When to start potty training

When is the Right Time to Begin Potty Training?

When you start to think about potty training you might also be thinking “how did this moment arrive so fast?” You’ve been through the incredible journey of pregnancy and childbirth, you’ve got through the worst of the sleepless nights, you’ve experienced the joys of first words and first steps, yet there is no room for sentimentality: you’re on the brink of another important developmental milestone.

Potty training can sometimes feel like a daunting task for both parent and child, but, in all likelihood, you both already have all the tools you need. Just stay calm, be patient and compassionate and you will get there – undue pressure is not going to help anyone at this stage and each parent’s and child’s journey to using a potty will be different

Let your child lead the way

Most parents in the UK will start potty training their child at between two and two-and-a-half years old, although every child will develop at a different rate. Luckily, however, your child will give you various clues that they might be ready. It is far better to follow these hints, and to let your child take the lead, than it is to pressure them before they are ready, which may ultimately end up making things take longer.

This can be hard if you’re feeling under pressure – particularly if your little one is about to start nursery and has been asked to potty train in advance – but the evidence is clear: rushing things is not in anyone’s best interests. Besides, under the Equality Act 2010 and Children and Families Act 2014, schools and nurseries have a statutory duty to support all children, including those who might be a little slower or less able to successfully potty train.

7 signs your child may be ready for potty training

You will hopefully feel that your child is developing the self awareness and self-regulation skills that are essential if they are to begin potty training. These may include:

  • They clutch at their nappy when they need to go to the toilet.
  • They are increasingly likely to remain dry for longer periods during the day.
  • They frequently “hide” in an inconspicuous place when they need a poo.
  • They sometimes wake from a nap with a dry nappy.
  • They tell you they are about to wee or poo, or tell you as they are doing so.
  • They ask you if they can use the potty or toilet.
  • They may try to remove their dirty nappy or ask you to do it for them.

Getting things ready for potty training

The best way to introduce your child to the idea of potty training is to slowly give them the language and the tools they will need.

This begins at nappy change time. Talking with them about their nappies and about their wee and poo will mean they soon develop a whole new area of expertise. It can help to give them small tasks such as flushing the loo, putting dirty nappy bags in the bin and washing their hands. It may help to change them in the same location you will be potty training as this can help them to associate going to the toilet with that particular room. All these things can make a difference; confidence comes in small steps.

You can also begin to familiarise your child with the potty by leaving it out for their observation and questions. Tell them what is for and how to use it – even better, if the child has an older sibling or you know another child who uses a potty, let then demonstrate and your child can learn by example. You can also bring them into the bathroom with you when you use the toilet because young children want to copy the things you do. You may also wish to use dolls or teddies to role-play going to the toilet. Humans have evolved to learn through play and potty training is no different.

Before you begin, you can let your little one experiment with sitting on the potty once you have changed a nappy, particularly first thing in the morning or in the evening before bed. You may also wish to try reading picture books that can support them on the potty training journey – there are many good ones available from your local library or bookshop.

Is it the right time for you and rest of the family?

In the short-term, your child’s readiness to potty train might not be the only consideration. For example, you don’t want to begin the process at a time when you are moving home, under particular stress or experiencing disruption in your life.

Furthermore, you may find it easier to start in the spring or summer months, when your child will be more comfortable wearing less clothing and when it will be easier to dry laundry outside – thereby preventing unpleasant pile ups of wet and soiled clothes – and also, if it works for you, take potty training out into the garden or onto a balcony. Every child and every family will be different.


The question of when to start potty training is entirely up to you and your child. Be patient, wait for the right moment and eventually things will begin to move forward.

Read our Top Tips for Potty Training if you feel your child is ready to take the next step.