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Gina's Top Tips - When should I start potty training?

Parents frequently ask me what is the best age to start potty training. While all children are different, in my experience of working with hundreds of mothers and children, the majority are ready to be trained somewhere between the ages of 18 and 24 months. Before 18 months, very few children's muscles are developed enough for the bladder control necessary for potty training.

While we have all heard the stories from our mothers, aunties and grandmas, how in their day the baby was potty trained by the age of one year, the reality is that it was really the mother who was trained and not the baby. By sitting the baby on the potty at frequent times during the day she would, more often than not catch the urine or bowel movement. While this obviously saved her the laborious task of washing and sterilising the terry nappies used in those days, the baby could not be called potty trained in the true sense. I cannot stress too strongly that a toddler who is truly potty trained will recognise when he needs to pass urine or have a bowel movement and be capable of going to his potty, pulling down his own pants and using the potty before pulling his pants up again. Often a child may be aware when he needs to do a pee or a poo but if he has not learned to dress and undress himself potty training could prove very difficult.

Signs to watch for

Once your toddler reaches 18 months there are signs to watch for that he may be ready for Stage One of preparing for potty training. There are also certain levels of ability which your child should have reached to ensure successful potty training.

These important signs and levels of ability that will indicate if your child is ready to potty train are

  1. He is over 18 months of age.
  2. His nappy is frequently dry when you get him up from his lunchtime nap. A dry nappy a couple of hours since his last nappy change would also be an indication that he is getting some bladder control.
  3. He is aware when he is doing a poo, i.e. going very quiet and showing signs of concentration, or points to his nappy and says poo or pee pee when he has done one.
  4. He can understand and follow simple instructions, i.e. go and fetch your red ball or put your toy in the box.
  5. He is eager to participate in taking off his own clothes, i.e. shoes, socks and shorts, and understands what pulling his sorts up and down means.
  6. Can point to the different parts of his body when you name them, for example 'where's your tummy button?' or 'where's your nose?' etc.
  7. He has the ability to sit still and occupy himself or concentrate for five to ten minutes with a toy, book or watching a video.

If your child were not showing all of the signs listed above, I would not attempt Stage One. Even if his nappy is frequently dry after a couple of hours, it would be very difficult to train him if he was unable to sit still for more than a few minutes at a time, or does not obey simple requests. It would be advisable for him to work on his ability and wait for the right moment before attempting Stage One. Remember that the key to potty training quickly and successfully is to start when the child and parents are ready.

Taken from Potty Training in One Week by Gina Ford

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