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Toilet Learning for Toddlers

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Toileting (or using the potty) is one of the most basic physical needs of young children. It is also one of the most difficult topics of communication among parents, child care providers, and health care professionals when asked to determine the “right” age a child should be able to successfully and consistently use the toilet.


Most agree that the methods used to potty train can have major emotional effects on children. The entire processfrom diapering infants to teaching toddlers and preschoolers about using the toiletshould be a positive one. Often, and for many reasons, toilet learning becomes an unnecessary struggle for control between adults and children. Many families feel pressured to potty train children by age two because of strict child care program policies, the overall inconvenience of diapering, or urging from their pediatricians, early childhood columnists, researchers, other family members, friends, etc.


The fact is that the ability to control bladder and bowel functions is as individual as each child. Some two-year-olds are fully potty trained, and some are not. But those that aren’t should not be made to feel bad about it. There are also many cultural differences in handling potty training, therefore it is important that families and program staff sensitively and effectively communicate regarding these issues.


The purpose of toilet learning is to help children gain control of their body functions. If a child is ready, the process can provide a sense of success and achievement. Here are some helpful hints on determining when young children are ready to begin the potty training process and suggestions on how to positively achieve that task.


Ready, set, go!

Children are most likely ready to begin toilet learning when they:

Become a cheerleader

Have a plan

Successfully learning to use the potty is a major accomplishment for young children, and patience and praise from the adults who care for them is an extremely important component to their healthy emotional and physical development. Each child will individually provide signals as to when he or she ready to make that leap. Good communication, appropriate expectations, and a consistent plan on the part of parents and caregivers make it easier to support this process and is the surest route to success.


Reprinted with permission from National Association for the Education of Young Children.