Looking into a crystal ball to determine when you should start potty training your toddler will always lead you to the same answer: “It depends on . . .” There is no crystal ball that can tell you exactly when your child is ready for potty training or what age to start potty training. But there are signs of readiness that emerge around different ages where you can start looking for their readiness for a big kid potty.
The key to working toward a happily potty trained child is to be ready to be flexible at every step in this journey since all children are different. What we know to be true is:
- Some kids potty train early
- Some kids potty train for shorter periods
- Some kids enjoy the process
- Some kids train easily
- Some kids potty train late, train for longer periods and resist the process
So many factors, including your child’s age, your preparedness and your child’s personality will influence your child’s readiness to embark upon the potty training journey.
While we can’t promise to make your journey flawless and perfect, we can provide tools to make it as easy as possible. Consider taking our Potty Training Personality Quiz to get customized advice on how best to work with your child.
We are here to support you with the advice and tools you need to guide you along the way. Here are some of the milestone behaviors to watch for at each age that may signal potty training readiness.
Potty Training Age 2
Around 22 months: Most children figure out that they can stay poop-free through the night. Of course, you’ll know by the scent of your child each morning when this milestone is reached. Typically, children continue wetting their pants in the night after they have begun to have full nights without a bowel movement.
Around 24 months: Start watching for signs of toilet training readiness in your child. At this age, your little guy or gal may begin to show interest. A very small percentage of potty prodigies will be fully toilet trained before they are 24 months old. Unsure of the behaviors to look for? Wonder whether your child is ready to start potty training? Take our Potty Training Readiness Quiz to find out more. This will help guide you journey!
Between 24 and 36 months: If you answered “yes” several times in our Potty Readiness Quiz, and you’re observing behaviors that indicate you and your child can move forward, start having potty conversations with your child.
Make these chats with your child fun, engaging and exciting. Allow potty training to turn into an activity that both of you find enjoyable. Be positive and encouraging with each step during potty training. Try things that work best with your child’s personality. Do they like to sing silly songs? Have them sit on their toddler potty while you belt out some funny tunes. Do they like to read? Let them focus on a favorite picture book while their body relaxes on their toddler throne. Working with your little one’s personality will help them learn more easily and with greater confidence.
Potty Training Age 3
Around 36 months: Most children make the potty training leap around their third birthday. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, some 40 to 60 percent of children are completely potty trained by 36 months of age. However, some children won’t be trained until after they are 3 and a half years old.
In general, girls tend to complete potty training about three months earlier than boys. If you’re wondering what the average potty training age is, remember each child is different. The average age for potty training is somewhere between 2 and 4 years of age, but it’s hard to gauge because you won’t have a pop-up notification on your phone telling you “Your child’s last accident just happened.”
Try not to worry about keeping up with an average age to potty train. Toilet training typically only occurs once in a child’s development; set a pace that is comfortable, practical, and fun for you both.
Between 3 and 4 years old: Your journey is not over yet—accidents happen! Most experts agree that “accidents” shouldn’t be treated like a “big deal.” Rather, they’re to be expected and explored. “What? Did you forget that you had to potty?” “Did you feel your body try to tell you it was time to go?” Share the signals that they can listen to and learn from their body and trust their body to let them know they need to potty soon.
Occasionally, your child may have an “oopsie.” Stay calm and encouraging. These most often happen when you child may be tired or sick, or when extremely preoccupied by something super fun and engaging. This is a natural part of the learning process.In general, avoid any words that would imply guilt when these accidents happen since your child is at an age where he or she is probably experiencing embarrassment or shame at a potty accident. Reassure them that you know that they are trying their best. Remind them that you eventually got the hang of going to the potty on time—and so will they! Continue to show them love and support during this journey. Learn more about setbacks and regression.
Potty Training Age 4
At age 4 and older: If your child is at age 4 and older, and fully potty trained by day but having 3-5 wet nighttime incidents per week, talk to your pediatrician. The doctor may diagnose nocturnal enuresis, commonly known as “bedwetting.” According to the American Academy of Pediatrics this condition affects millions of children, but only about one-third of families talk to their child’s pediatrician about it. Understandably, this can be stressful for families hoping to transition into the next phase of childhood.Learn about how Goodnites® NightTime underwear can help ease the stress of bedwetting.
Your Child Will Eventually Potty Train
At each age, there are different milestones you will notice. Set aside any strongly held expectations about exactly when potty training will be complete or how long it will take. On average, it takes 8 months to potty train a child, and many children take even longer.
Start when your child is ready—not when you’re ready for them to start training. Their readiness is an essential key to success. Remember, this is a partnership like so many other things in parenting. You are your child’s best coach, and they need you to stay with them all the way to success!To learn more about how you can potty train your child at different ages, check out the personalized Pull-Ups® potty training program.
By Lakisa Ballard, MSN, RN, C-EFM, RNC-OB March 22, 2023
Lakisa Ballard, MSN, RN, C-EFM, RNC-OB, is a Clinical Practice Specialist in Maryland. The information of this article has been prepared by nursing experts of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). The content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment. For more advice from AWHONN nurses, visit Healthy Mom&Baby at health4mom.org.