your child about potty training.
  • Get ready. Go to the store with your child to purchase a potty or a potty seat and pick a place in the bathroom to put the potty. Let your child sit on the potty or put their favorite baby or stuffed toy on the potty. Gather a few favorite books that you can read together while your child sits on the potty.
  • Be consistent and be patient. Learning a new skill takes time and accidents will happen along the way. Provide consistent times when he has an opportunity to use the potty. When he accomplishes something new, or even when he tries, let him know he’s doing a good job and you’re proud of him. When accidents happen, don’t get mad or angry—instead clean up and encourage him to use the potty next time.
  • Dress for success. Make sure your child is dressed for easy (and quick!) access to the potty. Lightweight pants with an elastic waist, and underwear or pull-ups that can easily be pulled down or up can make all the difference to success. Avoid dresses for girls that might get dipped into the potty or caught in hands when wiping, or tights (for girls) and denim jeans with a zippers for both boys and girls, as they can be difficult for a child to quickly do or undo.
  • Speaking of cleaning up… Make sure each potty session ends with a hand washing session! Use plenty of soap, work into a lather, and rinse well. When washing, make sure all the parts of the hands are washed–backs of hands, wrists, between fingers, and under fingernails.

Need help communicating with your child around bathroom issues? Check out Laying the Foundation for Communication!

Concerned about your child’s development?

Call Pennsylvania’s CONNECT Helpline at 1-800-692-7288 for information about your child’s development and connecting to Early Intervention services in Pennsylvania.

Call Child Care Works Helpline at 1-877-4-PA-KIDS (1-877-472-5437) for information about finding, paying for and other concerns related to child care.

Learn more about these Helplines