Learning to use the toilet

Learning to use the toilet or potty is a big step for a toddler and it can be difficult to learn. Parents can become anxious about toilet training and often become concerned if it doesn’t go smoothly. Some toddlers learn quickly while other need lots of gentle support and encouragement from their parents. Most toilet training problems can be avoided if parents start when their toddler is ready to learn.

When should I start toilet training my toddler?

When your child starts to tell you their nappy is wet or soiled, it’s time to think about toilet training. This is usually between 18 months and 3 years. Start by gently sitting your child on the toilet using a seat attachment especially for children. Give yourself two full weeks at home while your child is getting used to recognising the feeling of needing to use the toilet. Be proud of them even if there are a few accidents!

How do I start toilet training?

When your toddler shows signs of being ready set aside a few weeks and prepare yourself for the likelihood of some ‘accidents’! Teach your toddler words needed for toilet training, such as wet, dry, wee and poo. Use words you are comfortable with.

Toilet training process

  1. Choose either a potty or a special toilet seat attachment
  2. Make sure your toddler is wearing clothing that is easy to get off and on and easy to wash, such as training pants
  3. Watch for signs that your toddler is about to do a wee or a poo (facial expression, stopping still for a moment) and guide him/her to the potty or toilet.
  4. Praise the times he /she makes it on time and praise the attempts that don’t make it e.g. ``well done for trying, it was great how you got your pants down on your own, I am so proud of you for sitting on the toilet’’
  5. Expect accidents, remember to tell them its okay, and even if you feel disappointed or frustrated, do not show it. Change and clean your child and let them know they can try again.
  6. If you find you are getting annoyed or even feeling like your toddler isn’t trying, leave it for a while and try starting again in a few days or a week. Punishment does not help with toilet training.

My child won’t toilet train

Do not start toilet training at a time when your toddler is adjusting to change e.g. the arrival of a new brother or sister, moving house or starting childcare. Explain it is okay if they do not want to use the toilet but they will need to wear a nappy and if they change their mind they can use the toilet. Most times children will decide to start using the toilet again after a short period of time. 

Start only when your toddler is showing signs of being ready and not because you as the parent are being pressured by others to start toddler toilet training too early.


  • Some parents choose to begin toilet training by starting their child on a potty.  However keep in mind it gives the child one more step to master before they get used to the toilet.  It also means you will need to take your ‘potty’ with you everywhere while your child is toilet training.
  • If you choose a toilet seat attachment make sure the toilet area is safe – keep household cleaners, deodorants and toiletries out of reach  
  • Toilet training is often easier in warm weather because there is less clothing to remove. You may even let your toddler go without pants or a nappy some of the time.       
Download Tip Sheet
image description

Need More help?

Was this useful?

or Donate now