The best time to teach your toddler to use the potty or toilet is of course when they’re ready, but some parents like to wait until summer to start the process. This is actually a great idea because it can make toilet learning a lot easier!
What are the advantages of starting toilet learning during summer?
Your toddler will be drinking more water to keep hydrated, so there will be plenty of opportunities to teach them to use the potty or toilet.
They can be naked or pant-less when they’re home (which most little ones love anyway!), so it eliminates the step of pulling clothing up and down, and you’re more likely to notice any gestures that they’re about to go.
Spend as much of their awake time playing outdoors if you have the space. That way there will be no need to clean carpets or couches. Take a potty out there, or show them how to do a ‘tree wee’ if you’re comfortable with that. All messes can be contained to the backyard, and simply hosed away.
All of the extra washing of clothing and bedding, which is to be expected, will dry a lot quicker in the summer as well!
Firstly, how do I know my child is ready to use the toilet/potty?
They don’t need to be following all of these signs of readiness, but this will give you a general idea of what to look for:
- They are interested in others using the toilet
- They can pull their pants up and down
- They tell you with words or gestures when they do a wee or poo in their nappy
- They’re becoming more independent (and probably saying ‘no’ a lot more!)
- They might have dry nappies for up to 2 hours
- They can walk
- They can sit for short periods of time
- They’re starting to dislike wearing a nappy, perhaps trying to take it off
- They have regular soft, formed bowel movements
- They can follow simple two-step instructions, such as ‘put teddy on the mat and give him a cup’
What are the top toilet learning essentials?
- Books about learning to use the toilet
- Cloth/disposable training pants/pull-ups
- Plenty of pairs of underwear
- Potty, or potties placed in different parts of the house (with one for outside)
- Child-sized toilet seat (with or without steps attached)
- Step or stool for washing hands
- Portable potty with liners for outings
- Child-sized travel toilet seat
- Waterproof sheet protector
- Wet/dry bag to collect wet clothing when you’re on the go
You can read about each product in more detail in our article 10 toddler toilet learning essentials
What are some tips to prepare my toddler for toilet/potty learning?
It’s a skill that needs to be taught, so here are some simple ways to set your toddler up for success:
- Let them see you and other trusted family members use the toilet, and chat about each step of the process.
- Ensure that everything they need is accessible for ease and to help promote independence.
- Keep it up outside the house with a portable potty or toilet seat.
- Become intune to their signals when they need to go.
- Let them try on some training pants once or twice a day so they understand the feeling of wetness.
- Encourage them to play with the potty. Sit a teddy or doll on it, going through all the steps of wiping, tipping out the potty in the toilet, washing and drying hands.
- Take them shopping to choose their own underwear. When they start toilet learning, offer them a choice between the underpants and pull-ups/training pants.
- Prepare for the piles of extra washing. It’s a learning process and they won’t get it perfect every time. Always have plenty of changes of clothing with you.
- Understand that it can take time for some children, so the last thing we want to do is rush them, shame them, or show frustration.
- Teach them words for going to the toilet, such as ‘wee’, ‘poo’, ‘potty’ (or you may prefer to use the correct clinical terms), and name the body parts (using anatomically-correct terms).
Read more in our article Toilet learning: a practical guide
What are some tips to get started with toilet/potty learning this summer?
- Start when you don’t have any big changes coming up, such as starting childcare, moving house, or going on holiday.
- You might choose to stay home for the first few days.
- When it’s warm or you’re in your yard, you might like to leave your child naked, pantless, or just in underwear.
- If you’d rather dress them or when you go out, put them in clothes they can easily pull up and down themselves (no buttons, zips etc).
- Refrain from demanding or coaxing your child to use the potty.
- When you notice your child signalling that they need to go to the potty, ask them calmly if they’d like to use it. If they say no, just leave it.
- Make it part of the routine. You might like to encourage them to go when you go to the toilet, or first thing in the morning and before a bath.
- If they sit on the toilet or potty but they don’t wee or poo, you can praise their efforts in the beginning (‘great effort using the potty’), but gradually reduce the praise.
- It’s best not to make them stay on the potty until they go. If they sense any type of pressure, they will potentially start to resist.
- If your child misses or doesn’t make it to the toilet, just clean it up without comments or fuss.
- Wipe your child’s bottom until they learn how (for girls, wipe front to back).
- There’s no need to bribe or reward your child to use the toilet, or even to make a big deal of it. Extrinsic rewards don’t work in the long-term, and they undermine a child’s abilities. Trust and respect your little one as they learn this new skill.