Toilet Training Tips and Tricks!

Toilet Training Tips and Tricks!

Toilet Training - When is the right time to start?

Everyone seems to have their own opinion and techniques as to the best way to toilet train a child. Working out what is best for your child is challenging! This blog will provide you some information to help you get started. If you require more individual advice, the Physiotherapists in our Children’s Continence Clinic will be happy to guide you through the pathway to toilet training.

Each child will be ready for toilet training in their own time. Certain nerve pathways between the bladder and the brain need to be functioning for a child to gain the ability to hold urine in their bladder until voluntary emptying (weeing). Generally speaking, most children are ready between 18 months and 2 years.

The usual sequence of gaining continence:

  • Your child has no poo in their night nappy
  • Your child can control poo when they are awake. You may notice they run and hide before doing poo or even ask for a nappy to be put on prior to pooing
  • They gain control of wee when awake. They begin to hold more urine in the bladder and increase the time intervals between wees
  • Finally, they control wee when asleep. The time to reach this step varies widely between children, but most have gained this by the age of 7.

Signs your child is ready:

  • They can follow instructions
  • They can tell you when they have wet or soiled their nappy. They may even say they don’t want to wear nappies 
  • They can pull their pants up and down
  • They can stay dry for a couple of hours or have a dry nappy after a daytime sleep.

Setting the scene…

Ideally you begin the process before your child is 2 years old. It should start with role modelling - watching you go to the toilet. This means leaving the door open, so they can see the sequence of events, then washing your hands, to teach them healthy habits around hygiene as well.

Familiarise them with the toilet, the paper, the flush button as well as the basin, taps and soap.

Have your child wear underwear underneath their nappy. They need to gain an understanding of wet versus dry. Nappies are made from ultra-absorbent materials and often this means your child can have difficulties feeling when they are wet. Wearing underwear can assist them to feel when their pants are wet.   

What do I need?

A toilet training seat with foot support - The toilet seems very high for a toddler and can even be slightly scary. Start them with a toilet seat insert with foot support. Using a potty can be difficult as you can’t take a potty with you all the time, so it’s best to get them used to a toilet. You can eventually transition to just a foot stool for them to step up onto and rest their feet on.

Underwear and change of clothes! You will need plenty on hand! Let them choose their new underwear to make it fun.  Your child can also help choose the toilet seat insert and stool, for example, have them select one in their favourite colour – little things like this help to make the process less daunting.

For boys, a ping pong ball or cork to aim at. Usually, you will start your boys off sitting, however when getting them used to standing having something they can focus on can help with correcting their aim – this means less clean up!

Developing skills:

The toilet seat insert needs to be comfortable and safe. You don’t want them feeling unstable and creating fear around falling in.

Practice dressing and undressing so they are independent in pulling their pants up and down.

Sequence of steps: Talk through the order of these with your child - pull down pants, sit down, wee/poo, wipe, stand up, pull up pants, flush and wash hands.

Standing versus sitting for boys: Sitting is often an easier place to start, but boys will watch other men and want to copy, it’s not a bad thing to have them practice standing, however if you feel they are not emptying fully, sitting is the best option to allow them to fully relax their pelvic floor muscles.

Make the toilet area a pleasant place to visit, maybe using charts or pictures and be aware that exhaust fans that may be scary for some children. Stay nearby to reassure them. Remember, we are trying to avoid any fear around toilet time.

Getting started with toilet training!

Here are a few points to help get you started with the process:

Pick a time when you can be around home for 2-3 days and start removing the daytime nappy for periods of time. Be ready with lots of pairs of undies and changes of clothes!

During the day, familiarise your child with the toilet and healthy toilet habits, as per above.

Be prepared - Make sure you have your toilet seat and foot stool ready to go, this is to avoid rushing to put things together when your child has expressed they need to go. Praising your child when successful is important. You can use a reward system such as a sticker chart.

Be patient – All children are unique in how they learn, and toilet training may be a long process. Reward the behaviour you want and try to never get angry. If it’s becoming too stressful, take a break and restart in a week.

Accidents will happen!

Accidents are part of the process, as they help our children identify that they need to go to the toilet. This won’t just happen in the early days, it’s common for accidents to re-occur. It can be frustrating, it’s important to remain calm, don’t create any shame or embarrassment and help your child understand that it is a part of learning.

To ensure that accidents are not major issues, put together an “accident pack” so cleaning up is easy. Make up little zip lock bags with wet wipes, tissues and a few pairs of underwear and shorts so changing is not a drama.

Stay tuned for more information regarding child continence throughout the month.

Julienne Moore
Associate Physiotherapist - Fitwise Physiotherapy
APA Titled Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist

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If you have a concern about your child’s continence, or you would like further advice, we offer assistance through our Children’s Continence Clinic. For more information or to book an appointment, please call our rooms on (03) 9822 4999.

Useful resources:

  1. Continence Foundation Australia
  2. Children’s Continence Clinic @ Fitwise Physiotherapy



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