1. How early can you potty train?
Dr. Maura Frank, medical director of the pediatric clinic at the New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, says to make sure your child has reached developmental milestones like walking and talking before potty training.
To learn to use the toilet, your child needs to be able to get themself to the toilet and be able to communicate the need to go. Your child should be able to pull on a pair of pants without help. And finally, your child should have some awareness of the signals that they need to go.
2. What gear will I need to potty train?
Decide whether you’ll try a child-size potty chair or your regular toilet. Dr. Frank recommends using a potty chair because a toddler may feel more confident if their feet can touch the floor. If using the toilet, consider getting a small potty seat to put on top — either removable or attached — so your child feels more comfortable when trying to use the potty. Have a small step stool in front that is sturdy and safe to climb, and make sure the child can also rest their feet on it.
Buying Pull-Ups® training pants and underwear should be a readiness event as well. Dr. Frank recommends practicing by sitting on the potty fully clothed as a first step. If you’re using a potty chair, let the child get acquainted with it by using it for play, such as potty training a favorite doll or stuffed animal.
3. How should we start potty training?
The best way to approach potty training is to prepare for it in advance. Dr. Maura Frank calls it readiness training. “Read books and watch videos beforehand,” Dr. Frank says. “Those tools can give parents a vocabulary to use for potty training. Part of the readiness is saying those words out loud and making it clear that words associated with potty training are not dirty or yucky.”
When you’re sure your child is ready to start, consider these fun ways to kick off the potty training journey. From creating a sticker chart to track success to creating a fun “going to the potty” song, there are many fun ways to make the process more joyful for you and your toddler. These potty training games can help your child understand — and get ready for — the transition to using the potty too.
4. How can I tell when my child needs to go?
Dr. Frank says to watch your child’s behavior. “When kids really have to go, they’ll dance and wiggle and sometimes grab their genitals,” she says. “Or if they have to poop, they’ll squat.” While you might be aware when your toddler needs to use the bathroom, kids don’t recognize the urge to go right away. They have to be mature enough to understand what their bodies are telling them.
When your child starts recognizing the urge, there might be some false alarms — moments when they run to the potty but don’t actually need to use it. Be patient. False alarms are the first step in the child gaining some control. Until then, a child is at the mercy of their parents, but when potty training begins, it is the first time they can take control over some element in their life. It is a first step toward independence.
5. My son wants to stand up when he goes to the bathroom. Should I let him do that from the beginning?
If that’s what he wants to do, let him, says Dr. Barry Kogan, pediatric urologist at Albany Medical College in New York. A little boy may want to mimic his father or older brother, which can make it easier to potty train a boy.
Just remember that standing requires more hand-eye coordination, says Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician in Austin, Texas. Dr. Frank suggests that, rather than using a potty chair or balancing on a stool, let your son use a bucket to pee in, which is higher than a typical chair and has a wider opening to shoot for.
6. Why does my child have an easy time peeing on the potty but not pooping?
Dr. Brown says having a bowel movement takes more effort and often has more complications, such as constipation, or a traumatic experience, such as pain. That may make it more difficult for a child to want to let that poop out, even when they are aware of the urge.
7. Why does it seem like potty training girls is much easier than potty training boys?
Experts agree there is no clear-cut reason why it seems like it’s easier to potty train girls vs boys, but there is plenty of speculation. Dr. Kogan suggests developmental differences — like with so many other milestones, boys tend to develop a little later than girls. Dr. Brown suggests that it may have to do with hygiene and that girls typically are more interested in being cleaner and drier than boys.
However, Dr. Frank notes that, while on average boys do begin potty training a little later than girls (average age for boys is 30 months for girls is 28 months), the length of potty training time is the same for both boys and girls.
8. Should I give rewards for potty training?
Dr. Frank says using small toys or sticker items as rewards is fine if the parents think it will help. However, she recommends avoiding food rewards unless it is a healthy food like an apple slice. With obesity becoming more prevalent in young children, it is best not to use food as positive reinforcement.
Above all, the experts recommend patience and consistency. When you’ve switched from diapers to Pull-Ups® training pants, don’t go back. This move is a big signal to your toddler than they’re on their way to becoming a Big Kid. While the process might not go as quickly as you’d hope, your child will be potty trained eventually — and you’ll both have a big accomplishment to celebrate together!