Toilet Training

Learning to use the toilet is a milestone for children. Some children may be ready for toilet training as young as eighteen months but most start between two and four years of age.

How long will it take to learn?

It generally takes a child about six months to learn to stay dry during the day.  Children usually learn to control their bowels before or at the same time. Staying dry at night may take longer; even months to years longer.

How will I know when my child is ready?

To start toilet training a child should be able to:

  • Walk to the toilet
  • Sit up on the toilet
  • Stay dry for several hours or wake up dry after a nap
  • Pull clothes up and down
  • Follow simple directions eg: washing their hands
  • Tell you they need to go to the toilet
  • Show interest in toilet training
  • Show a desire to please
  • Copy what adults and older children do

The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that parents Plan, Practise, Praise and Be Patient.

Toilet training can be a challenging process. The most common problems that occur include:


It is completely normal for a child to have accidents. Remind your child to slow down and take a potty break:

  • when playing
  • after meals
  • before a car trip
  • before going to bed

Even after a child has been completely toilet trained, changes in the child’s daily routine can lead to accidents

If your child is not making progress with toilet training and is between two and four years old, it is reasonable to take a break for two to three months. If your child is over four years of age, is healthy, and is not toilet trained after several months of trying, talk with your child’s health-care provider.


Bedwetting is a common problem that affects twenty per cent of five-year-olds and ten per cent of six-year-olds. Most children will outgrow bedwetting over time.

Refusing the toilet

Up to 20 per cent of children will refuse to use the toilet. Some children are willing to use the toilet to urinate but will not use it for bowel movements. If this happens you can;

  • Talk about toilet training with your child.
  • Stop toilet training for a few weeks or months. Stop reminding the child to use the toilet. Let them have complete control over the process.
  • Encourage the child to copy you or your other children by inviting the child into the bathroom to watch.
  • Treat hard stools or constipation if needed. Having painful or difficult bowel movements can lead to toilet training set-backs.
  • Create a star or sticker chart and reward your child for both trying and successfully having a bowel movement on the toilet.

 Never punish a child for setbacks.

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Last updated: 2019-08-14