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The secrets of successful toilet training

Learning to use the toilet is an important part of growing up. The mastery of toilet skills takes patience and practice, but it is a wonderful feeling for your child and you when this important milestone is reached.

While most kids are ready around age 2, age is not the best indicator of readiness. Successful—and normal—toilet training can and does happen anywhere from age 18 months to 3 1/2 years old. Your child is ready when he or she:

  • tells you when he or she has to urinate or have a bowel movement
  • shows an interest in trying the toilet
  • stays dry for longer period
  • recognizes and mentions wet or soiled diapers
  • can pull down his or her own pants

Tips from the potty frontline

Ready? Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Use the same words and routines for toilet learning at home and in child care.
  • Have your child watch older siblings or parents use the toilet. Use potty chairs, which are more accessible than toilets.
  • Leave the potty in the same area.
  • If your child insists on using the “grown-up” toilet, make it easier to use with a special seat and/or secure a footstool under his or her feet.
  • Encourage a child to sit on the potty for short periods and try soon after meals, before baths, before naps and after waking up dry.
  • Never force a child to use a potty. Praise your child for success, but don’t lose your cool when there are accidents (and there will be). Instead, reassure him or her that accidents do happen.

Once your child has successfully used the potty a few times, start leaving off diapers for short periods. If he or she is staying dry most of the day, buy special “big-kid” underpants. Remember, accidents will still happen occasionally; most children will stay dry during the day well before they can be out of diapers at night.