When is the best time to start potty training? This is one of the biggest questions of early parenting. Perhaps your child is starting preschool and they require that potty training is complete prior to enrollment. Or, maybe, all the children in your local playgroup have begun, so you think it’s time for your toddler too. 

You shouldn't feel outside pressure and just go with the flow (so to speak). Typically, children show signs of potty training readiness anywhere from 18 to 24 months. What's most important to keep in mind is that every child is different, so they'll be ready at their own pace. 

The real secret of successful potty training is waiting until your child shows signs of readiness that suggest interest in toilet training. Pamela Torres, a Texas mother of a two-and-a-half-year-old son who is currently potty training says, “Do not push it. Wait until they show signs of being ready and only use positive reinforcement; never punish.” To see if your child is ready to begin, take the Pull-Ups® potty readiness quiz: https://www.pull-ups.com/en-us/potty-training/when-to-start/readiness-quiz

Like so many skills your child will gain, potty training requires developmental readiness, and it cannot be held to an arbitrary deadline. Though it may be tempting to set a certain time to start training, resist if your child hasn't yet shown signs of being ready. Research shows that waiting a little longer can actually increase your chance of long-term success.

Make a game of it, suggests Marklen Kennedy, a Las Vegas father of two. “Implement the pee-pee dance or the poo-poo-in-the-potty dance. Find a catchphrase you say to your toddler and repeat it in a rhythm so it’s fun for the child to sing along. Add a crescendo at the end of the song so they know it’s the time to do their thing in the potty. Clap, sing, dance.” Check out some other potty training games and tools to help add fun to the potty training journey: https://www.pull-ups.com/en-us/potty-training/games-tools

That’s working for his three-and-a-half-year-old son, says Kennedy. Once he uses the potty, the whole family does the dance together. “He likes to join in while he is beaming with pride for his accomplishment.”

Kennedy tried using incentives at times, but that initially backfired. “My son wanted a certain Batman toy, so when he did his deed, he received his reward. Then he promptly went back to wanting to go in his Pull-Ups®.” But the time may finally be right for his son to figure it all out and actually want to stay dry and clean. “In just the last two weeks he has been going pee and poo on his own, and he announces to us when he is ready to go.” Ultimately, every child is different so incentives that work for one child may not work for another. 

Always remember that every child will do it when they are ready, he says. “I think you have to listen to your children to find out what works best for them."