Time for your tot to tackle toilet training? Signs that she’s ready to ditch diapers

Are you done with diapers but wondering if your toddler is ready to make that giant developmental leap from the changing table to the potty chair? When it comes to potty training, timing may not be everything, but its a lot.

As with other major milestones, from first steps to first words, your little one is programmed to master the skills hell need to become a potty pro according to his own developmental schedule. Most tots are ready to get the potty party started somewhere between 20 and 30 months, with the majority ticking off the potty trained box by 2 to 3 1/2 years old. But the only timeline that matters is your toddlers, which may signal readiness earlier or later than average. Let your little one set the potty pace that’s right for him, and you’ll save time, stress and extra laundry. Meanwhile, be on the lookout for these signals of potty-training readiness.

Fewer wet diapers. If your tot can stay dry for a couple of hours at a stretch, often wakes up dry from naps and sometimes has a dry diaper in the morning, shes physically able to control her bladder, a key factor for potty-training success.

Play-by-play. It might be a grunt, a grimace or a proud announcement that a poop is in progress. If your child uses a regular signal to broadcast his pees and poops, he’s aware of his bodily functions and up to practicing on the potty.

Disdain for dirty diapers. While your child used to be oblivious to sitting in a stinky diaper, at some point shell (probably) hate it. Turning up her nose at her smelly bottom or demanding a dry diaper is another sign she’s ready to rock the potty.

Speedy stripping. Being able to yank those pants down or pull up that skirt in a hurry is key to potty success. If your sweetie’s able to disrobe with relative ease when nature calls, that’s a strong sign of potty-training readiness.

Potty talk. If your tot can communicate key potty terms pee, poop, wet, dry, go potty and so on, that’s another signal that its time to jump on board the potty express.

Bathroom curiosity. Is your youngster curious about how the pros (you, daddy, a friend) do it? Great. Let him follow his dad into the bathroom for a live demo. But make sure he masters seated peeing before letting him solo standing up!

Even if you’ve spied all seven signs of readiness, consider postponing potty training if the timings not right for you (work is crazy) or your toddler (she just started preschool or is fighting a cold).

Are all systems go? Go for it, but don’t expect too much too soon. It can take weeks or months to fully master the potty, and there will likely be bumps in the road (or puddles on the floor). Let your pupil set the pace rather than pushing your own. Cheer on success, be cool about setbacks, and whatever you do, go with the flow. If you meet resistance, you might be applying too much pressure, or there might be something else going on in your child’s life. In that case, give potty training a rest before you try again. Remember, you can lead a toddler to the potty, but you can’t make him poop.


Fun ways to get your toddler ready to potty train

Toddlers love control and make-believe, so combine them in your potty prep. Give your tot a doll (a wetting one is perfect) or a teddy to train using a potty chair.

Using the simplest terms, explain how what we eat and drink ends up as pee and poop. Then guide your child’s finger in an imaginary line from her mouth to her belly to the parts of her body that get rid of waste.


Efficient, hygienic wiping is an essential part of potty training. Have a chat about technique (wipe from front to back) then practice on a doll, demonstrating how much toilet paper to use (a square is too little, a wad is too much). Always remind your child to wash her hands.


A picture book is worth a thousand words, so help demystify the potty process by reading up on it together. Try reading your child such potty classics as Everybody Poops, Once Upon a Potty or What to Expect When You Use the Potty.


The toilets noise and rushing water can scare some little ones. Giving your tot the lowdown about how the toilet actually works can calm his fears about getting flushed away. This is also an opportunity to teach him about what does (and doesn’t) belong in the bowl. Make it fun: Do we flush pee? Yes! Poop? Yes! The dog? Grandma? Spaghetti? You get the picture.


Spend some time helping your little one practice pulling his pants down and up (at home, of course) till he’s got the moves down pat. Make it a fun challenge by using a stopwatch: Ready, set . . . pull!



Heidi Murkoff is the author of the best-selling What to Expect series, including What to Expect the Second Year. Go to whattoexpect.com for more of her pregnancy and parenting tips.