6 Key Signs Your Toddler is Ready to Start Potty Training

Updated: December 10, 2021
Unsure about whether or not your toddler is ready to start using a potty? Here we cover the key emotional and physical signs to look out for.
Signs of Potty Training
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When it’s time to potty train, it can be stressful for both toddlers and parents. But it can also be a really positive and rewarding experience. Heather Wallace, Love and Logic facilitator,​​ reminds us that a “toddler’s interest level is a key indicator of readiness. One thing you cannot control is your toddler’s bathroom habits. Therefore, making sure your toddler is ready to take control of this part of her development is imperative to success. Potty training is extremely stressful for the parent, so remember your breathing exercises when you find yourself frustrated with your toddler’s lack of mastery of this important developmental milestone.”

More: Potty Train a 1 1/2 Year Old?

We’ve gathered a list of signs of potty training readiness to look out for if you think your toddler is getting close. Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, author, The Self-Aware Parent, regular expert child psychologist on The Doctors, CBS TV, and co-star on WE tv, advises that “the most important must-have a parent should invest in and commit to is the right attitude. It costs nothing and makes all the difference in the world to your child. The right attitude is to adopt the belief that your child is the boss of his own body. You are there to guide and praise every increment toward his independence, but you will not press or force.”

A toddler boy learning to potty train at home

If you’re ready to ditch the dirty diapers, then grab a few supplies, set up a potty station, and arm yourself with a positive attitude for the best results. Make sure you provide all caregivers or day care providers potty training tips that work for your toddler so that they have consistency and routine in all settings. You’ll be impressed as you watch your little one transform into a potty trained big kid.

Has Developed an Awareness of Body Sensations

Once children have developed a sense of awareness around their body sensations they will be able to tell when they need to go to the bathroom. Encouraging your children to listen to their bodies can be helpful when potty training. At the beginning, when you’re just starting potty training, children may be so engaged in play they won’t stop for the potty. Be prepared for accidents and possible frequent clean ups. Accidents are also great learning opportunities to build language around listening to the signs that your body needs to go.

Stays Dry for Longer

Once your child is able to keep a dry diaper for 2+ hours or longer, he or she may be ready. The ability to keep a diaper dry for extended periods of time is a good indicator that your child’s body is maturing and he or she has control over when he/she goes. Start to take note of when your child is drinking so that you can plan potty trips accordingly. A trip at least every 2 hours is a good starting point that will allow for more potty training success.

Curiosity and Interest

One indication that your toddler is ready to start potty training is that they have gained an interest in the potty. Perhaps they follow you to the bathroom, or place their toys on the potty in a dollhouse, or they start to ask to use, or ask questions about, the potty. Elisa Cinelli, parenting expert, says not to “get caught up on readiness signs other than curiosity and interest. I recommend starting toilet learning early, letting your child see you use the toilet, letting them sit and have their own toileting station that they can get to on their own. I like to set up a toileting station with potty and extra pull ups or training pants around the time they begin to walk.”

As a parent you may be self conscious about having company in the bathroom, but children learn by observation. Allowing them to see you using the toilet will spark a level of curiosity and interest which will lead to a desire to try on their own. Once the ball starts rolling, you can keep your child interested by creating a routine, providing an appropriate-sized potty seat, and even let them help pick out their own underpants as an incentive.

Is Not Afraid of the Potty

There can be many fears around using the potty. Some common fears are falling, the loud noise associated with flushing, and the act of having to flush away a poop. While it might seem silly, many children, boys in particular, can be scared and/or sad about having to flush their poop. Even for boys we recommend sitting to pee at the beginning. If a child is sitting for peeing, pooping may just happen naturally. If your child has regular bowel movements, plan bathroom trips around those times for more success. If you notice that your child does develop a fear of pooping on the potty, forcing it can cause constipation or irrational fears. Let them poop in their diaper, but encourage them to still be in the bathroom.

Starting children with a toddler toilet seat or stand alone potty chair are ways to eliminate the fear of falling in. As you are toilet training, allow your child to help you flush so that they feel a sense of control and anticipation of the loud sound.

Has Necessary Physical Motor Skills

Ideally a child should be able to pull up/down their pants, and get onto/off of a potty when they start potty training. You can use a stool at the toilet for additional supports to help your child feel independent. Toddlers may still need help dressing themselves, but encourage them to work at pulling up/down their pants and underwear, pull-ups, or diapers as part of the toileting process.

Can Follow Simple Instructions

While you’re there for support, your child should be able to follow basic instructions such as steps for using the potty. Some examples of directions are pulling clothes down then climbing onto the toilet. Sitting for a few minutes to make sure you’re finished and then wiping. Pulling up pants and then flushing. Always washing hands at the end, etc. While you can support your toddler with many of these steps, cognitively they should be aware of the instructions they need to follow while working through the whole process. Potty training is more than just the act of going on the toilet.