Is it time for toilet training? Toileting is an important milestone for children giving them a sense of independence. This can be a challenging time for parents, but you shouldn’t have to stress. Here are some tips to help guide you through toilet training.

When are children ready to start toilet training?

  • They are able to walk to and from the toilet
  • They have consistent bowl and bladder movements
  • Have a dry nappy for 2 or more hours
  • They are physically able to independently sit upright on the toilet for short periods of time
  • They are able to assist with un/dress themselves
  • They have awareness of when they have had a bowel or bladder movement
  • They have communication skills around toileting, including nonverbal communication e.g. visuals or gestures
  • They can follow simple instructions

Where do I start?

don t panic text on toilet paper
Photo by Markus Spiske on

Before they begin sitting on the toilet it is important to prepare your child for toilet training and their understanding of what to do. This can be done by letting your child watch you and other family members using the toilet and talking them through what you’re doing. It is important to choose what toileting words you’re going to use and everyone in the household is on the same page. You can read stories and watch videos about toileting. Work out the steps together and make sure your child understands. You can model going to the toilet with a child’s toy e.g. dolly going to the toilet to help your child understand the steps. The bathroom should feel like a fun, safe environment. This can be done by water play in the sink near the toilet to get your child familiar with the environment. Another fun activity is using blue food colouring and watching it change green after you wee.

Once your child has an understanding of toileting, we are ready to begin.

It is important to make toileting part of your child’s regular routine e.g. in the morning, after snacks and meals and before bedtime. Have your child wear underpants or training pants and only use nappies when they are sleeping. Dress your child in clothes that are easy to take off.  Encourage your child to go to the toilet when they are showing signs e.g. wiggling, or sitting uncomfortable but don’t force them to go. It is important to praise your child for sitting on the toilet, even if they don’t go. Do not get upset or frustrated if they miss the toilet. If your child does not have a bowel or bladder movement for 3-5 minutes, allow them to get off the toilet and praise them for trying. You do not want them sitting on the toilet for too long as they might get bored or feel like it’s a punishment. The most important part of toilet training is to ensure we limit all stresses and create a playful, fun environment. Stress can have an impact on our digestive system causing diarrhea or constipation. Stress can be reduced by:

  • Listening to music while on the toilet
  • Playing the iPad or with a toy while on the toilet
  • Breathing exercises before or while sitting on the toilet
  • Ensuring the toilet is sensory safe place for your child e.g. dim lighting if they are sensitive to bright lights.

Tips for toilet training:

Your child has been wearing nappies their whole life, so expect accidents. Don’t stress if this happens, be casual they shouldn’t feel like they are in trouble.

  • Having a healthy diet is key for maintaining bowel health. Increasing fibre in children’s diet (e.g. fruit and vegetables) stops faeces from getting hard and reduces constipation. Drinking lots of water also helps!
  • Initiate toilet training when you have no big changes coming up to reduce stress and changes of routine for both you and your child.
  • Having a child-sized toilet seat/insert reduces child’s fear of falling in and supports child posture. We love toilet training seats like this one Dreambaby Step-Up Toilet Topper | Target Australia, as there’s some steps up to the toilet to encourage independence, and the step is great for children with be able to anchor their little feet while they’re sitting on the toiet. This will help them to feel nice and safe and also support their posture. The toilet ring reducer is super comfy, and again helps them to feel safe.   
  • Toileting posture: the best posture for bowel movements is having your feet placed on a stool so your knees are slightly higher than your hips with a straight back leaning slightly forward. Having your child’s feet supported on a step will also help create a supportive posture.
  • Begin toilet training during summer or warmer weather when possible so your child doesn’t get too cold sitting on the toilet as this can create a negative experience and they won’t want to continue.
  • Positive reinforcement is key- praise your child every time they use the toilet even if they just try, so they know they are doing a great job. Gradually reduce the amount of praise as your child progresses.

Toilet training is not a one-day process it will take time. If your child continues to have difficulty with toilet training, you can come see one of our lovely Occupational Therapist for more strategies.


Cark, M 2022. Bathroom Trouble? How Stress & Anxiety Affect Your Toilet Habits. Bathroom Trouble? How Stress & Anxiety Affect Your Toilet Habits – Organixx

Toilet training, 2020. Health direct. Toilet training | healthdirect

Author: Amy Dufour

Paediatric Occupational Therapist

Editor: Michelle Newby  BHSc(OT) MSc PhD Candidate

Paediatric Occupational Therapist

Copyright Stepping Stones Therapy for Children 2022/23

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