Let’s Talk Potties

Some hate talking about it, but we all need to do it. Let’s talk about learning to use the loo.

6 min readJul 22, 2021



Toilet talk really is taboo — even when it comes to our little ones. Learning to use the toilet is an important part of every childhood, but the fact that we struggle to talk with others about it can make it really stressful — especially if things aren’t going smoothly.

So, today, we’re going to throw that taboo aside, and talk potties.

What’s normal?

Well, first of all, every child is different. We’ve all heard those stories of wonderbaby that could use the potty from three months old, but that simply is not the case for most (if any!).

The majority of children will become daytime potty trained between the ages of 18 months and 3 years. Some studies have suggested that boys learn these skills later than girls, but, overall, gender has much less to do with it than individual characteristics, such as physical development and level of interest.

Which potty training method should I use? And when should I start?

As you’re probably already aware, there are a LOT of different potty training methods out there, from sticker charts to holding your little one over the toilet every 5 minutes. Unfortunately, little research has been done to compare their efficacy.

That being said, Dr. Darcie Kiddoo, a Pediatric Urologist at the University of Alberta Hospital, suggests a fairly gentle, child-led approach, saying “if they’re fighting it, it isn’t worth pushing it”. This can create feelings of stress and anxiety around using the toilet, which, in turn, can lead to further difficulties, such as constipation.

There are a number of factors required for your little one to be able to start using a potty. As you probably already know, babies void their bowels and bladders pretty frequently. This isn’t just down to control, either — they simply have very tiny bladders that can’t hold a lot! As they grow, so will their bladders, and they won’t need to go as frequently. This will make holding on until they can get to a toilet easier. Generally, if they are capable of keeping a nappy dry for around an hour and a half, that’s a good sign!

Other ‘outward’ skills required for using a toilet include the ability to walk to the loo, pull their pants down, and sit where they need to. They will also need to communicate to a parent or carer that they need to go.

But this isn’t all that’s needed to start potty training. Dr. Kiddoo talks a lot about children being ‘ready’ to begin using the toilet. The most common and clear sign of this readiness could be that your little one begins to show a particular interest in the toilet, for example asking questions or being curious about other family members’ use of the bathroom.

It’s also a great sign if they start noticing when they void or commenting on wet nappies. This means that their awareness of going and needing to go are developing.

Remember, every child is different, so don’t feel pressured to start potty training just because others the same age are!

Refusing to ‘go’

Maybe you’ve started potty training — maybe it even started off fairly well — but now your little one is absolutely refusing to use the toilet. What’s wrong?

Well, there are a few possible causes.

It could be as simple as constipation. Some parents try to reduce their little one’s water intake during potty training to avoid accidents, but this is actually counterintuitive. Drinking plenty of water (or water based drinks) not only helps to avoid constipation: it stretches the bladder, making it easier to stay dry, too!

So, if your little one is not voiding their bowels at all, make sure they’re taking in plenty of liquid. If the problem persists, talk to your doctor.

If, on the other hand, your little one is still voiding, but refusing to do so in the toilet, they may simply not be ready to start toilet training. For little ones, the sudden change in how they do such a primal function, and the pressure to do it at certain times that fits a parent’s schedule can be stressful and overwhelming. If this seems to be the case for your little one, try taking a break for a few months before having another go.

If your little one consistently has trouble voiding, or an issue lasts more than a couple of days, remember to always consult your GP.

Top Tips

So, your child seems ready, and you’ve decided to start potty training! We’ve collected together top tips for Dr. Kiddoo and the wonderful experts at ERIC (the Children’s Bowel and Bladder Charity) to help get you started:

  • Time it right.
    In the middle of moving house? Starting a new nursery? Now might not be the right time to start toilet training. Try and wait for a period where you and your little one (and your little one’s nursery if they go) can work together to start a routine.
  • Stay hydrated
    As we mentioned before, this will keep the digestive system running smoothly, and stretch and strengthen your little one’s bladder. Avoid fizzy drinks or those containing caffeine, as these can irritate the bladder.
  • Talk about it.
    Being open about using the toilet is the best way of developing your child’s understanding. We know some people can struggle to talk about it, but try to avoid keeping the goings-on of the bathroom a complete secret! It’s also important to explain to your little one exactly what steps will be involved, and encouraging them to try sitting on the potty or toilet seat — even fully clothed at first — just to get used to the idea.
  • Practise the bathroom routine.
    You can start this before you give up the nappies! Involve your child in removing and replacing items of clothing, wiping, and washing and drying hands. Talk through each step and encourage them to remember what comes next.
  • Make it easy.
    Your little one is going to gain the most confidence and independence if they can remove and replace their own clothing! Opt for stretchy clothes that they can easily pull up and down. Also, make sure their potty is easily accessible or, if you are using a toilet seat, keep it on the seat and provide a stool so they can climb up unaided.
  • Be consistent.
    When you first swap the nappies for pants, Dr. Kiddoo recommends taking your little one to the bathroom around every two hours (unless they ask to go more often, of course!). Try to keep to this schedule throughout the day and, if your little one is at nursery, get them on board too! Using the toilet during the weekend and nappies during the week can be confusing.
  • Be prepared.
    For the first few days, it may be best to avoid any major outings (your best friend’s wedding probably isn’t the best day to start). When you do go out, make sure you know where you can find toilets, and bring along wipes and a full change of clothes.
  • Keep it quick.
    When you take your little one to the loo, only encourage them to sit there for a couple of minutes. If they don’t need to go, they don’t need to — making them sit around could mean they get bored of using the bathroom and want to go back to nappies!
  • Be positive!
    Give your little one plenty of praise for completing each task, from pulling down their pants and sitting down, to voiding, to washing their hands. You could even try out a sticker chart! It’s also important to avoid negative language. If your little one has an accident, it’s not out of laziness or on purpose, it really can be hard for them to know when they need to go. Negative comments can simply cause feelings of stress, anxiety and shame which will only make the process harder.
  • Don’t worry about the nighttime.
    Staying dry through the night is a whole other ballpark, as bedwetting often has more to do with sleep and the ability to wake than anything else! To start off with, focus on staying dry through the day. We’ll be releasing a blog with tips for nighttime shortly!
  • Be patient.
    Even if your little one is interested in using the toilet and seems physically ready, they may still not be quite there yet. If your little one doesn’t want to use the toilet or has a lot of accidents, just take a break and come back to it in a few months. There’s no rush!

So, we hope this helps and you don’t have to deal with too many messy accidents! If you have any questions or want to share your potty-training stories, drop us a message on our Instagram.

Good luck!

Lizzie Corscaden
Content Creator at MEplace




Holistic Nursery in East London 👶 Weekend Activity Club 🧘‍♀️ Parenting IOS App 📱 #loveyourme